- In 2013, Netflix began creating original television programming with “House of Cards” and has since produced countless shows for streaming.
- Through the years, the streaming service has earned praise for award-winning shows like “Orange Is the New Black” and “Narcos,” which both ended with crowd-pleasing finales.
- Its other originals, like “Hemlock Grove” and “13 Reasons Why,” disappointed critics until the end.
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Netflix has earned a reputation as a company to watch when it comes to original, cutting-edge shows.
As it has branched out as a streaming service, some of its series have gotten more critical praise than others.
Here are 12 original Netflix shows that ended on a high note and six that ended on a low one, according to critics.
Note: Rotten Tomatoes scores were accurate at the time of publication but are subject to change.
Critics felt like “Orange Is the New Black” lost its way in its penultimate season but finished off with its best episodes yet.
Season one: 95%
Season seven: 98%
On “Orange Is the New Black,” Piper Chapman (Taylor Schilling) is sent to a minimum-security prison after old connections to a drug dealer resurface.
As the years went on, the show was praised as an ensemble drama that depicted the intricacies of the American prison system from a feminine lens and served as a showcase for actresses like Laverne Cox, Uzo Aduba, and Dascha Polanco.
Emotional and ultimately uplifting, the final season of “Orange Is the New Black” was widely praised as a return to form.
“The show’s sixth season was its weakest. It blew up familiar, longstanding relationships and doubled down on the guards’ sadistic behaviour,” wrote NPR critic Soraya Nadia McDonald. “But the final season, in many ways, is a return to what made it great.”
Critically, “Marco Polo” finished miles ahead of where it began.
Season one: 33%
Season two: 100%
“Marco Polo” dramatizes the life of Venetian trader Marco Polo (Lorenzo Richelmy) from his years on the Silk Road to his affiliation with Kublai Khan (Benedict Wong) and the Mongol Empire.
The second season depicts Marco’s travels through the jungle as he searches for the last heir of the Song Dynasty.
By expanding the scope and scale of the show, the writers and creators of “Marco Polo” excelled far past the middling expectations from its premiere season to end the short-lived series on a high note.
“It’s all just a matter of perspective who your hero is,” wrote Phil Owen in his review for The Wrap. “‘Marco Polo’ knows it, and that’s why season 2 works so well.”
“The OA” had an excellent second season before it was cancelled by Netflix.
Season one: 77%
Season two: 92%
After disappearing as a child, Prairie Johnson (Brit Marling) miraculously returns home under the name “Original Angel.”
On the show’s second season, she searches for the man who held her in captivity to free the missing people he still harbours.
Critics said that “The OA” raised the bar in its sophomore season – perhaps not winning over new converts but certainly pleasing viewers who were on the fence during the first season.
“‘The OA: Part II’ was better than one could have ever imagined, its ingenuity and trust in its audience, coupled by the brilliant execution of its power duo, brought the series to new heights,”wrote Stephanie Archer for Film Inquiry.
The final chapter of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” was reviewed as its best season yet.
Season one: 94%
Season three: 100%
Based on the book series by Lemony Snicket, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” centres on the Baudelaire orphans – Violet (Malina Weissman), Klaus (Louis Hynes), and Sunny (Presley Smith) – as they continuously escape the clutches of Count Olaf (Neil Patrick Harris).
On the third and final season, Olaf and his troupe follow the trio from the slippery slopes of a mountain to a deserted island.
Led by powerhouse performances from Harris and the young central cast, the final season of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” wrapped the entertaining series up with a neat bow.
“‘A Series of Unfortunate Events’ delivers its tightest, most exciting season yet in its final run of episodes,” Jonathon Dornbush wrote for IGN.
Critics adored “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” across its four-season arc.
Season four: 94%
On the comedy series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) emerges from an underground bunker after years in captivity and decides to move to New York City to live life to its fullest.
The fourth season finds Kimmy and her friends securing bright futures for themselves as Kimmy writes a best-selling children’s book.
With many calling it timely, topical, and delightful, the fourth season retained Kimmy’s likability while sending her off with a fitting ending.
“The sweet, gentle note the series ends on feels perfectly in line with the show’s consistently surprising scope and tone,” wrote AV Club critic Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya. “Kimmy’s hard work to do good and to make the world a little brighter pays off.”
“Love” was praised for its insightful commentary on modern love.
Season one: 87%
Season three: 100%
On the comedy series “Love,” radio producer Mickey Dobbs (Gillian Jacobs) and tutor Gus Cruikshank (Paul Rust) unexpectedly fall in love against the backdrop of Los Angeles.
On the third season, Mickey and Gus try to maintain a stable relationship amidst changing career opportunities and underlying tensions.
Driven by intelligent writing and relatable characters, “Love” has been called a winner from start to finish and only improved as the series went on.
“‘Love’ manages to close on its own terms, on an unconventionally hopeful note,” wrote Vulture critic Jen Chaney. “But it also provides something that most of us seek but don’t often find from our television shows: a couple of genuine surprises we didn’t see coming.”
“The Get Down” had the right ingredients in season one and hit its stride soon after.
Part one: 77%
Part two: 86%
Set in the South Bronx in the late 1970s, “The Get Down” tracks the explosive success of disco and hip-hop through the eyes of young teens: Zeke (Justice Smith), Curtis (Shameik Moore), and Mylene (Herizen F. Guardiola).
The second part takes place in 1978 as the group tries to gain a foothold in the music industry.
Critics said that, by putting the talent of its incredible cast front and centre, “The Get Down” hit a new high before it bowed out in its final episode.
“In its forthright emotionalism, its overarching ambitions, and its complete and total devotion to telling this story as sincerely as possible, ‘The Get Down’ is like nothing else out there,” wrote Vox critic Emily VanDerWerff.
“Daredevil” earned renewed interest from critics in its final season.
Season one: 99%
Season three: 97%
In “Daredevil,” blind attorney Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) takes to the streets at night to serve as a crime-fighting vigilante in Hell’s Kitchen.
During the final season, Matt trains to build himself up after a devastating battle as his enemy Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) plans his escape from prison.
Critics felt, with the return of D’Onofrio as the main villain, “Daredevil” overcame a small dip in ratings for season two and replicated the same page-turning excitement of a riveting comic book.
“‘Daredevil’ is a show that never fails to impress and always finds that balance between giving viewers the key ingredients they want, while adding just the right spice of mystery,”wrote Cultured Vultures critic Dan Ashby.
The final season of “Sense8” proved that high-stakes storylines can still serve its characters.
Season one: 72%
Season two: 93%
In the science-fiction drama “Sense8,” eight strangers from around the globe suddenly form a telepathic connection with each other as a government agency hunts them down.
During the second and last season, the characters use their strengthened connection to protect each other, and their loved ones, from harm.
Action-packed and thrilling, the final season of “Sense8” was praised by critics, who said the show added excitement and adrenaline without compromising on the depth of its characters.
The series later received a two-hour finale special, which critics also praised.
“‘Sense8’ avoids tokenizing its characters, which involves giving each sensate a full backstory that helps viewers understand what motivates them,” Sonia Rao said in their review for the Washington Post.
“Easy” surprised critics until the very end of its run.
Season one: 85%
Season three: 100%
Set in Chicago, “Easy” is an anthology series that follows a wide array of characters through the highs and lows of dating, divorce, and singledom.
The third season of the show follows characters like Sophie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), an actress who reconnects with her ex, and Jeff (Dave Franco), who runs a homebrewery out of his garage with his brother.
By focusing on small, intimate stories, the third season of “Easy” proved itself to be the most intelligent and bingeable season yet.
“The perfect ending to an amazing series,” Tessa Smith wrote for Mama’s Geeky. “This show will be missed.”
“Lady Dynamite” was hailed as a fresh and innovative comedy.
Season one: 95%
Season two: 100%
The semi-autobiographical comedy “Lady Dynamite” serves as an incisive look into the early career of actress and comedian Maria Bamford (as herself) as well as her experiences with bipolar disorder.
On the second season, Maria grapples with the anxiety of starting a new relationship as the show continues to flashback to her childhood in Duluth, Minnesota.
Clever and whip-smart until the end – and not afraid to poke fun at Netflix itself – “Lady Dynamite” pushed the boundaries of what a sitcom could be.
“‘Lady Dynamite’ takes itself to newly unhinged narrative and stylistic places,” Graham Techler wrote for Paste magazine. “It remains a refreshing and unmistakable sitcom.”
Critics enjoyed “Narcos” from the beginning and only grew to love it more.
Season one: 80%
Season three: 97%
The crime thriller “Narcos” explores the exploits of drug kingpin Pablo Escobar (Wagner Moura) from the 1970s through the 1990s, as he and his men evade the DEA and the Colombian police.
The third season extends beyond Escobar to follow DEA agent Javier Peña (Pedro Pascal) and his investigation into a new cartel.
Critics championed the third season of “Narcos” for its thoughtful plotting, emotional character arcs, and unflinching glimpse into the world of criminal violence.
“It is one of the great examples of shows that have improved thanks to the opportunity to grow and evolve, and Season 3 continues that journey with an investment in human storytelling,”Liz Shannon Miller praised in their review for Indie Wire.
On the other hand, “Bloodline” ended on a disappointing note for most critics.
Season one: 81%
Season three: 53%
On “Bloodline,” eldest sibling Danny Rayburn (Ben Mendelsohn) returns home to Islamorada, Florida, to demand a job from his parents.
As the Rayburns become embroiled in drug scandals and violent deaths, old consequences continue to haunt the family into season three.
Critics were left with lingering questions when the end credits rolled on “Bloodline,” leaving behind a muddled legacy that fumbled its promising first season premise.
“It is so frustrating to come to the end of its three-season run with so many loose ends and unsatisfying conclusions,” Sara Vilkomerson wrote for Entertainment Weekly.
“House of Cards” couldn’t maintain critical momentum across six seasons.
Season one: 86%
Season six: 67%
In the political thriller “House of Cards,” a US Congressman and his ambitious partner Claire Underwood (Robin Wright) claw at power as they rise through the ranks of the American government.
The sixth and final season finds Claire facing new threats as the recently inaugurated president.
“House of Cards” initially had award-winning success when it was released as Netflix’s first original show. Called convoluted, slow, and plodding in its sixth season, the show extended past its prime.
“This is the worst season of the series despite Robin Wright’s best efforts,” Mikel Zorrilla wrote for Espinof.
According to critics, “The Punisher” never fully got off the ground.
Season one: 67%
Season two: 60%
As a direct spin-off to the series “Daredevil,” the darker crime drama “The Punisher” sheds light on Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), a lethal vigilante who wishes death on everyone who killed his family.
On the second season, Castle decides whether he should dedicate the rest of his life to vigilantism or live a quiet life on the road.
Although the show wasn’t lambasted across the board, “The Punisher” wasn’t as critically acclaimed as other Marvel series, like “Daredevil” and “Luke Cage,” due to a sluggish pace and a story that undeserved Bernthal.
“Here’s the most unforgivable sin of the second season of ‘The Punisher:’ You have a magnificent performance like this one at your disposal, and this is what you choose to do with it?”Allison Shoemaker asked in their review for Roger Ebert.
“Hemlock Grove” had some critics wishing they’d never started the series.
Season one: 26%
Season three: 33%
Set in the small town of Hemlock Grove, Pennsylvania, the supernatural series starts off with the shocking murder of two young teens and the town’s attempts to find the murderer.
On the third season, Roman Godfrey (Bill Skarsgård) and Peter Rumancek (Landon Liboiron) try to track down two kidnapped friends as a global virus spreads.
Critics called “Hemlock Grove” inconsistent and incoherent. And although the final season had a slightly better critical rating than its freshman season, the series never attained critical success.
“What I didn’t expect was to walk away feeling disappointed by all of season 3, feeling exhausted by ‘Hemlock Grove’ in general, and wishing I hadn’t invested so much time and energy into the series in the first place,” Karen Rought wrote for Hypable.
“Jessica Jones” set a high bar in season one and saw a downward tilt in ratings until its final season.
Season one: 94%
Season three: 72%
On the Marvel series “Jessica Jones,” the titular heroine Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter) works as a private investigator who often uses her super strength to rough up perpetrators on the run.
During the third season, Jessica teams up with her old friend Trish Walker (Rachael Taylor) to take on an enemy, but underlying conflicts act to push them apart.
Although the series was far from terrible, critics still felt “Jessica Jones” had lost its shine by the time the third season rolled around, which led to repetitive plot lines and a lack of investment.
“‘Marvel’s Jessica Jones’ gets off on the wrong foot in Season 3 and stays there until the lacklustre end,” wrote David Gisebrecht for Indie Wire.
Critics said “13 Reasons Why” was out of its depth when it came to covering numerous issues.
Season one: 78%
Season four: 25%
Based on the young-adult novel by Jay Asher, “13 Reasons Why” is a dramatic series that revolves around the cruelty of a group of high schoolers and their impact on the life of Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford).
As the series stretched past Hannah’s death, “13 Reasons Why” touched upon issues like drug addiction, gun violence, and police brutality in its final seasons.
After expanding beyond the scope of the source material, “13 Reasons Why” lost the gravity and depth of its initial season and mishandled the trauma impacting its young characters.
“Readers may recall how promising this show was at the beginning, when it was simply the adaptation of an acclaimed young adult novel,” Alci Rengifo wrote for Entertainment Voice. “The final season reclaims only crumbs of that sensibility.”
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