Over the weekend, Netflix shocked Marvel fans by announcing that they'd canceled Iron Fist - just over a month after the release of the show's second season. That was done in spite of a cliffhanger ending that was clear setup for season 3, with the cancellation risking leaving Danny Rand's story unfinished.
Netflix and Marvel issued a joint statement in which they thanked the fans for tuning in to the first two seasons. "Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is proud of the series and grateful for all of the hard work from our incredible cast, crew and showrunners," they stated. "While the series on Netflix has ended, the Immortal Iron Fist will live on." Showrunner Raven Metzner and stars Finn Jones and Jessica Henwick have since gone public with their own comments too, regretting Netflix's decision but thanking everyone involved.
Previous statements from Marvel Television have implied that the decision will have been made by Netflix. So just why did the streaming giant decide to cancel Iron Fist? Netflix has never been particularly open when it comes to providing a rationale for this kind of business decision, but it's likely there are three factors.
The most important is surely Iron Fist's viewing figures. The first season of Iron Fist was a hit for Netflix, with the Marvel faithful tuning in despite savage critical reviews. But promotion for Iron Fist season 1 focused on the overarching direction of the Marvel Netflix shows, stressing that he was "the final Defender." Those figures may have partly reflected a successful marketing campaign that stressed the importance of Iron Fist to The Defenders miniseries. Absent of that hook, it's distinctly possible Iron Fist season 2 fared less well, and that viewers just weren't keen to return to Danny Rand's world. Unlike traditional networks, Netflix doesn't release their stats, so it's possible we'll never know for sure.
The critical response could be another key factor. Iron Fist season 1 has a horrific 19 percent on review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes; while season 2 has a far better score of 53 percent, was this enough of an improvement? It is worth noting that the two seasons are roughly equivalent in terms of their audience scores - 74 percent against 73 percent. It seems that, while the critics were pleased with Metzner's change in direction, general viewers didn't really react any differently.
There's one final variable that may have played a part in Netflix's decision, one that explains the increased viewship and quality points. The streaming giant is a data-driven company, with a sophisticated algorithm analyzing viewer behaviors to divide them into roughly 2,000 "taste communities." The more you use Netflix, the more data it has to assess your behaviors and categorize you, recommending specific shows that it believes fit your tastes. It's quite possible that, when Netflix broke down the numbers, they realized that Iron Fist was being watched by specific groups of viewers who already tended to watch a lot of other content on the streaming service. If that's the case, then Iron Fist would be a low priority show, and canceling it won't lose Netflix any subscribers.
Netflix will probably never go public with the reasons they canceled Iron Fist. But the most likely scenario is that these three variables came together to present a compelling case for bringing the series to an end.