Way back in 2012, six Marvel superheroes came together for the first time in a movie, formed The Avengers, and set box office records. In the post-Avengers world, Marvel Television sought to replicate their cinematic success on Netflix with a similar scheme: launch four series about Marvel’s ‘street level’ heroes Daredevil (Charlie Cox), Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), Luke Cage (Mike Colter), and Iron Fist (Finn Jones) and then combine them into a superteam up series called The Defenders.
Now a month removed from The Defenders‘ August 18th premiere, it seems Marvel’s attempt to have an Avengers-level success on Netflix fell rather short of the hoped-for blockbuster status. The Defenders surprisingly is the least viewed Marvel Netflix series and had the lowest-viewed debut month of all of the Marvel series to date, even lower than the critically-panned Iron Fist.
According to the marketing analytics JumpShot (though Netflix, which doesn’t divulge its internal metrics, does not confirm these numbers), Daredevil season 2 is Marvel’s gold standard for streaming viewership on Netflix. Subsequently, in their first 30 days of release, Iron Fist had 28 percent, Luke Cage 27 percent , and Jessica Jones 26 percent of Daredevil season 2‘s viewership. Finally, The Defenders in its first 30 days managed only 17 percent of Daredevil season 2’s viewership. Furthermore, The Defenders had the biggest week-to-week drop of any Marvel series, declining 67 percent, 48 percent and 41 percent in the subsequent weeks since its debut, according to JumpShot.
The Defenders was well-received among Marvel fans and generally delivered in terms of action and pleasing banter between the four mismatched heroes who were thrown together unwillingly to do battle with the Hand. The first general complaint that can be cited among critics and fans was that The Defenders featured “too much Iron Fist,” as the series made Danny Rand the central figure whom the Hand was after to complete their nefarious scheme to destroy New York City and achieve immortality.
So was Iron Fist at fault and is it the reason why The Defenders hasn’t pulled in its expected numbers? Were viewers turned off by Iron Fist enough to not flock as expected to The Defenders? It’s no secret that until Marvel’s Inhumans came along (more on that later), Iron Fist was regarded was the first high-profile disappointment from Marvel. Iron Fist received a drubbing from critics and fans that Marvel never had to weather before, with ire aimed at the lackluster writing, action, and the generally offputting hero who wielded the titular glowing fist. Even though upon closer inspection, The Defenders did its share to improve Danny Rand’s heroic character and set him up for a better second season, Iron Fist is the most divisive character of the four Defenders and he never shook off the perception that he’s the worst Defender.
To be fair, according to the numbers cited by JumpShot, Iron Fist did incrementally better than the more popular Jessica Jones and Luke Cage in pulling numbers, but it’s also likely that tiny uptick in viewership was simply caused by curiosity over the controversy – “Is Iron Fist really as bad as everyone’s saying?” Most fans concluded that it was, though in terms of The Defenders, there was definitely interest in seeing Luke Cage and Iron Fist team up like they do in the comics. There’s a harsh school of thought that Iron Fist weakened The Defenders lineup and even the television side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a whole. However, though Danny Rand has long way to go before he overcomes his bad first (and second) impression, the Immortal Iron Fist shouldn’t necessarily shoulder all of the blame for The Defenders‘ underperforming.
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