For the second time in as many weeks, Netflix has canceled one of their Marvel original series. Iron Fist was the first to go last week, but now it has been announced that Luke Cage is also done after just two seasons. The move came as quite a shock as reports pointed towards a third season renewal, so what happened?
Netflix and Marvel first announced their partnership back in 2013 and it was smooth sailing in the early days. As their output grew (not just with Marvel, but as a service overall), the quality of some of these shows dipped. Luke Cage has been a surprisingly divisive series, as the first half of season 1 was touted as some of Marvel and Netflix's best content, before the second half proved to be a bit of a disappointment. The same could be said for season 2, but in reverse, since it ended on the tantalizing note of Luke Cage (Mike Colter) essentially becoming the villain. The ending point for the character was obvious set-up for a third season, but now that isn't going to happen.
Related: Why Netflix Canceled Iron Fist
It was announced late last night that Luke Cage has been canceled after two seasons. In similar fashion to the cancelation of Iron Fist, Marvel and Netflix issued a joint statement about the decision, "Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is grateful to the dedicated showrunner, writers, cast and crew who brought Harlem's Hero to life for the past two seasons, and to all the fans who have supported the series." Unlike the statement that came with Iron Fist's cancelation, there was no statement that the series or the characters will live on.
This has made many fans wonder why Luke Cage was canceled in the first place. Viewership could be one of the factors behind the decision, but it is impossible to say since Netflix doesn't release any of these figures to the public. According to THR, the main reason behind the cancelation was "creative differences." There's no word on what exactly the disagreements were or on what level (between Marvel/Netflix or creators/system) the issues stemmed from.
Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and his writing team had been working on scripts for a third season this year, following the season 2 launch of Luke Cage. After the first two seasons both consisted of the standard thirteen episodes, this is the structure they once again planned to follow. According to Deadline, this was another area were everyone didn't see eye to eye and frustrations boiled over. The writer's room was reportedly put on hold for a week in September after Marvel wanted to shorten a potential third season to ten episodes. Coker and the writers then had to reconstruct the season to meet this demand and turned in scripts for the first half last week, but some executives didn't like the results. This all reportedly led to "behind-the-scenes turmoil" that resulted in demands for a change in the creative regime. That does not appear to have been considered and resulted in the cancelation.
With Luke Cage and Iron Fist both being canceled over the last week, these reports of growing tensions between Marvel and Netflix could point to their growing separation. Jessica Jones is coming back for a third season but then showrunner Melissa Rosenberg is leaving, so the Krysten Ritter led drama could be finished after that. Daredevil season 3 launched to great reception, so it would be a shocking turn of events if that show too receives the axe instead of a renewal. With Disney set to launch a streaming service of their own next year that will (eventually) take on Disney-owned content off Netflix, the streaming giant may no longer see enough benefits (like views and subscribers) to warrant continuing this relationship. If the disputes do go up to corporate levels and aren't resolved, Luke Cage may not be the last Marvel series that Netflix cancels.
Luke Cage seasons 1 and 2 are available on Netflix now.