Has Netflix canceled Luke Cage and Iron Fist in order to launch team-up series starring the Daughters of the Dragon and the Heroes for Hire? The last fortnight has shaken the Marvel Netflix world; first the streaming giant pulled the plug on Iron Fist, just over a month after the show's second season was released. Now Luke Cage has been canceled as well, also after two seasons.
The decision is all the more surprising because both shows clearly set up a third season. Luke Cage is a crime boss, Danny Rand is on a quest to Asia, and Colleen Wing is New York's new Iron Fist. These stories are unfinished, with every sign Marvel Television believed they'd be getting a third season. What's more, when Netflix canceled Iron Fist they assured viewers that the story wasn't over for Danny Rand and Colleen Wing. It feels like something is in store, that some major twist in the tale is about to happen.
That raises the intriguing possibility that these two series have been canceled, in part, for strategic reasons. There's been a lot of demand among fans for Marvel and Netflix to pivot to a new approach, with spinoff shows like Daughters of the Dragon and Heroes for Hire. It's possible that this is what's really going on; that the solo series have been canceled, and that Netflix is preparing to launch a very different Marvel slate.
- This Page: Iron Fist and Luke Cage's Cancelation
- Page 2: Is Netflix Preparing for Daughters of the Dragon and Heroes for Hire?
Why Iron Fist and Luke Cage Were Canceled
There's been a lot of speculation that Netflix is canceling their Marvel shows because of conflict with Disney. After all, Disney is preparing to launch their own streaming service in 2019, Disney Play, and that will presumably be in direct competition with Netflix. But those concerns may be ill-founded. For one thing, the Marvel Netflix shows are aimed at a completely different demographic to Disney Play, which the House of Mouse has already confirmed won't be doing R-rated content. Meanwhile, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos recently confirmed to investors that Netflix alone can pull the plug on the Marvel Netflix series. "Those shows are for us to cancel," he explained in quite blunt terms, possibly frustrated at the constant speculation, "and we’re super happy with their performance so far." That statement implies the relationship between Marvel and Netflix is expected to continue, even if things are no doubt a little more strained due to Disney Play.
So far, the most common theory as to why Netflix canceled these shows is simply that they may not be getting enough viewers. It's difficult to say; unlike TV networks, Netflix doesn't traditionally release viewing figures, so we're essentially speculating in the absence of data. While the first season of Iron Fist was a hit in terms of viewership, marketing emphasized its close relationship with The Defenders series as a hook. Absent that, it's quite possible season 2 didn't perform quite so well; perhaps the improved critical and public reception to the second season just wasn't enough to draw back audiences who were disappointed after season 1.
In the case of Luke Cage, sources told The Hollywood Reporter that the cancelation was "due to creative differences and the inability to agree to terms for a third season of the show." Deadline has been told execs had problems with the more developed scripts, and that Netflix had requested the series be cut from 13 episodes to 10. Both Marvel and Netflix refused to move, and as a result talks for the third season fell through.
There is one final variable that has to be factored into Netflix's decision-making process, although we'll never know how much of a part it played in the cancelation of Iron Fist and Luke Cage. Netflix is a data-driven company, dependent on sophisticated algorithms to analyze viewer behaviors and dividing their audience into roughly 2,000 so-called "taste communities." The more you use Netflix, the more data it has to assess your behaviors and categorize you into these taste communities, recommending specific shows that it believes fit your tastes. It's quite possible that Netflix noted Iron Fist and Luke Cage were being watched by groups of viewers who tended to tune in to a lot of other content on the streaming service. If that's the case, the shows may not have been quite as much a priority, or alternatively Netflix may have wanted to experiment and change tack a little.
Luke Cage and Iron Fist's Story Isn't Over
The interesting thing about the cancelation of Luke Cage and Iron Fist is that neither story was actually over. Take Luke Cage, for example: season 2 ended with Harlem's Hero in a surprising, albeit quite cool, place. Black Mariah was killed, and Bushmaster was defeated. But, in an unexpected twist, Black Mariah left Harlem's Paradise to Luke. He decided that the best way to bring peace to Harlem was to step up and take charge of the local gangs, becoming a local crime boss. It feels vaguely reminiscent of a Daredevil arc from the comics, Shadowland, in which the Man Without Fear took charge of the Hand in a wrong-headed attempt to end crime in Hell's Kitchen. Needless to say, it didn't go well for Daredevil, and he wound up corrupted. As Nietzsche observed, "if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee." Certainly Misty Knight believes a similar fate will inevitably befall Luke.
As for Danny Rand, in Iron Fist season 2 he gave up the Iron Fist and headed off to Asia on a quest to uncover the secret history of the Iron Fist. His power was passed on to Colleen Wing, who will become a street vigilante in her own right, battling against crime in Chinatown. Misty hinted that she intended to call Colleen in as a potential tool against Luke. After all, as Misty noted, she has "one of the few weapons that might make a dent in that man." A flash-forward scene set months later revealed that both Danny and Colleen will unlock new Iron Fist powers, with Danny even regaining the Iron Fist; both will discover how to channel their Chi through weapons, ranging from guns to swords.
All this makes Netflix's decision to cancel Iron Fist and Luke Cage pretty strange. Both ended with the lead characters in an exciting new status quo; in Iron Fist's case, the series had essentially changed its lead in the first place. It raises the possibility that Netflix is playing a different game, and that the streaming giant is about to announce a radical overhaul of its Marvel slate.