Recently, fans were thrilled to learn that The Punisher has been renewed for a second season, but the renewal raised an intriguing question: is there a season 2 in sight for The Defenders, the Marvel Netflix show that united New York's greatest superheroes (that a TV budget can afford) for the first time? After all, right now The Defenders is the only series that hasn't been confirmed to be renewed.
That's actually a wise decision on the part of Marvel and Netflix. The reality is that The Defenders served its purpose, and a second season simply isn't necessary.
It's important to understand that The Defenders served an essential role in Marvel's Netflix slate, providing a narrative climax for the first wave of Marvel Netflix shows. That allowed Marvel to market the shows as a single unit, stressing their interconnected nature. It gave a sense of momentum and direction to the shows, and also allowed them to be marketed as a package. This proved useful when Iron Fist stumbled; concerned that marketing for the series wasn't quite working out, Marvel and Netflix fell back on the Defenders connection. The second trailer stressed that the final Defender was about to arrive.
For Netflix, the whole approach was a tremendously valuable experiment. The streaming service was able to carefully monitor what types of people watched each show. They were then able to assess whether or not viewers would cross over to different shows off the back of the crossover series. Netflix essentially viewed this as a useful datapoint - but did the views actually cross over? Netflix is notoriously tight-lipped when it comes to their viewing data; the above press release was fairly unusual. According to marketing analytics firms, however, The Defenders was actually the least popular Marvel Netflix show. If that's the case, we can assume there was less crossover appeal than Marvel hoped.
The Defenders streamed on August 18th, and we've heard little mention of the series since. Cast your eye to social media, and you'll see little in the way of demand for a second season. Contrast this with the two-month gap between the release of Jessica Jones season 1 and the announcement of a second season, which came as welcome news to fans who were eager for a second dose of Krysten Ritter's superhero-turned-detective.
Even putting aside the critic and fan reception of The Defenders (which was distinctly muted), the simple fact is that the show has accomplished its purpose. It has brought an end to the first phase of Marvel Netflix shows, and established that world as a cohesive whole. Each individual series now has its own tone and style, and stands on its own two feet. The only uncertainty is Iron Fist, but Marvel is hoping that new showrunner Raven Metzner can redeem that series. Meanwhile, fans are now interested in how the different heroes can interact going forwards. Will Luke Cage and Danny Rand combine forces in Heroes for Hire? Will Colleen Wing and Misty Knight unite in Daughters of the Dragon?
It's worth noting that the Defenders have no real comic book history. In the comics, the Defenders were actually a cosmic team brought together by Doctor Strange. It's true that the comics have since reinvented the team in light of the Netflix series, but that's more a case of the comics following the pattern set by Marvel Television. Given the lack of history for the Netflix team, comic book fans have little real investment in seeing them team up. In contrast, they're much more interested in Heroes for Hire or Daughters of the Dragon.
This year saw Netflix increase its Marvel slate to three shows a year, and they look set to follow that pattern in 2018. An ensemble series like The Defenders causes real problems with this kind of schedule. The cast of all four series are required to be on set for the one show, meaning production on individual series grinds to a halt.
The Defenders brought the first phase of Marvel Netflix shows to a triumphant climax. But the reality is that the series served its purpose, and now its time to move on. We simply don't need a second season.