The partnership between Marvel and Netflix has come to an end - and here's a complete timeline of its last few months. Back in 2013, Marvel Entertainment and Netflix entered into an unprecedented deal that would see five live-action superhero TV shows launch on the streaming service. Daredevil was the first of these, swiftly followed by Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist; their solo adventures came to a head in a single team-up miniseries, The Defenders. It proved a tremendous success, with Netflix even signing up to a Punisher spinoff as well.
Unfortunately, over the last few months, it's become clear that the relationship between Marvel and Netflix was winding down. Netflix canceled one series after another, even cancelling Jessica Jones before season 3 released. Although Netflix hasn't officially made their reasons known, it's likely due to a decline in viewership accompanied by changing corporate priorities. Back in 2013, Netflix was still new to the "original content" game and needed strong brands like Marvel. Now, in 2019, the streaming giant is well known for its popular Netflix Originals, and the amount of content they release seems to increase every month. The success of The Umbrella Academy demonstrates that Netflix doesn't need Marvel for comic book adaptations any more.
The breakdown in the relationship between Marvel and Netflix has happened at speed, and it appears to have taken everyone by surprise - including Marvel Television execs. So just what did happen, and how did it all play out?
- This Page: Luke Cage & Iron Fist Release New Seasons & Are Canceled
- Page 2: Daredevil, Punisher, & Jessica Jones Get Canceled By Netflix
Luke Cage Season 2 Released In June 2018
It all begins with the release of Luke Cage season 2 - on June 22, 2018. The season came to a dramatic close, with Harlem's Hero becoming the new owner of Harlem's Paradise. Luke concluded that he could do more good acting as a crime boss who tried to restrict the violence, and so he essentially took over the local mob. It's an idea that's never been done in the comics, but is thematically similar to Daredevil's "Shadowland" arc, where Matt Murdock tried something similar with the Hand - and wound up corrupted. At this stage, it's clear that Marvel assumed Luke Cage would be renewed. Why set up such a dramatic change in status quo if you're never expecting to explore it?
On July 29, Deadline reported rumors that a writer's room was already working on Luke Cage season 3. Cindy Holland, Netflix VP original content, declined to comment; she insisted that the streaming giant hadn't made any firm commitments at this stage. Discussing Daredevil, she explained that The Defenders was the reason there'd been a long wait before season 3.
"The biggest issue was the timing of production and launching of The Defenders because what that meant is we had to shut down all of the shows, so all the actors be available for The Defenders so it’s more function of that.There is no problem with this season, I think it’s fantastic, it’s real return to form in my view."
Iron Fist Season 3 Is Canceled In October 2018
The much-improved Iron Fist season 2 released on September 7, to popular and critical acclaim. Like Luke Cage, it came to a cliffhanger ending, with hints of an impending fight between Misty Knight's Iron Fist and Luke Cage, and Danny Rand going on a quest to China. Marvel seemed to have a long-term plan for their whole Netflix range, and fans began to get excited.
But there was still no official announcement, and by mid-September that excitement was beginning to be replaced by concern. When Marvel TV's Jeph Loeb was asked about the lack of news, he suggested Marvel was still waiting to hear from Netflix. Interestingly, the timing of Loeb's response fits with reports that, around this time, the Luke Cage season 3 writer's room was put on hold for a week because Marvel and Netflix couldn't agree how long the season should be. Netflix reportedly wanted to cut costs and reduce the third season to just 10 episodes; Marvel initially objected, but seem to have acquiesced, and writing began again. By September 30, Luke Cage actor Mike Colter was happily teasing his expectations for Luke Cage season 3.
And then, on October 12, Netflix canceled Iron Fist. A joint statement from Marvel and Netflix thanked the cast and crew, and ended with an optimistic promise that the Immortal Iron Fist would live on. This was the first Marvel Netflix cancellation, and it was presumed it was due to poor viewing figures. At this stage Deadline reported expectations that Daredevil would get a fourth season, while there were reports Netflix was about to announce the renewal of Luke Cage.
Luke Cage Season 3 Is Canceled One Week After Iron Fist
On October 17, Netflix's Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos fielded questions from investors about the impact Disney Plus would have on the streaming giant. He insisted that Netflix called the shots on the various Marvel Television shows, and that any cancellations would be decided by Netflix, not by Disney. "Those shows are for us to cancel," Sarandos noted, "and we’re super happy with their performance so far." It was a blunt answer, but it left fans optimistic that the partnership between Marvel and Netflix would continue.
Unfortunately, behind the scenes things weren't going so well. According to Deadline, Luke Cage's fate was decided in the week commencing October 15. Detailed drafts for the first half of the 10-episode projected third season were delivered to Marvel and Netflix, and immediately caused conflict as execs had problems with the scripts. By the end of the week, Netflix was reportedly demanding a complete change in Luke Cage's creative team. With the dispute seemingly intractable, on October 19 Netflix announced that Luke Cage had been canceled. This was on the very same day Daredevil season 3 dropped, thus making it very harsh news for viewers.
The partnership between Marvel and Netflix was clearly under a great deal of strain, but Daredevil season 3 was well-received. While it brought the starring characters' arcs full circle, there was still potential for more Daredevil stories, and showrunner Erik Oleson was hopeful for a renewal. Tamara Becher-Wilkinson, one of the show's writers, had thought Daredevil was too big too fail. Amy Rutberg - who plays Foggy Nelson's lover Marci - said the cast all believed Daredevil would run for at least five seasons. Opinion does seem to have been divided among the main stars, though; on October 24 Charlie Cox admitted he didn't know if Daredevil season 4 would happen, while just days later Vincent D'Onofrio denied rumors that Daredevil had been canceled.