Faced with the impending launch of a rival Disney streaming service next year, Netflix appears to be eager to get out of the Marvel business.
The streaming service pioneer Nov. 29 canceled “Daredevil” after three seasons, the third of its shows based on Marvel Comics to get the axe in the past two months.
Netflix Oct. 12 canceled “Iron Fist,” followed a week later by “Luke Cage,” which it canceled the same day as the premiere of the third season of “Daredevil.”
The rapid elimination of its Marvel-based properties has led to increased speculation that Netflix was washing its hands of the franchise as Marvel owner The Walt Disney Co. prepares to launch its own direct-to-consumer video service, Disney+, late next year.
“Daredevil” had been the flagship of a heralded distribution deal between Disney and Netflix announced in late 2013 that would see the production of four series based on Marvel characters set in the same cinematic universe as the “Avengers” films.
The show, which premiered in 2015, focused on blind lawyer Matt Murdock, who used his acute senses to fight crime as a vigilante on the streets of Hell’s Kitchen, New York.
“Daredevil” was followed by “Jessica Jones,” about a super-powered NYC private investigator; “Luke Cage,” which focused on the bulletproof hero of Harlem; and “Iron Fist,” about a wealthy heir who returns to New York after a long absence having gained mystical martial arts abilities.
After a second season of “Daredevil” in 2016, the four title heroes joined forces in 2017 in the miniseries “The Defenders.” In 2017 “Daredevil” spun off “The Punisher,” about a veteran seeking revenge for the death of his family. “Jessica Jones” received a second season early in 2018.
The series were produced for Netflix by Marvel Television and ABC Studios.
“Luke Cage” and “Iron Fist” were both given two seasons on Netflix. While the first season of “Iron Fist” was generally derided by fans, its second season was praised as a positive turnaround by most critics, although its cancellation wasn’t seen as much of a surprise given lingering animosity toward the show. The elimination of the better-received “Luke Cage” was more eye-opening to industry observers, with the lack of renewal of “Daredevil” leaving little doubt as to the eventual fate of Netflix’s remaining Marvel shows.
A second season of “The Punisher” has completed production and is expected to debut early next year. A third season of “Jessica Jones” is currently in production.
Netflix never formally renewed or canceled the “The Defenders,” though in September it rebranded its “Defenders” Facebook page into “NX,” a label more encompassing of Netflix’s wider array of genre-based properties. Many fan sites interpreted this move as a sign that no further crossover adventures were in the works, especially since the first “Defenders” miniseries garnered a lukewarm critical reaction (its 77% Rotten Tomatoes critics score was the lowest of any of the preceding seasons, save for “Iron Fist,” and ranks it eighth among the 11 Marvel Netflix seasons).
Rotten Tomatoes listed the third season of “Daredevil” as the best-received Marvel Netflix season in terms of both critic (94% positive) and fan (96%) response since the first season of “Daredevil” three years ago (which earned 99% and 96%, respectively).
Global data measurement firm Parrot Analytics reported that “Daredevil” was the No. 4 most in-demand show in terms of online activity the week ended Nov. 24, more than a month after its third season debuted. However, Business Insider Nov. 28 speculated that the fate of “Daredevil” was uncertain, despite a #RenewDaredevil Twitter campaign advocating a fourth season, citing data from consumer-insights company Crimson Hexagon claiming interest in all the Marvel shows was down significantly since the franchise debuted.
At the same time, Netflix has been putting more emphasis on its own proprietary content, rather than licensing shows from third parties, as they do with Marvel.
In a statement to Deadline, Netflix stated that it was “tremendously proud” of the third season of “Daredevil” and felt “it best to close this chapter on a high note.”
Netflix also hinted that more adventures of Daredevil could eventually materialize in other mediums: “While the series on Netflix has ended, the three existing seasons will remain on the service for years to come, while the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.”
What form this may take remains to be seen, given the apparent creative split between Marvel Studios, which handles the films, and Marvel Television. Disney+ has confirmed a new series based on the “Thor” and “Avengers” villain Loki, and rumors are swirling about additional series based on film characters such as The Scarlet Witch, Winter Soldier and Falcon, the latter two being sidekicks of Captain America. But these series would be handled by Marvel Studios and its executive producer, Kevin Feige, and not Marvel Television.
The 2015 separation of Marvel’s film and TV divisions left many fans wondering about how interconnected the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television incarnation would remain. Thus far, MCU-set TV shows such as the Netflix group, ABC’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” and Freeform’s “Cloak & Dagger” have referenced events from the films, but have not received reciprocal acknowledgement from any of the movies (though the Russo Brothers did acknowledge discussions about the feasibility of using characters such as Luke Cage in Avengers: Infinity War).
With Marvel Studios seemingly handling the Marvel programming on Disney+, industry observers have expressed skepticism about the pending service’s willingness to pick up Marvel Television productions that have already been canceled by other networks.