It’s fair to say that Netflix is getting out of the Marvel business. Sure, there will be a Season 3 of Jessica Jones and a second season for The Punisher. But the cancellation of Netflix’s flagship Marvel series, Daredevil, surely means the inevitable end of that partnership.
Multiple outlets reported the news Thursday evening. (If you keep track of such things, Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva and Dominic Patten were first on it by a nose.) Daredevil’s cancellation comes nearly two months after the streaming network announced that two of its other Marvel series, Iron Fist and Luke Cage, weren’t being renewed for additional seasons.
[Editor’s Note: Naturally, this news comes after we already recorded Episode 15 of The Amusement Park Podcast. We will almost certainly talk about this next week!]
Season 3 of Daredevil just launched six weeks ago on Netflix. The future of the show seemed uncertain in light of the other Marvel cancellations, but strong reviews among media and fans presumably gave it a chance for renewal. Yet no announcement for a fourth season came from Netflix or Marvel, which made fans nervous. That led to a recent online campaign to #RenewDaredevil on social media.
In the past, these sorts of campaigns and petitions have had mixed success. But a few have paid off, which kept hope alive. Yet it’s also worth asking whether or not a campaign flooding social media or petition flooded with names would have even mattered.
Season 3 showrunner Erik Oleson even told fans on Twitter that he pitched Season 4 to Netflix. (Season 1 was run by Steven S. DeKnight, while Marco Ramirez and Doug Petrie oversaw Season 2.) Obviously, executives weren’t convinced. Or they had already made their decision.
Earlier this month, ScreenRant reported some surprising information that surely factored into Netflix’s decision-making process. According to data from analytics company Jumpshot, viewership for Daredevil’s third season had dropped 57 percent compared to the first weeks from Seasons 1 and 2. (Iron Fist dropped 64 percent, while Luke Cage suffered a 59 percent drop.) It’s the closest data to ratings available, since Netflix doesn’t release those numbers to the public.
The Luke Cage cancellation was the true indication that Netflix was no longer enamored with its Marvel shows. A Season 3 renewal seemed like a formality before producers clashed with executives over creative direction.
But Netflix doesn’t own the Marvel shows as it does with other series on the network like Stranger Things, Ozark, Bojack Horseman, The Crown, Master of None, GLOW, Narcos and so many, many others. Marvel licensed its shows to Netflix and produced them through ABC. So if the series were expensive and viewership was waning, Netflix obviously felt it was better off going with the properties from which full profit could be derived. And there is a lot more content now available on Netflix than there was when the deal with Marvel was signed in 2013.
(Netflix probably isn’t thrilled that Disney is launching a competing service either, one which will eventually take away many of the movies and TV shows which currently provide so much of its content.)
As has been the case for the past couple of months, the question now becomes whether these series can find new life elsewhere. Netflix’s official statement ended by saying “the Daredevil character will live on in future projects for Marvel.” The presumption is that the shows could jump over to Disney’s new streaming service. Disney+ is developing Marvel series featuring Loki, Scarlet Witch, and a Falcon-Winter Soldier team-up. Whether or not Disney+ is interested in carrying more adult content like Daredevil along with its family-friendly fare remains to be seen.
But the two Star Wars live-action series soon to launch on the service figure to appeal to older audiences. Maybe a Daredevil or Luke Cage wouldn’t be quite as dark. Or if Marvel would prefer to emphasize stronger violence, language and sex for its street-level heroes, the company also owns a stake in Hulu and might provide a better platform there. (Marvel already has a Hulu series with Runaways, which launches its second season on Dec. 21.)
If this is it for Daredevil on TV, Season 3 ended with what could be perceived as a series finale. (Though there was something of a cliffhanger that would’ve led into a Season 4.) No Marvel character has suffered more than Matt Murdock, which the Netflix series (along with The Defenders) certainly got right. Charlie Cox was an excellent Murdock (and Daredevil!) and no one will ever be a better Wilson Fisk than Vincent D’Onofrio. We’ll always have those long-take fight scenes in hallways, stairwells and prisons.