One week after Netflix’s somewhat surprising cancellation of Marvel’s Iron Fist, the streaming network followed up with what has to be viewed as a shocking decision: Luke Cage will also not be renewed for a third season.
As with the Iron Fist news, Deadline was the first to report that Luke Cage is being canceled. (No soft landing for Danny Rand on another Marvel Netflix show.) What makes Netflix shutting down the series especially unexpected is that a renewal for a third season was considered a formality. Not to mention that the announcement comes on the same day that Daredevil’s Season 3 debuted. (Maybe this is sort of a warning to fans: If you want a fourth season for Daredevil, you’d better watch.)
According to Deadline’s Dominic Patten and Nellie Andreeva, scripts had been written for at least half of Season 3 and received notes from both Marvel and Netflix. The production wheel was turning. But Marvel and Netflix executives reportedly didn’t like the scripts that showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and his staff had produced, nor the direction that the writers were pointing Season 3. As much as “creative differences” can often be a vague explanation for why a project fell apart, that’s apparently what really happened here.
“Add to that, the writers’ room was put on hold for a week in September, as the streamer and the Disney-owned company were figuring out the mechanisms of changing the deal for the planned Luke Cage third season from the original 13 episodes to a slimmed down 10 episodes. It eventually escalated to behind-the-scenes turmoil in the past two days and demands for changes in creative regime. With Marvel and Netflix seemingly intractable and in different sides of the disputes, a harsh cancelation became the only viable exit strategy, it appears.”
Many might think that Luke Cage and Coker earned the creative benefit of the doubt after two successful seasons on Netflix (although we don’t know exactly what “successful” means, since viewership numbers and ratings aren’t released). And asking for a shortened 10-episode season seems justifable, considering the prior two seasons felt stretched out to fill 13 episodes.
But the Deadline report points out that Netflix is a very different landscape than it was when those four Marvel series were greenlit. Netflix doesn’t own the series, as it does with shows like Narcos, Master of None, Altered Carbon, Ozark and so many more that now exist on the network. So an expensive show like Luke Cage (along with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, Iron Fist, and The Defenders) really has to perform. The presumption was that it did, but obviously, the series didn’t perform so well that it was a no-brainer to renew.