In August of 2017, Disney announced plans to launch two separate streaming services – one for ESPN focusing entirely on sports, and one for its Disney and Pixar live-action and animated films and shows. The entertainment giant also stated that it would be ending its current partnership with Netflix in 2019. The announcement came as a shock to most, with the move putting Disney in direct competition with the streaming titan Netflix – who currently own the rights to some of Disney’s most beloved and successful works. At the time, sites such as Thrillist and Forbes reported that, although Disney would start incrementally removing its content from Netflix once each contract expired, there would be a continuation in all of the series belonging to the Marvel universe – namely Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist.
However, with the recent news from Netflix and Marvel Television that they are pulling the plug on both Iron Fist and Luke Cage, the future now looks uncertain for Daredevil and Jessica Jones, as well as the popular spin-off The Punisher. Most uncertain of all is the miniseries The Defenders, which incorporated the four heroes together into a team akin to the Avengers or the Justice League. The cancellation of Iron Fist was not surprising to most, as the show failed to make a positive impact among viewers from the very start. Accusations of cultural appropriation abounded, and there were also issues over the casting of Finn Jones as the titular character. Although, in the comics, Iron Fist is white, many viewers felt that it would have been a better choice to cast an East Asian actor instead. Novelist Marjorie Liu tweeted her anger at the time about the “orientalist-white-man-yellow-fever narrative” present in the show (and the comics), and another person tweeted: “I’m just tired of Asian actors playing bit parts as their culture is co-opted and monetised.” Although season two was an improvement, it seems nobody was too sad to see the show end. Interestingly, the cancellation of Luke Cage did come as a shock, however. The first season debuted to wide critical acclaim, with a 94% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and glowing press reviews. The second season had problems with pacing but was nevertheless very highly regarded. The appeal of Luke Cage ultimately lay in the idea of a bulletproof black man, especially in the current political climate in America where black men are disproportionately affected by police brutality and violence. Combining this idea with slick and stunning visuals, strong male and female characters and a solid plot meant that Luke Cage was a big hit with viewers.
So why the cancellation? There has been speculation that Netflix and Marvel Television had creative differences for the third season, with both parties unable to reach a conclusion on how to move forward. As for the rest of the Marvel shows on Netflix, their future is now unclear. Daredevil Season Three was released on Friday 19th October, again to wide acclaim from viewers and critics alike, but has not yet been picked up for season four. Jessica Jones and The Punisher are still on track for the release of their third and second seasons, respectively. As for The Defenders, Netflix VP of original content Cindy Holland confirmed earlier this month that there was never an intention for a second season, due to the organisational challenges of trying to combine four different characters. Although this may be a confirmation that The Defenders will not return in the future, there is hope for the other four shows to continue. The popularity of most of the Marvel characters is still extremely strong, so one option could be that a different streaming site (such as Hulu) would continue where Netflix left off. Another option would be Disney’s own streaming service itself. Netflix and Disney/Marvel Television may be parting ways, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we are seeing the end of our favourite television superheroes.
Image: What Simon’s Seen