First, it was Iron Fist, canceled at 9 p.m. ET on a Friday, after most entertainment reporters had clocked out for the weekend, and fans were no longer sitting at work on their desktops to see the news. That was bad enough. Then, exactly one week later, word came of a second Marvel cancelation: Luke Cage, announced at 10 p.m. ET, practically in the dead of night, while fans were binging Daredevil Season 3. But why was Luke Cage canceled?
It wasn’t hard to understand why Iron Fist was canceled. Despite solid ratings, Iron Fist Season 1 was given downright dreadful reviews by critics, and that’s not counting the complaints the show hadn’t modernized their casting to put an Asian-American actor in the role. With Iron Fist Season 2 put out suddenly, three episodes shorter than everyone else, and practically squashed between Luke Cage Season 2 and Daredevil Season 3, it wasn’t hard to see the writing on the wall.
Iron Fist Season 2 may have improved in critical ratings, but it was too little too late. But Luke Cage Season 1 was given high praise by critics. Season 2 maybe didn’t do quite so well, but the heel turn at the end the season was one for the ages. So why give it the boot?
Netflix and Marvel put out a joint statement lamenting they could not go forward:
Unfortunately, Marvel’s Luke Cage will not return for a third season. Everyone at Marvel Television and Netflix is grateful to the dedicated showrunner, writers, cast and crew who brought Harlem’s Hero to life for the past two seasons, and to all the fans who have supported the series.
But according to The Hollywood Reporter, behind the scenes, a deal failed to be reached:
A source tells The Hollywood Reporter that the cancellation was due to creative differences and the inability to agree to terms for a third season of the show. Netflix doesn’t release viewership figures for its content.
While fans don’t know what those creative differences were, one thing Netflix’s VP of original programming Cindy Holland said back in the summer stands out: Netflix was trying to push the episode orders down from 13 to something shorter.
[W]e were sort of hamstrung a little bit by the convention of the 13-episode cable series pattern… if you look at the content that we’ve been making out of Netflix Studios and even with third-party partners now, often the seasons are generally no more than 10 episodes.
Iron Fist willingly decreased their episode order down to ten from 13, but Daredevil did not. Was one of the sticking points Marvel didn’t want to shrink down their size to fit with a new ten-episode season pattern?
The real question is how this will affect the remaining Marvel shows. The Punisher Season 2 is expected to announce a release date soon. Jessica Jones Season 3 is currently filming, but the showrunner will leave after it is completed. Daredevil Season 4 is in limbo. Could Netflix be planning to wind down all their Marvel shows in the next year?