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Why Netflix Is Delivering Its Own Snappening to the Daredevil Universe

Daredevil. Iron Fist. Luke Cage. All gone, newly canceled due to Netflix’s preference to only greenlight shows it actually owns. Jessica Jones and The Punisher are each too far into production on their next seasons to be outright canceled but they are clearly on borrowed time. Yet, Netflix continues to be cagey about what’s actually going on here. Don’t you wish they’d just be honest and cut through the bullshit?

In 2006, when new Disney CEO Bob Iger fired Nina Jacobson, the president of Disney’s Motion Pictures Group, less than a year after she’d renewed a lucrative contract it could have gone one of two ways: either Jacobson claim in a press release she was leaving to finally pursue her lifelong dream of being a film producer or cite a need to spend more time with her family as the cause for her departure.

She chose a third option: complete honesty. She was being fired simply because she happened to hold her job at a time of corporate restructuring enacted by Iger. 650 other poor souls were being fired along with her as part of Iger’s effort to cut $100 million in yearly costs. Her replacement got the job because he lobbied for it behind her back and agreed to work for much cheaper.

“Hollywood is agog,” wrote Deadline’s Nikki Finke at the time. Somebody chose to actually admit they’d been fired? Nobody does that in Hollywood!

Jacobson’s a producer on Crazy Rich Asians now. So, she’s doing just fine.

Over a decade later, not much has changed in that regard. There’s what studios and networks say in the press, there’s what’s actually going on behind the scenes, and never the twain shall meet. So, please, just ignore Netflix’s bullshit press release announcing the surprise cancellation of Daredevil. They’re never going to outright admit what’s actually happening here, why they would cancel their flagship Marvel series a month after its well-received third season (I was in the minority on being down on it) which leaves us to speculate:

Is this all down to ownership?

Netflix’s original content budget this year rivals the gross domestic product of around a quarter of the countries in the world, which is an entirely unprecedented investment for any single media company. The reason is quite simple: Netflix is scrambling to replace all the content its about to lose as rival studios band together to create their own competing streaming services. This strategy is certainly vindicated when you have WarnerMedia CEO and man who’s never made a film or TV show in his life John Stankey bragging about starving Netflix of content.

As a result, Netflix wants to be its own master when it comes to content, and while its deal with Marvel Television/ABC Studios might grant it exclusive streaming rights for the Daredevil universe it does not also give them corporate ownership of the shows. This, industry analysts argued, is what led Netflix to cancel the critically beloved American Vandal (a CBS Studios product) and is likely behind the Thanos-like snappening Netflix is newly visiting on its Marvel universe.

Is Disney making a play to gets its characters back?

The only true line of intrigue in Netflix’s press release about Daredevil comes at the very end: “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.”

The Daredevil character will live on in future projects? What, and might I add, the fuck does that mean? Is Disney taking Daredevil back and plotting a movie or TV series for its forthcoming streaming service, Disney+? Will Charlie Cox and the continuity of the Netflix Daredevil series continue? Will this be yet another reboot? Or does Netflix simply mean Daredevil is now free to appear in other Marvel shows on the streaming service, either Jessica Jones, The Punisher or something new we (and possibly they as well) don’t know about yet?

It’s most tempting to read this as a case of pay no attention to what they’re saying and more attention to what they’re doing. Because the powers that be have been telling the press for months now that Netflix is still in the driver’s seat with its Marvel shows and that if they cancel one of them it’s not because of any pressure from Disney. However, this Marvel TV show killing spree Netflix has been on in recent months is the most extreme string of cancellations in the streaming giant’s history. This isn’t normal for Netflix. They cancel shows all the time now, but it feels like they’re canceling an entire cinematic universe. Is Disney somehow behind or at least partially responsible for this?

Hard to say. We have to remember Marvel TV and Marvel Studios exist as islands unto themselves, children divided by the divorce forced on larger Marvel when Kevin Feige finally had enough of Ike Perlmutter. As a result, while Feige’s Marvel Studios is prepping its various limited series programs – the Loki, Scarlet Witch, and Falcon/Winter Soldier shows – for Disney+ that doesn’t mean Jeph Loeb’s Marvel TV is also busy at programs for Disney+. His shows, which also include the recently renewed Agents of Shield, Cloak & Dagger, and The Runaways, are scattered across the cable/streaming landscape, and they might continue to be for the foreseeable future. But is Daredevil maybe switching over to Marvel Studios?

Or…

Has the Netflix Marvel universe simply run its course?

Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter have each heard the reason Luke Cage was canceled even though half of its season 3 scripts had already been written is not due to any kind of corporate interference or ownership concerns. Instead, it was a simple creative dispute: Netflix wanted to cut the episode count down from 13 to 10. The Luke Cage/Marvel TV people didn’t agree. So, bye-bye Luke Cage.

There are various, mostly obvious financial reasons why a TV producer would reject a network demand to make fewer episodes, but on this point Netflix would actually have the critics on their side. The consistent problem with every Netflix Marvel show is the seasons are simply too long and thus stuck with obvious padding and the dreaded Netflix bloat. It’s been a complaint since the beginning and continues to be made today with Daredevil’s third season. Iron Fist only got a second season because it agreed to a ten-episode count, but it was also the show with the least amount of negotiating leverage due to the piss-poor reception to its debut season. Perhaps the bosses for the shows felt they had more leverage than they actually did.

If this was a couple of years ago, they probably would have been right. But the Marvel Netflix Universe doesn’t move the pop culture needle as much as it used to. Its narrative tricks – gritty PG-15 material, epic hallway fight scenes – aren’t as fresh anymore. The storytelling formulas have become obvious and repetitive. Various showrunners have come and gone. Jessica Jones’ Melissa Rosenberg already has her next gig lined up. And the ongoing lack of any real, meaningful connection the MCU films has effectively labeled the various Defenders as skippable, second-class citizens, even as their hardcore fans continue to advocate for more recognition.

When Infinity War arrived, it proved too complicated to integrate The Defenders into the story, and by the time Avengers 4 arrives they might be wiped out for good, be it due to a shift in Netflix’s programming strategy, a power play on Disney’s part, or the simple reality that some things just run their course.

If we are indeed witnessing the end of the Netflix Marvel universe, are you angry? Sad? Or rather unmoved? And looking back on things, what’s been your favorite part of the Netflix Marvel universe? Let me know in the comments.

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7 comments

  1. Kind of…curious?

    Let’s put it this way: I won’t actually miss most of the Netflix shows. I was nicer towards the third season of Daredevil than you were, but the fact of the matter is that it was basically the storyline from season one done again. It seems like they have no idea where to go with the character. I like the first season of JJ, but they second season was a giant let-down. I outright HATE it. Luke Cage was overall okay, I guess, but the only show I actually want to see right now is the crazy story about Danny and Ward running around in Asia and I know that Netflix would never go there. If there were a third season of Iron Fist, we would be back in New York doing the same BS we have done for x-seasons now.

    Question is what Marvel will be doing now and how the contracts look like. Frankly, I would love for them to do a soft reboot and just restart with the characters under the leadership of ONE showrunner with a proper vision for them.

    But there is also the study which was recently done…you know, the one which revealed that the Marvel show which is easily the most popular globally is Agents of Shield. When the renewal for a seventh season was announced, AoS was trending. I get the sense that the audience is kind of numb at this point towards the Defender shows. So maybe Marvel won’t do anything with them.

    If I had a wish-list, then I would get my crazy tournament movie featuring Danny Rand, a proper conclusion to Agent Carter and guest appearances but the various Defenders in various shows. It would be kind of a shame to just discard those characters. But it’s not really a shame to no longer have them trapped in the confines of Marvel Netflix.

    1. ” I was nicer towards the third season of Daredevil than you were, but the fact of the matter is that it was basically the storyline from season one done again. It seems like they have no idea where to go with the character.”

      That’s a pretty fair description of it.

      “the only show I actually want to see right now is the crazy story about Danny and Ward running around in Asia ”

      That did ending of IF:S2 did read a bit to me like, “This looks so crazy. The fans are going to love it. Just try and cancel us now!” to which Netflix obviously replied, “Yeaaaaaaah, you’re still canceled. Cool finale, though. Good for you.”

      “Question is what Marvel will be doing now and how the contracts look like. Frankly, I would love for them to do a soft reboot and just restart with the characters under the leadership of ONE showrunner with a proper vision for them.”

      That has come up a lot – the ever-shifting creative leadership of the shows, Daredevil in particular. That perhaps on top of everything the ongoing headache of managing the shows was another item in the minus column as Netflix weighed the pros and cons of moving forward or canceling and moving on.

      “I get the sense that the audience is kind of numb at this point towards the Defender shows.”

      I get the same sense, although maybe it’s because I personally share that sense. Daredevil: Season 3 showed me that even when a relatively good version of the same old Netflix Marvel formula plays out I’m somewhat immune to its charms because I’ve simply tired of the formula at this point.

      “It would be kind of a shame to just discard those characters. But it’s not really a shame to no longer have them trapped in the confines of Marvel Netflix”

      Agreed. There’s just too much good here to let it all completely die. Who knows where it goes next.

  2. Season 1 of Daredevil is by far my favorite first season of any superhero show. The show did lack some of that quality with seasons 2-3, but not on a level to be canceled. It honestly upset me when I read the news especially when I see the garbage that Netflix kept going i.e. OITNB. Charlie Cox’s “Man Without Fear” had a few more seasons left in it before it became too much. But what do I know? I thought Brandon Routh should have had a few more movies as Superman.

    On another note, I get that Disney, CBS, etc, all want their share of the pie with their own streaming services, but it seriously sucks to the dedicated viewer the way they go about claiming everything. Now I am scared that The CW will suddenly cancel The Flash so DC can reboot it on their streaming channel. I know that it all comes down to money. They will do whatever they can to make more money.

    1. “Season 1 of Daredevil is by far my favorite first season of any superhero show. The show did lack some of that quality with seasons 2-3, but not on a level to be canceled.”

      Agreed. Whatever their failings, the quality of the second and third season wasn’t so low as to deserve cancellation. Not even close. I’m all for shorter seasons, but not no new seasons at all.

      “But what do I know? I thought Brandon Routh should have had a few more movies as Superman.”

      The universe has sort of karmically repaid him with Legends of Tomorrow, but he definitely deserved another go at Superman. It’s not his fault that Singer made a ponderous movie the market simply wasn’t ready for yet.

      “Now I am scared that The CW will suddenly cancel The Flash so DC can reboot it on their streaming channel.”

      I would worry less about that and more about the DC shows being removed from Netflix and moved to the DC streaming service. The reason I say that is the corporate chain of command is a bit different for The CW than any other network. Since WarnerMedia is part-owner of The CW, there’s less of an incentive to remove DC programming from the channel in favor of putting it behind a pay channel. Warner would essentially be robbing itself in such a move.

      And the CW’s multi-year deal with Netflix pays them an ungodly amount of money every year for the right to stream full seasons of shows 8 days after they air. From what I understand, that deal is so lucrative it is now central to The CW’s annual budget. They don’t want to launch their own standalone paywall streaming service. They’ve affirmed as much in the press. Instead, they love having their stuff on Netflix and report seeing huge ratings bumps for new seasons of shows after people catch up with them on Netflix. So, The CW probably wants things to stay exactly the same.

      But I could see WarnerMedia stepping in to do something when the deal ends, part of its larger strategy to starve Netflix of content. I don’t know when that would be though because looking back at the original announcement of the Netflix-CW deal all the articles I find say “multi-year deal” instead of actually specifying the number of years or expiration date.

      “I know that it all comes down to money. They will do whatever they can to make more money.”

      As Cyndi Lauper once sang, “Money changes everything.”

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