Now That Iron Fist and Luke Cage Are Cancelled, What Could Happen Next From The Defenders Universe?
Recently, Netflix quietly cancelled both Luke Cage and Iron Fist, leaving almost half of its Defenders part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe gone. Now, there have been rumors that, just because the two series were canceled, this doesn't mean they're gone for good with many hoping for a Heroes for Hire series instead. This may well be the case.
Some believe that, with some exception with Daredevil and maybe The Punisher and Jessica Jones, the Defenders universe has slowly been fading and the series are past their prime. There is not the excitement there once was when the project was first announced or when Daredevil aired its first episode in 2015. I, admittedly, have been less excited about these series over the years, starting when the first season of Iron Fist almost all but failed. Subsequent seasons of Luke Cage and Jessica Jones seemed less dynamic. The Defenders, which should have felt like the Avengers of the Netflix shows, felt like it went out with a whimper. I feel I should have instantly wanted to watch the new season of Daredevil, but I just haven't felt compelled to do so.
There have been lots of great parts of these series though. They have actually had some of the best villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio), Kilgrave (David Tennant), Cottonmouth (Mahershala Ali) and Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard). I would watch anything with the Daughters of the Dragon - Jessica Henwick's Colleen Wing and Simone Missick's Misty Knight - who are highlights in any of the series they appeared in. I found the PTSD storyline of The Punisher compelling and made him more relatable. And, Krysten Ritter and Charlie Cox were amazing as Jessica Jones and Matt Murdock/Dardevil.
But, sadly, there was a lot that didn't work. The biggest transgression was its lack of understanding of Danny Rand/Iron Fist. They tried to shove him into this street level gritty world and it doesn't really work for his character. He is more lighthearted and quippy than the one we ended up getting. I think he vastly improved in The Defenders and the second season, but not by enough. And, by that time, the damage had been done. I actually had to talk people into watching the second season because they felt burned by the first. Luke Cage started with an amazing villain, but ended with what I think is one of the worst villains in the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Erik LaRay Harvey's Willis Stryker/Diamondback.
But the biggest error is the length of the seasons. I think by forcing 13 episodes felt too long for most. There was lots of filler and storylines were often stalled with large chunks of time where nothing was going on, even when they tried to create two different storylines in season one of Luke Cage.
That said, the Netflix series still do have a very strong and loyal fan base. If Luke Cage and Iron Fist have been cancelled by Netflix and a Heroes for Hire series is not being developed, could this be because Disney doesn't really need Netflix anymore? Could they appear elsewhere?
Starting next year, Disney is launching its much anticipated Disney Play streaming service. Could these series eventually move over there? It's not likely, though, because Disney Play will feature more family friendly - G to PG-13 - content.
Still, there are other homes for these Netflix series. When Marvel launched these series, the only other programming they had was the ABC programming - Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. But, since then, they have premiered two Marvel teen dramas - Marvel's Runaways on Hulu and Cloak & Dagger on Freeform - proving that they could create content outside both ABC and Netflix.
Disney's acquisition of 21st Century Fox will soon the change the landscape for the company and all its subsidiaries and assets. Along with the upcoming Disney Play streaming service, Disney will own the lion share of Hulu when its all said and done. Both of these are competitors to Netflix in the digital streaming world.
Disney is also acquiring three new channels - FX, FXX and National Geographic. My guess is that they will want to switch this up a bit and try to focus the demographics for the channels much like they reinvented ABC Family to the more teen focused Freeform. I can imagine that FX or FXX will be focused more on an adult audience where they will continue to run popular programming like American Horror Story, Atlanta and Fargo.
But, what if - and this is just my own thinking out loud and not based on anything substantive - the other channel is focused to the crowd who want R-rated Marvel content? Maybe it would become the CW of the Marvel adult set. I think this would be an interesting idea.
Whatever Disney does, I would encourage reducing the number of episodes from 13 to 8, 10 at the most, to not only tighten up stories, but spend more on the special effects. I also encourage them to find show runners who really get the characters like the directors of the Marvel Studios films do. It has been announced that a Loki and Scarlet Witch series are being developed for Disney Play and that they would be developed by Marvel Studios rather than Marvel Television. I would love to see Marvel Television eventually report to Kevin Feige just to further ensure the Marvel Cinematic Universe remain continuous rather than inconsistent.
I think this pocket of the universe has so many great characters that it would be sad to see them just die with the end of the partnership with Netflix.