“A lot of times when you’re making a television series, continuing is not always necessarily up to you,” Showrunner Joshua Schwartz says
As Marvel TV undergoes a seismic change, the third and last season of “Runaways” serves as a cautionary tale of what happens when a TV series becomes the victim of corporate maneuvering.
Two months ago, the TV arm of the comic book powerhouse, which had been led separately by Jeph Loeb, was moved under Kevin Feige and Marvel Studios. One month later, Hulu announced that “Runaways” would end with its third season, which dropped all 10 episodes on Friday. At the time, an individual with knowledge of the streaming service’s decision to end the Marvel series told TheWrap that creatively, the series had “come to a natural ending point” and that Hulu felt this was “the right way and time” to complete the Runaways’ journey.
But Joshua Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, who led “Runaways” as its showrunners, told TheWrap that the decision to end the Hulu series wasn’t entirely up to them.
“I think it was just a realistic assessment of when it felt like the show might be wrapping up,” Schwartz said on the reasoning for ending the show after three seasons. “Sometimes, these things are out of your control.”
While neither Schwartz nor Savage said the call came from Feige to end “Runaways,” they hinted that the corporate maneuverings from above played a role.
“A lot of times when you’re making a television series, continuing is not always necessarily up to you. You can ascribe whatever factor you’d like to that,” Schwartz continued. “We just wanted to make sure that, should it play out that way, we were prepared to have an ending that would be very satisfying.”
Savage added: “It’s definitely the case that in this new world of streaming, what used to be a five-season, 22-episode arc, is much more often a, 10-episode a season, three-season arc. That just seems to be more and more the norm.”
Questions about Marvel TV’s future under Feige had been swirling for the past few months. The move gave Feige even more outsized power than he already had and weakened the standing of Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter, who previously oversaw not only Marvel TV, but also had creative oversight of publishing and animation.
The first shoe to drop came not too long after, when TheWrap reported that longtime Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb would be leaving in the coming weeks. On Tuesday, TheWrap reported that Marvel TV would be formally integrated into Marvel Studios and that all future development would be stopped. Karim Zreik, senior vice president of current programming, and production, and members of his team, will move over to Marvel Studios. Those changes left only the four animated series that Marvel TV was developing for Hulu, the live-action “Helstrom,” and the final season of “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” the first TV series based within the MCU, airs on ABC next summer.
The integration of Marvel TV under Marvel Studios will include layoffs as a result, both in the immediate future and long term, once development on all current Marvel TV shows is completed. The move effectively shutters the division — though the Marvel TV name may still continue.
Even though “Runaways” become a casualty of a corporate restructuring, Marvel has many reasons for wanting to finally align Marvel TV with Marvel Studios, which had previously been wholly separate. It was built into the corporate org chart: Feige reports directly to Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn, instead of Perlmutter, who controlled Marvel TV.
Feige is the architect of the MCU, which has earned billions for Disney and even toppled “Avatar” earlier this year, when “Avengers: Endgame” became the highest-grossing film of all time. The next phase of the MCU, which begins next spring with May’s “Black Widow,” will include shows on Disney+, the month-old streaming service from Disney.
Marvel Studios is on the hook for eight shows, many of which will star characters from the films. The first of them, “Falcon and The Winter Soldier,” will see Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan reprise their big screen roles, with other series starring Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Tom Hiddleston and Jeremy Renner coming over the next two years. Disney+ will also be used as a vehicle for introducing new MCU characters like Ms. Marvel, She-Hulk and Kate Bishop, who becomes the new Hawkeye.
The goal is to recreate the big-screen experience for home streaming, in a more cohesive way than the MCU ever did with ABC or Netflix. But that also means that Marvel Studios will have to produce more content than ever before.
In 2020, Marvel Studios will be putting out “Black Widow,” “The Eternals” and “Falcon and The Winter Soldier.” In 2021, Marvel Studios’ roster will include three films — “Shang-Chi,” “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” and “Thor: Love and Thunder” — as well as four Disney+ shows. That doesn’t even include a third “Spider-Man” film that Marvel is co-producing with Sony.
Feige, who is also developing a “Star Wars” film for Disney, needed some reinforcements. Marvel TV provides that, even if it had to shed some weight.