With ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Iron Fist’ Canceled, Is Netflix’s Marvel TV Universe Falling Apart? (Commentary)

We have a lot of questions after “Luke Cage” was canceled on the launch day of “Daredevil” season 3

luke cage canceled iron fist netflix marvel tv universe is falling apart

Friday was a big day for Netflix and Marvel with the 12 a.m. release of the third season of their flagship series, “Daredevil.” But the mood was soured somewhat when it was announced before the day had even ended that “Luke Cage” would not be returning for a third season.

That’s huge news, since Luke and Iron Fist make up half of Marvel and Netflix’s ambitious attempt to do on the small screen with “The Defenders” what it did on the big one with “The Avengers.” And it leaves me wondering a lot about the future — and fate — of the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

First, there’s the matter of timing — the frankly wild decision to make this announcement on the launch day for “Daredevil” season 3.

It’s been four months since the second season of “Luke Cage” came out. Marvel and Netflix have had since June to make a decision about the show, but waited until this exact moment to tell everybody. They could have waited another week. They could have announced it in tandem with the “Iron Fist” news. Instead they chose to cancel “Luke Cage” not only on launch day, but at a time in the evening when many people on the East Coast were probably just settling in to watch “Daredevil.”

And that’s not even taking into account that it took less than half that long for “Iron Fist” to get the axe after its second season

Second, there’s the explanation for the cancellation given to TheWrap by an insider: creative differences, and an inability to reach terms on a deal for a third season.

Creative differences with who? Probably not showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker, since Netflix and Marvel have had no problems liberally changing showrunners on other Marvel shows. “Daredevil” is already on its fourth showrunner with Season 3 boss Eric Oleson, and “Iron Fist” swapped in Raven Metzner for its second (and now final) season. That at least implies that the conflict here was between Marvel and Netflix rather than “Luke Cage” creatives.

And third, there’s the statement Netflix and Marvel made about the “Luke Cage” cancellation.

When “Iron Fist” was canceled, the announcement offered the rosy promise that “While the series on Netflix has ended, the immortal Iron Fist will live on.” I assumed that meant Marvel and Netflix were hinting at the possibility of a new phase of this TVverse focused on team-up concepts like “Daughters of the Dragon” with Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick) and Misty Knight (Simone Missick), and “Heroes for Hire” with Luke Cage (Mike Colter) and Danny Rand (Finn Jones).

Likewise, my first impulse when I heard the “Luke Cage” news was that they definitely must be moving in that direction. But there was no similar assurance accompanying that announcement that Luke and friends will stick around in this universe in some capacity. Just thanks to the fans for their support.

Was it strictly a ratings issue? Impossible to say, as Netflix famously doesn’t make member viewership numbers public. I personally can’t help but think this has something to do with Disney’s own streaming service getting ready to start up next year. Especially with talk of Scarlet Witch and Loki series for that new service. Maybe Disney wants to end this collaboration with Netflix and try again with their own thing. Maybe it intends to carry these shows over to that service.

Of course, Disney/Marvel could just as easily be eyeing a gradual fresh start, especially since the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been increasingly distant from the movies. Most notably, Thanos’ finger snap has had no affect on any of the shows that came out after he wiped out half the universe. It wouldn’t be impossible to simply roll out completely new versions of these characters and make like their Netflix versions don’t share the same universe.

Of course there’s a lot we don’t know and may never know. Representatives for Marvel Television and Netflix didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from TheWrap. The only thing we know for sure is that we’ve got too many questions right now, and no real answers.

For what it’s worth, “Daredevil” in season 3 is easily the best that show has ever been, so it’s totally worth watching in the meantime, even if you’re worrying about the future of the Netflix Marvel-verse. And that’s all I really know about all this right now.