In a surprise to absolutely no one, Netflix has cancelled its last two remaining Marvel TV shows: The Punisher and Jessica Jones. The bloodletting began last October when Netflix cancelled Iron Fist, which kind of made sense given that it was the least successful of the Marvel Netflix shows on the streaming service. But a week later, Luke Cage—a critically and commercially successful series—was shockingly cancelled, and fans knew something was up. Indeed, a month after that, following its Season 3 debut, the most popular Marvel Netflix TV series Daredevil was axed, and it became clear that Netflix was in the process of cutting loose one of its most ambitious and talked-about TV projects.
Now it’s official: The Marvel Netflix TV Universe is no more. The experiment began with the exciting announcement that not only was Daredevil being produced as a Netflix series that would be more adult-oriented in content than the PG-13 movies, but it would be followed by standalone series for Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones, leading to an Avengers-style team-up series called The Defenders. The first seasons of the aforementioned shows were fairly well received (well, aside from Iron Fist), but by the time we got to The Defenders, interest was waning.
Fans had noticed that each season was essentially only 7 or 8 episodes worth of story packed into 13 episodes, but even the shortened The Defenders landed with an absolute thud as Marvel TV failed to get its act together. Still, Daredevil remained intensely popular and rebounded in Season 3, Jessica Jones scored mostly positive reviews, and the spinoff series The Punisher was well-received.
But now it’s all over. A month after The Punisher Season 2 dropped on Netflix, the streaming service has confirmed that the series will no longer be continuing. Netflix had this to say (via Deadline):
“Marvel’s The Punisher will not return for a third season on Netflix. Showrunner Steve Lightfoot, the terrific crew, and exceptional cast including star Jon Bernthal, delivered an acclaimed and compelling series for fans, and we are proud to showcase their work on Netflix for years to come.”
But that’s not all! Jessica Jones doesn’t even get the benefit of Netflix keeping its cancellation under wraps until its new season airs, as the in-the-can third season of the series is confirmed to be its last:
“In addition, in reviewing our Marvel programming, we have decided that the upcoming third season will also be the final season for Marvel’s Jessica Jones. We are grateful to showrunner Melissa Rosenberg, star Krysten Ritter and the entire cast and crew, for three incredible seasons of this groundbreaking series, which was recognized by the Peabody Awards among many others. We are grateful to Marvel for five years of our fruitful partnership and thank the passionate fans who have followed these series from the beginning.”
Netflix cutting ties with Marvel actually makes sense from a business perspective. Disney is due to launch its own streaming service, Disney+, later this year, and Disney’s streaming deal with Netflix for its movies will come to an end with Captain Marvel, which will make its streaming debut on Disney+ instead of Netflix like past Disney films. The Mouse House has signaled that it doesn’t intend to keep its library of films like Mulan and Avengers: Infinity War on Netflix past the two companies’ current contract, so with Disney picking up its ball and going home, Netflix feels no loyalty to continue airing Disney-owned Marvel TV shows—which, to be honest, have been decreasing in popularity as of late.
Could the shows be renewed or revived elsewhere? It’s unclear. There may be a clause in the contracts that the shows can’t appear on another network for a specified period of time, or it’s also possible that Marvel would rather focus on new shows rather than continuing on with a third or fourth season of older series.
As for Netflix, the streaming service has been increasingly focused on owning all the content it hosts on its streaming service as major competitors like Disney+, Apple, and WarnerMedia are due to launch over the next 18 months. You’ll recall that Netflix also recently cancelled the critically acclaimed series American Vandal, which it did not own. It’s in Netflix’s best interest to focus on shows it controls fully, like Stranger Things or Mindhunter, rather than continue to roll the dice with series that could conceivably be pulled or move to other streaming services as every major studio in town aims to take on Netflix in the streaming space.
It was an interesting, uneven run for the Marvel Netflix shows, but you can’t say Marvel TV didn’t try something new and ambitious with this five-series plan. They’ll keep trying, as the Jeph Loeb-run Marvel TV just inked a deal for new Marvel shows on Hulu, which is soon to be under Disney control once the Disney-Fox deal closes.
Jessica Jones Season 3 is now due to be unceremoniously dropped on Netflix at some point this year, and that, folks, will mark the official end of this journey.