After a surprise cancellation that followed the admittedly less-surprising cancellation of Iron Fist, the forces behind Luke Cage’s departure from Netflix have become clearer. The Marvel show, one of four making up The Defenders with Daredevil, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones, had just finished a promising second season and had plenty of work done with its third. Then things quickly fell apart.
According to Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter, the seemingly abrupt decision to axe a superhero show that showed marked improvement from its first to second season was exactly that. Star Mike Colter was under contract. Showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker and his team had created much of the plot outline for Season 3 already, according to Deadline, when the delivery of more detailed drafts to Marvel and Netflix caused problems.
After taking and incorporating notes from both companies, the team delivered scripts that some executives took issue with, leading to creative differences not between members of the writers room, but the room and the two corporate entities which it serves.
After paring down the third season from a 13 episode order down to 10 back in September, the logistics of the show were in flux. Apparently this led to calls for changes in the creative head of the show, which split Netflix and Marvel along irreconcilable lines — for Luke Cage at least.
Since no deal could be struck, the show was cancelled, taking the Marvel Netflix catalog down to just a few — signaling perhaps a shift in strategy for both companies as Netflix produces more and more content which it owns in its entirety and Disney aiming to begin its own streaming service. Was this purely a creative problem or did the bottom line play a bigger role than has been admitted? It remains unclear, especially since Netflix does not release viewership numbers.