First, we said goodbye to Iron Fist. Then a few weeks later, Luke Cage left the mean streets of Harlem. Now, the OG Marvel Netflix series is officially gone, as Netflix has announced there are no plans for a fourth season of hallway fights on Daredevil. As Disney prepares to launch its own full-scale streaming service, Disney+, the studio’s six former flagship series on Netflix look to be caught in the middle — and they’re quickly dropping like flies.
It’s easy to forget that just a few years ago, these were some of the buzziest comic projects to ever hit the small screen. Marvel and Netflix announced plans for the ambitious Marvel's The Defenders co-production in late 2013, with Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Jessica Jones on tap alongside the crossover miniseries. Five years later, and only The Punisher (a Daredevil spinoff) and Jessica Jones are still standing. Both of the remaining series have one season in the can and are still awaiting premiere dates, but judging by the massacre we’ve seen up to this point, those will likely be the final seasons we see of those heroes, too (if we see them at all).
It’s a shame, as every one of these shows pushed the boundaries for what you could do in the comic book genre. Luke Cage told a grounded story about what it’s like to be black in America, from the perspective of a bulletproof hero; Daredevil was the story of a damaged man trying to reconcile his faith with his mission; and Iron Fist found its footing in its second season, and actually gifted Colleen Wing with the glowing punch of power. If Netflix eventually pulls the plug on Jessica Jones, too, it’ll take away one of the few headlining female heroes on both the big and small screens.
Netflix and Marvel used these street-level heroes to tell smaller-scale stories that stood in stark contrast to the world-ending stakes we’d seen up to that point in films such as Iron Man and Thor. These folks weren’t fighting to save the world — they were fighting to save their neighborhoods. And those fights? They had consequences. Daredevil nursed bruises the morning after, while Jessica Jones often nursed a hangover.
If the Avengers were saving the world, the Defenders were actually living in it. People noticed, too, as pretty much every series (the atrocious first season of Iron Fist notwithstanding) typically received solid reviews and critical acclaim.
Despite all that, the landscape has changed considerably since Marvel and Netflix joined hands on stage to announce what was (at the time) one of the most ambitious undertakings in TV history.
Disney has spent the past few years laying the foundation for its own streaming service that is set to leverage its massive content and IP library to directly compete with Netflix — which makes any deal between the two companies a whole lot more awkward than it was just a few years prior. Given the option of keeping everything in-house (most notably the profits), or sharing it with another service, the answer is obvious for Disney. It’s the reason all those superhero movies will be leaving Netflix for Disney+ once it launches, and why Disney is ramping up its own slate of original series — including everything from Star Wars to Pixar shows — to anchor Disney+.
Disney+ will also feature more than a few Marvel Studios originals, which looks to be where things started to come apart for Daredevil and his fellow heroes.
With Disney looking to differentiate its own streaming service from what has come before, the House of Mouse is going way bigger than street-level heroes. Shows based on film characters such as Loki, Scarlet Witch, and the Winter Soldier and Falcon are all in development, which makes it pretty clear the offerings of Disney+ are meant to be on the same level as the MCU flicks that dominate the box office. Strategically, it’s a smart move for Disney; Disney+ is supposed to be something bigger and better than what fans have seen before. It’s also great for fans, as they'll get bigger stories in a new way. That’s not a bad thing, inherently.
But it also seems to be skipping past what has come before, including all the great things fans loved about the Daredevil-verse. Disney may want to go movie-level with its new shows, but that seems to be coming at the price of the street-level stories fans still want to see, too.
Could Disney bring Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist over to Disney+ with new seasons and new shows or TV movies? It’s certainly possible, though early reports note it’s not all that likely — at least not now. Disney is, understandably, trying to look forward as it launches a new service. To complicate things, Netflix has the rights to those original seasons, so any potential revival on Disney+ would not feature the back catalog of episodes unless the two streaming services come to an agreement. And with Disney looking to consolidate everything under one roof, splitting focus would defeat the purpose. Everything we’ve seen implies Disney wants new shows, new projects, new buzz.
Marvel is going big with Disney+, but perhaps at the cost of the small stories fans have fallen in love with.
It doesn’t mean Marvel won’t still use those characters somewhere eventually, though. Who knows? There could be a new Marvel show at Disney+ down the line bringing some of those characters back, or even some super-cameos in the upcoming two seasons of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Not to mention Marvel shows such as Runaways at Hulu (which Disney owns a stake in) and Cloak and Dagger at Freeform (which Disney owns) could also get in on the action.
There are plenty of options, but at least for now, these characters and shows don’t seem to be a major piece of Disney’s puzzle.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.