RIP ‘Luke Cage’ and ‘Jessica Jones’: Inside the great Netflix Marvel cull
With Captain Marvel and Avengers: End Game having smashed box office records, you’d think it would never be a better time to be in the Marvel business. But earlier this year Netflix cut their Marvel losses and said “thanks, but no thanks” to four incredibly well loved shows and two turkeys.
We go behind the decision to axe Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Luke Cage, The Punisher, Iron Fist, and The Defenders and explore just how much Netflix values their bottom line over fandoms.
Marvel fans caught a rare glimpse of tragedy as the hugely successful multimedia franchise finally said goodbye to the remaining two MCU shows left on the Netflix roster. After kicking Daredevil out of Hell’s Kitchen and revoking crime-fighting licenses for Heroes for Hire Luke Cage and Iron Fist, it was announced both The Punisher and Jessica Jones would be kicking the bucket this year.
Despite dwindling ratings and some stale plots that didn’t go anywhere, we still anticipated each season in the hope that the various showrunners had pulled it together and could deliver on the tantalizing promises of those early seasons.
Now that Marvel is setting up shop with Disney+ – the answer to Netflix that’ll have bingewatchers like you paying more money for less content – is Netflix throwing a tantrum by saying “F you” to the partnership they’ve built with Marvel Studios over the last few years?
Jessica Jones still has a full season set to drop later this year, and you should definitely make a note to catch up on the most recent season of The Punisher, which debuted last month. Not only does the latter offer the most brutally poignant counterpart to the low-stakes blockbuster fare of the MCU so far, any chance to see Jon Bernthal take on a lead role should be grasped firmly with two bloodied fists.
Bernthal has recently been showing up in mid-budget thrillers for the first few minutes only to be callously dispatched by the script; The Punisher finally gave him a chance to flex his acting chops for real.
For #SaveSaturdays this week, we’re decrying the end of Marvel and Netflix’s relationship in hopes they’ll reconsider the decision to axe some of their only outlets of unstifled creativity. With recent news of a Loki TV series set to drop on DisFlix, it seems like the MCU will be hedging their bets on existing characters helming upcoming shows. What can we say but: bullshit?
We couldn’t be less interested in a Marvel TV landscape populated by PG-13 prequels and sequels featuring the MCU’s c-list; here’s why we think your favorite street-level heroes deserve a second chance.
Nobody cared about Marvel’s villains until Vincent Donofrio’s Kingpin arrived on the scene. We don’t want to undersell Charlie Cox’s insane portrayal of Matt Murdock – combining barbaric martial arts prowess and the most sensitive, convincing depiction of blindness we’ve ever seen – but Wilson Fisk was absolutely the load-bearing pillar of Netflix’s first Marvel collaboration both physically & emotionally.
We admit it was hard to muster interest in the ongoing narrative by the third season, and the one-shot corridor fights quickly turned from an impressive trademark into a tedious exercise. However, Daredevil at least allowed the Marvel heroes to experiment with some grounded, back-alley brawls away from the green-screen, highwire stunt shows of the franchise’s tentpoles.
We’d be thrilled if DisFlix opted to balance their PG-13 MCU spinoffs with a fourth season of the R-rated Marvel vigilante, but we wouldn’t say no to Charlie Cox & co. showing up in one of the movies.
Not only would a Cox-led Daredevil flick instantly improve on the Ben Affleck fiasco in the early aughts by way of the talent alone, but it’s hard to imagine a world confirmed to be cohabited by Murdock & Spidey without them ever bumping into each other.
We’re still sorta convinced Jessica Jones might just be the best thing the MCU has ever released (at least its sensational first season). If you thought the Kingpin was scary, David Tennant’s Purple Man was right around the corner offering an incredibly slimy dismantling of toxic masculinity that resonated with past traumas of viewers the world over.
Jessica is a damaged hero, but she tries to utilize her anxieties to her advantage. She sips liquor like oxygen and uses her PI agency to illicit revenge on a sleazy, corrupted society. When her past returns to haunt her it all goes out the window. Her attempts to abandon her vices and overcome trauma may have been the most satisfying superhero arc we’ve ever seen in a long-form series.
Hopefully the upcoming third season brings her story to a satisfying conclusion – but the world absolutely needs more heroes like Jessica.
The man can withstand anything – except poor ratings, apparently. Many viewers found their interest waning as soon as Mahershala Ali’s Cottonmouth was confirmed to be heading for the exit, but we’re convinced another good villain was the shot of adrenaline Luke Cage needed to propel it through another season.
The series lived & breathed Harlem and fully embraced the blaxploitation motifs that came with setting a series around an all-powerful African-American hero. The showrunners described it as a hip-hop Western, and we certainly saw hints of Clint Eastwood & John Wayne in the glint of star Mike Colter’s sharp eyes.
Reimagining Luke Cage as an impenetrable lone gunman tinted the show with cinematic weight while allowing black heroes & villains to occupy a genre historically associated with the white wild West. Luke Cage might not have been the most compelling series ever, but it had flavor & potential, so it would be a shame to let him go.
We admittedly don’t have a well prepared defense for this one, the MCU’s first foray into mystical martial arts. Its Shangri-La was universally panned for taking an exciting, immersive fantasy world and stripping it of the zaniness & visual splendor that would have made it fun.
But have you seen the comic books? We’re talking dragons and wuxia and ninjas, sultry temptresses, stoic samurai. Sure, it’s treated with all the respect you’d expect out of a 1960s comic book, but take away the stereotypes and treat the subject matter with dignity and you’ve got one hell of a story.
We don’t blame Marvel and Netflix for parting ways on this one, but we promise we’d just look the other way if you guys wanted to reboot it with a different cast & crew. Trust us, no one would notice anyways.
Here’s a killer idea: let’s finally give Jon Bernthal a movie role that sticks around for the entire runtime. If his grizzled, rich performance as a veteran riddled with PTSD who exerts his past traumas on the street scum of New York City isn’t proof enough he can carry a narrative for more than a few minutes, we don’t know what else to tell ya.
Widows, Baby Driver, Sicario, Wind River: you’re all guilty of this. Bernthal absolutely steals every scene he’s in (usually just one), but he’s been messed around as a supporting player for far too long.
If DisFlix are scared a third season of The Punisher is gonna scare off customers, so be it. But we’d be first in line if Marvel finally produced a feature-length adaptation the character, and Bernthal, truly deserves.