Late February saw the arrival of more unfortunate news for Marvel fans when Netflix announced that its final two superhero shows – Jessica Jones and The Punisher – were to be cancelled. They will join Daredevil, Luke Cage and Iron Fist in the scrap pile of TV history after the release of Jessica Jones season three later this year.
With the exception of Iron Fist these Netflix superhero adaptations have received critical acclaim and fan adulation for their engaging-challenging narratives, dark aesthetics and layer representations of both the titular heroes and their antagonists. So, why have Netflix done this and what does the future hold for the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the small screen?
While fans express their dismay at the end of the shows’ runs – including Eminem, who railed against the streaming service on Twitter – there may actually be a logical reason behind this seemingly counter-intuitive decision. Netflix is the undisputed king of streamed TV, with Amazon Prime TV a distant second. Soon however, there will be a new challenger in town when Disney launch their own service, ‘Disney +’, in the autumn. Given that they own Marvel studios, the hope among fans is that they will simply resurrect these cancelled shows on their own platform. After all, it makes no business sense to have one of your biggest assets in the hands of your greatest rival.
The biggest problem I foresee is that the shows recast and start their arcs afresh. This would be a massive mistake. There has never been a better Daredevil than Charlie Cox, a better Jessica Jones than Krysten Ritter and definitely no greater Punisher than John Bernthal. Fans of these shows, such as myself can only hope that the powers that be at Disney simply transfer platforms, while keeping the shows as intact as possible. Besides, they know already that the format of these shows work and are hugely popular, so there is no risk there. Another worry is that the shows featuring some of the more interesting and damaged characters, such as Jessica Jones and Frank Castle may be shelved entirely due to their more gray morality and challenging back-stories, while the more complex characteristics of heroes like Daredevil (religious struggles for instance) are dropped as the characters get ‘Disneyfied’.
In the past Disney could have their cake and eat it by keeping their brand name off-of teen+ oriented products they owned the rights to, by using the house names Marvel Studios or Lucasfilm, watching the money roll in while keeping the Disney brand clean for twee kids television. The challenge now is whether or not they can maintain this distinction between kid’s productions and the more grown-up shows like Punisher or Daredevil on a platform that carries their name and houses them together. Let’s hope they can for the sake of great TV.
Last modified: 8th March 2019