Their conclusion marks the end of Marvel’s relationship with Netflix – but oddly, it seems like it might not be the end of the Defenders series themselves, with Marvel TV head Jeph Loeb hinting in an open letter to fans that the company may still have plans for the street-level heroes.
“On behalf of everyone at Marvel Television, we couldn’t be more proud or more grateful to our audience,” Loeb wrote.
“Our network partner may have decided they no longer want to continue telling the tales of these great characters… but you know Marvel better than that.
“As Matthew Murdock’s Dad once said, ‘The measure of a man is not how he gets knocked to the mat, it’s how he gets back up.’
“To be continued…!”
Apart from the swipe at Netflix – suggesting that it’s their fault the series have been cancelled, not Marvel’s – the most interesting thing about the statement is that it suggests there may be a future for the cancelled series (echoing similar statements made by the company when Daredevil was axed), which has led many fans to wonder if they could be revived somewhere.
It feels odd to be discussing whether a cancelled Netflix show could be saved on another platform – usually, the conversation is very much the other way around – but is it possible Daredevil, Jessica Jones and their amazing friends could yet be saved?
Well, yes, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility. Marvel still owns the rights to the series, obviously, and parent company Disney are currently working on their own streaming service, called Disney+, which will include a number of Marvel TV spin-offs.
Already confirmed is a series starring Tom Hiddleston’s Loki, last seen with a very sore throat in Avengers: Infinity War as well as programmes starring The Vision and Scarlet Witch (Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen) and a rumoured drama following The Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).
All that, plus actors like Charlie Cox (Daredevil) have suggested they’d be open to playing their characters again if the opportunity arose.
“I don’t know how this would happen,” Cox told EW, “but maybe one day we could pick up the baton and do it again.”
So who’s to say the former Netflix Marvel shows couldn’t join Disney’s new streaming stable?
As we say, it’s possible. Whether it’s likely is another matter. From the moment the series were cancelled, everyone working on them was free to seek other projects and they did, with Luke Cage boss Cheo Hodari Coker inking a lucrative Amazon deal. Meanwhile, Jessica Jones showrunner Melissa Rosenberg had already announced she was leaving the series for a new gig with Warner Bros TV. The actors and other production staff, meanwhile, will similarly have started looking for other work, making it more difficult to reassemble the teams that made the shows than before.
And of course, there’s the question of whether Marvel would want to revive the series in their current form. While Netflix doesn’t share ratings data, it’s fair to say that reviews for the streaming Marvel shows had become more mixed following the critical peak of Jessica Jones’ first series, and social media analysis from a third-party company showed that buzz around the different dramas decreased significantly year-on-year.
If Marvel did want to revive the series they’d inherit a big pile of continuity and an organisational headache in assembling the cast and crew, for a collection of shows that aren’t really THAT popular anyway – so why bother with the hassle when they already have genuine Marvel movie stars making exciting new TV for them anyway?
For our money, it seems more likely that Loeb’s hint that Marvel will continue to tell the story of “these great characters” suggests that we could be in for a reboot of Daredevil, Luke Cage et al with new actors and storylines, using the brand recognition of the heroes to create new superhero content without all the baggage that the Netflix shows would bring.
Maybe there’ll be a new Defenders TV series, or maybe new versions of the characters could crop up in later Marvel movies – they managed to include Spider-Man after another version had appeared in other movies, after all – but whatever happens, we’d be surprised if we’ve seen the last of these characters.
Whether they’ll be the characters fans will recognise, though, is another matter entirely.
Marvel’s Jessica Jones season three will stream on Netflix later in 2019
Sign up to the Radio Times newsletter for the latest TV and entertainment news