A Eulogy for the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
The news rolled in this past Thursday night: Netflix has canceled Daredevil.
Iron Fist was the first Marvel series that Netflix axed, and the news came not long before Daredevil: Season 3 premiered in October. Luke Cage was canceled a week later, the same day as Daredevil’s premiere. Fans, however, were optimistic about Daredevil’s future after showrunner Eric Oleson tweeted on November 16 that he had pitched Netflix on a potential Season 4 of the show.
But Daredevil fell like the rest. Presumably, so will Jessica Jones and Punisher after they air their next seasons. What’s the root cause of this purge? Well, there are several factors. “Creative” conflicts between Netflix and Marvel TV managed to set a few fires, but most likely it’s Disney’s massive plan to launch Disney+, its own standalone streaming service, in 2019 that ultimately fanned the flames.
Daredevil’s cancellation is a huge bummer. We’re all in mourning. And before everyone floods the boards with theories about how these Netflix shows are getting canceled so that they can move over to Disney’s service – that probably won’t happen. No one knows anything for certain, sure, but there are a handful of reasons why these shows don’t fit, and aren’t wanted, over at Disney+. Their mature tone is a big one; Disney+ is being touted as a family-friendly outlet, which means nothing gorier than you’d expect to see in a typical Star Wars or Avengers movie. The fact that Kevin Feige is producing the Loki, Scarlet Witch and Winter Solider TV shows is another (Marvel Studios and Marvel Television are two separate branches of the company and there’s… tension between Feige’s operation and the TV arm, run by Ike Perlmutter). Plus, Netflix will likely have the streaming rights to all the existing seasons of these Marvel shows for the foreseeable future – why would Disney continue these series if all the previous episodes live somewhere else?
Oh, and there was the Disney spokesperson specifically telling the New York Times that there were no plans to move the shows.
But this piece isn’t meant to crush everyone’s hopes and dreams. It’s entirely possible some of these characters will exist elsewhere, and differently, in other projects – especially since Marvel just released a statement promising “new adventures” for Daredevil following the Netflix cancellation. But these shows – this Netflix-Verse – is no more, regardless of the two seasons that have yet to air. All we’re waiting for is the official time of death to be called.
So if this is a wake, let’s make it an Irish one! A glorious send-off fit for a Man Without Fear. The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen deserves a spiritual salute filled with grief and grit. Season 3 was superb. And guess what? It works really well as an overall ending. Is it perfect? No. But for a show that didn’t know it was barreling toward an ending, it lucked out with a beautiful bookend. A great trilogy filled with ninjas, Punishers, Elektras, and Kingpins of Crime.
Here’s why we can be at peace with Daredevil leaving us:
The final moments of Season 3 found Matt, Foggy, and Karen fully reconciling and, in the midst of modest celebration, imagining their future as a rebooted law firm with Ms. Page as a full partner and in-house investigator. It’s the perfect three-season friendship arc. They all fell out of favor in Season 2 – or in the very least it became a well-deserved Matt pile-on – and then found their way back to each other via closure over The Hand and Wilson Fisk. The Best Damn Avocados are back in business, baby.
SLAYING THE DRAGON (AGAIN)
A huge part of Season 3’s closure came when Matt Murdock toppled Wilson Fisk for a second time. Sure, the two of them beat the hell out of each other, like they did back in the Season 1 finale, but this time Matt was ready to pour on the pain and subdue Fisk with a bit of blackmail. He had the Kingpin cornered physically and emotionally. Wilson actually agreed to go back to prison… and stay there.
Would a hypothetical fourth season have been a good one? Oh sure. But it wouldn’t have had Fisk as its main villain anymore. And Fisk, as we learned over three seasons, is as essential to a great Daredevil season as Matt Murdock. It became overtly clear this year that the Kingpin is the show’s necessary evil and that the way he operates as a villain – his mix of genius string-pulling and brute force – creates the specific lane for the series to thrive in. Moving forward, without this, or with Fisk as a minor recurring player (like in Season 2), the show already felt bereft. Matt nabbed his great white whale – again! Nemesis-wise, it’s an apex.
Yeah, it sucks that we won’t get to see a fully realized Bullseye. He won’t get the moniker or the costume, and his tease right at the end of Season 3 stands as the one true loose thread. You know what though? That happens when shows get the axe. And truthfully, it could have been a lot worse, cliffhanger-wise. This is a minor hiccup when compared to how some other shows’ve gone out. Hell, it’s even minor when you consider where Iron Fist left off.
Basically, everything about Season 3 got tied up with a pretty bow except Poindexter still being alive and getting his bones coated with metal (cogmium, not adamantium – although maybe that could change if the character is recycled for the movies once the Fox deal goes through). And we’ll have to cope. But it’s still a small burden. All other aspects of the story were neatly cauterized.
And it’s not like we didn’t get a bunch of awesome “Daredevil vs. Bullseye” fights. We even got a twist on the famous Born Again story moment from the comics where Bullseye killed Karen (here, on the show, Father Lantom took the club for her). And with Elektra already being dead and gone, there’re no more big “Bullseye kills one of Matt’s loves” moments waiting in the wings.
ROUND 3! FIGHT!
It will forever remain a soft mystery why the other Marvel Netflix shows never came close to touching Daredevil in the action department – especially Iron Fist, given Danny Rand’s status as arguably the best hand-to-hand combatant in the comics – but it is what it is. Daredevil’s fight scenes rocked. And they continued to rock, and evolve, in Season 3. From Matt’s battles with Poindexter to the triple threat match in the finale to the impressive 10-minute oner in the prison, this show topped its previous efforts, leaving us all on a hard-hitting hight note.
Goodbye, Matt. Go with God, Foggy. Farewell, Karen (who will probably pop up in Punisher: Season 2). Charlie Cox, Elden Hensen, and Deborah Ann Woll formed a triumphant trio at the crucial core of this series. Their crusade to end the Kingpin’s crushing claim on New York made for a brutal, bloodstained journey. It’s both good and bad to “go out on top,” but as long as you leave your fans feeling like you tackled the bulk of the stories and themes available, you can ride off with your head held high.
PLUS, THERE’S ALWAYS HULU!
Just kidding. Thought I’d throw in an errant internet theory as a closer.
For more, read our full breakdown of how Disney’s streaming service is likely to blame for the Netflix Marvel shows getting the ax, though not in the ways you might think.
Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN and a member of the Television Critics Association. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.