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Netflix Quietly Cancels Luke Cage, but What Does It Mean?

Is this the beginning of the end of Marvel's tenure at Netflix?

Kaitlin Thomas

No one thought much of Netflix canceling Marvel's Iron Fist last week -- the Finn Jones-led series was plagued by controversies and received poor reviews. That it was renewed for a second season at all was quite shocking. But the late Friday cancellation of Marvel's Luke Cage, a series that received generally favorable reviews from critics but took a slight downturn in its sophomore season earlier this year, feels like a sign that things might be changing at Netflix. The timing -- after 10 p.m. on a Friday on the very day that the third season of Marvel's Daredevil premieres -- also means the streaming service was likely trying to bury the news.

But why was it canceled at all? According to The Hollywood Reporter, Luke Cage's cancellation was "due to creative differences and the inability to agree to terms for a third season of the show." Since Netflix doesn't release viewership information, we'll never know just how many people tuned in to see Mike Colter's titular superhero the second time around, so the catch-all of "creative differences" is the best we have to go on at the moment. But could it also be that Marvel is simply clearing the decks in preparation for the next phase of its continued world domination?

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Netflix's Marvel shows operate within the same world as the successful Marvel films, though there has been little crossover between the films and any of Marvel's television shows. Following the release of the fourth Avengers film next spring, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to look drastically different; not only are the contracts of most of the lead actors ending after the untitled follow-up to Avengers: Infinity War, but Marvel boss Kevin Feige has also said the next phase will be intentionally different. "There will be two distinct periods. Everything before Avengers 4 and everything after. I know it will not be in ways people are expecting," Feige told Vanity Fairlast year.

But was he also talking about the TV side when he said that? Only Jeph Loeb probably knows. The shows and films have always worked in tandem but actually have very little to do with one another. The only time a film has seriously affected a TV show was when Captain America: The Winter Soldier destroyed S.H.I.E.L.D. and Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. had to rebuild. We've yet to see how Thanos' actions in Infinity War have played out -- and we might never see it on the small screen, since Marvel can ignore addressing it by saying everything that happens in shows like Daredevil occurs before the snap.

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Even if the major changes on the film side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe don't come to affect Marvel's TV properties, it definitely feels like we're nearing the end of Marvel's run at Netflix. The just-released season of Daredevil has received favorable reviews, and there's still another season of both The Punisher and Jessica Jones on the way, but the cancellation of both Iron Fist and Luke Cage within a week of each other signals that change is definitely coming.

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Mike Colter, Luke Cage​

Mike Colter, Luke Cage

David Lee/Netflix