Iron Fist has been canceled. Netflix and Marvel Television confirmed as much late last Friday afternoon, the usual landing spot for bad news in the entertainment industry. Fans instinctively started dreaming up seemingly simple ways to save the show, but there really are no easy answers, other than to just allow the series to die its natural death.
Finn Jones, Jessica Henwick, and season two showrunner Raven Metzner have all handled the cancellation with class. They understand the series has most likely reached its end even if there are hypothetical ways in which it could be saved.
Now that Netflix has canceled the show, Iron Fist is effectively a free agent. Marvel Television has the option of shopping the series to other networks and platforms. Parent company Disney just so happens to own several.
The most obvious potential landing spot is the Disney streaming service. While the TV-MA approach to Marvel’s Netflix shows probably won’t work for the Disney-branded platform, Iron Fist is arguably the least “MA” of the Marvel Netflix slate. It wouldn’t take much to make the series a bit more accessible to families.
The real problem facing Iron Fist‘s prospects here is that Disney may not want it. As soon as it launches, the Disney streaming service will be in competition with Netflix and every other direct-to-consumer platform out there. It does not say much for the value of Disney’s service if it includes a series that was canceled by the company’s biggest competitor in this arena.
It is unwise for Disney to allow their new platform to be seen as a safe haven for Disney-owned content that already failed elsewhere. Rather than offering content their competitors don’t want, Disney’s service needs to offer series and films the competition wants, but can’t have. Disney is far better off focusing on limited series from Marvel Studios and original series developed for their own service by Marvel Television.
Hulu and FX make much more sense if Marvel wants to resurrect Iron Fist on a Disney-owned platform. Once the Disney-Fox deal closes, Disney will own 60% of Hulu and all of FX. Iron Fist could retain its TV-MA status on either of those platforms.
Since these are established brands compared to the not-yet-launched Disney streaming service, there’s less to worry about when it comes to taking in a competitor’s castoff. There are, however, other issues that even Hulu and FX can’t avoid.
Iron Fist would be on an island. If new episodes appear somewhere other than Netflix, it is unlikely we would see guest appearances from other Marvel Netflix series stars or even references to the events of those shows. Marvel owns the rights to all of the characters, but as the distributor and financier of the other shows, Netflix presumably has some rights as well.
It all comes down to the contract(s) between Marvel and Netflix. The latter may have exclusive rights to the events that have taken place in the series they host. It also wouldn’t be unusual for the actors’ contracts to be with Netflix, not Marvel. One way or another, there is probably a reason why we’ve never seen any cameos from or reference to the Netflix shows on any of the Marvel series on ABC, Hulu, or Freeform.
In order to have a new season of Iron Fist that can crossover with Daredevil and the rest of the Netflix series, Marvel may have to wait until Netflix is done with all (or at least one) of those other shows. That’s not to say Iron Fist can’t succeed on an island, as both Runaways and Cloak & Dagger have, but it probably won’t be what fans of the show are hoping for.
Spinoffs can work, but even those will take time. Marvel Television is not going to create new series for Netflix. There will be new seasons of existing shows, but that’s it. Don’t expect Daughters of the Dragon or Heroes for Hire to happen on Netflix. They can happen on another platform, but since they both involve characters primarily associated with Luke Cage, fans may have to wait for Netflix to cancel that series.
The faster option is to create Daughters of the Dragon and Heroes for Hire storylines in Luke Cage as opposed to brand new series. That should only happen, though, if showrunner Cheo Hodari Coker wants to tell those stories in Luke Cage. He should not have to derail his own plans in order to make room for the stars of a canceled series.
Speaking of which, Netflix may not want to pay for Danny Rand (Jones) and Colleen Wing (Henwick) stories within other series. The actors may not be willing to take a per episode pay cut to go from series regulars to recurring roles. Even if they are, Netflix may only want to pay for the occasional guest spot.
We may see Danny Rand and Colleen Wing again, but expectations should be kept in check. Iron Fist is probably gone for good and the future appearances of Rand and Wing on other Marvel Netflix shows will be minimal. We may actually see more of Wing than we do of Rand.
Iron Fist had its chance to make a positive, lasting impression on audiences and it failed. While most reviewers considered the second season to be a significant improvement over the first, that was a low bar to clear. It’s perfectly fair for audiences to have tuned out after season one, as they’d already given the series 13 hours to convince them to watch the next batch of episodes.
Iron Fist simply failed to seize the opportunity audiences gave it. We can accept that and move on, hoping the next live-action iteration of Danny Rand will be good enough to last.