In 2013, Marvel struck a deal with Netflix to provide the streaming service with four live-action series (starring Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, and Luke Cage) that would culminate in a Defenders team-up mini-series. Like ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (which debuted in 2013), the Netflix series would take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but would focus on street-level characters in New York City.
Following the Netflix tradition at the time of releasing entire seasons on the same day for binge viewing, the first season of Daredevil, focused on the Kingpin, was released in April 2015. The show was quickly renewed for a second season. The first season of Jessica Jones was released in November 2015 and was renewed for a second season not long after. The second season of Daredevil, featuring the Punisher, Elektra, and the Hand, was released in March 2016. In April, Netflix ordered a season of The Punisher, spinning out of Daredevil‘s second season, and in July, Daredevil itself was renewed for a third season. The first season of Luke Cage was released in September 2016 and the first season of Iron Fist in March 2017; both were renewed for a second season, although not as quickly as previous series, and the first season of Iron Fist received some critical scorn.
The Defenders, uniting the Marvel Netflix characters together against the Hand (seen previously in both Daredevil and Iron Fist), debuted in August 2017. Whereas all previous seasons consisted of 13 episodes, The Defenders consisted of only 8 episodes. The Defenders was watched less on Netflix than the other Marvel series, and it was not renewed for a second season. Nonetheless, this marked the culmination of the original plan for the various Netflix series, at which point Netflix had produced some 73 episodes between the five series.
The first season of The Punisher was released in November 2017. After a considerable break between seasons, the second season of Jessica Jones was released in March 2018 and renewed for a third season in April. A second season of Luke Cage was released in June 2018. Its first episode was the 100th episode of the overall Netflix Marvel series, a milestone reached just over three years after the debut of Daredevil. A truncated second season of Iron Fist, running 10 episodes instead of the traditional 13, was released in September 2018. On 12 October, Netflix announced that it had canceled the series, and on 19 October, announced that it had also canceled Luke Cage. Although media coverage often cited declining viewership of the shows, Netflix reportedly had drafts of scripts for a 10-episode third season of Luke Cage, but could not come to terms with Marvel. The third season of Daredevil was released later in October, meaning that 2018 saw the release of one season of all four original shows and was the most productive release year yet. Daredevil was cancelled in late November, however, making 2018 both the most productive and the most catastrophic year ever for the shows. Making matters worse, all three cancelled shows ended with unresolved plots.
Both before and after these cancellations, Netflix mused about producing other shows, spinning out of those it has already produced, including Daughters of the Dragon, starring female characters from Iron Fist, and Heroes for Hire, merging Luke Cage and Iron Fist into a single series (much as Marvel had once done in comics). But the 2018 cancellations increasingly put the future of the Netflix shows in doubt, with some reporting has suggested that Netflix is focusing on other content. In addition, Disney was launching its own streaming service in 2019, leading to speculation that Disney might not wish to have Marvel shows on Netflix. Marvel’s Jeph Loeb speculated that the cancelled Netflix shows could continue or be relaunched on the Disney streaming service. Whether Disney / Marvel, Netflix, or both was to blame for the cancellations, the fact that the flagship series Daredevil had been cancelled seemed to spell the end of the entire project.
A second season of The Punisher debuted in January 2019. Many speculated that it would be cancelled shortly after. In February, Netflix cancelled both The Punisher and Jessica Jones, bringing to an end the Marvel Netflix shows. At the time, the third season of Jessica Jones had not yet been released, nor scheduled for release, marking the first time one of the shows had been cancelled prior to its final season being released. The third season of Jessica Jones is currently slated for release later in 2019.
Overall, the complete Marvel Netflix shows comprise 161 episodes, split over 13 seasons of six different shows: Daredevil (three seasons), Jessica Jones (three seasons), Luke Cage (two seasons), Iron Fist (two seasons, the second of which was truncated to 10 episodes), The Punisher (two seasons), and The Defenders (one truncated season). Structurally, The Defenders marks the culmination of the first half (in which only Daredevil gets two seasons and The Punisher gets none), with everything else falling into a second half (in which only Jessica Jones and The Punisher get two seasons). In terms of quality, Jessica Jones is the clear stand-out, with Daredevil also receiving good reviews; everything else is a mixed bag, to one degree or another.