With The Defenders, the whole may not be greater than the sum of its parts. According to a study from analytics firm Jumpshot (via Variety), Marvel and Netflix’s The Defenders had a lower viewership in its premiere month than any of the four shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist) that led up to the crossover miniseries.
Jumpshot used the second season of Daredevil as a benchmark, that being the most-viewed premiere out of the bunch. Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Jessica Jones had about 28 percent, 27 percent and 26 percent of Daredevil season two’s viewership, respectively. The Defenders, on the other hand, only reached 17 percent of those numbers, according to the firm.
As Netflix doesn’t release their viewer data, it is fair to be dubious about depending entirely on a third party for these statistics—not to mention, as Variety points out, that Netflix evaluates performance over a longer span of time than just one month. Still, The Defenders didn’t exactly light the world on fire, with an average critical reception.
So why the lower numbers for what was meant to be a big superhero television event? On the movie side of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the first Avengers movie was a giant hit, even for those who might not have seen all of the preceding films. But for television shows, some viewers may have found the task of watching five full 13-episode seasons in preparation for this miniseries to be a daunting task. Perhaps with the unpopularity of Iron Fist, the character’s importance to the grand story may have been a turn-off.
In a blog post Netflix detailed the different audiences for the four lead-up shows, with Daredevil viewers gravitating towards “anti-heroes and moral ambiguity” (i.e. Breaking Bad), Jessica Jones corresponding to “sharp humor, strong females and dark crime” (Orange is the New Black, Making A Murderer) and Luke Cage overlapping with “dangerous worlds and complex consequences” (Amanda Knox, The Walking Dead). Funnily enough ,Iron Fist attracted fans of “edgy coming-of-age tales,” which is fitting since Danny Rand (the immortal Iron Fist, protector of K’un Lun, sworn destroyer of The Hand—did you know his parents died in a plane crash?) is written as an unbearable man-child. With this information in mind, perhaps the different audiences for this Netflix-Marvel series were just incompatible with each other, with only devoted Marvel fanatics truly appreciating the crossover, as we suspected they might.
Up next to bat for Marvel and Netflix is The Punisher, quite removed from the punchy Defenders, both story-wise and with his penchant for straight-up murdering baddies—a trailer for that series came out just yesterday, with the release date still being kept secret. Meanwhile, filming for season two of Jessica Jones recently wrapped, with filming underway for season two of Luke Cage. Season three of Daredevil and season two of Iron Fist are in earlier stages of development.