Marvel dared to do TV differently. Now, it will have to redo “Daredevil: Born Again” from the ground up.
Head writers Chris Ord and Matt Corman were removed from “Daredevil: Born Again” in late September, IndieWire confirmed, as were all of the directors previously booked to shoot the remainder of Season 1. About half of the 18-episode season is in the can, with some episodes fully shot. Ord and Corman will maintain executive producer credits; THR first reported the news of their dismissal.
Daredevil is the superhero alter ego of blind lawyer Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox); Ord and Corman envisioned the series as a legal procedural. Cox returns to the role he played on Netflix from 2015 to 2018 (the series has been on Disney+ since March 2022), but he didn’t even don the costume until the new show’s fourth episode. Now that’s dedication to a reimagining.
Marvel plans to use some of the new season’s footage, but “Daredevil: Born Again” ceased production in mid-June. That’s when Marvel head Kevin Feige realized what he had — and more importantly, what he didn’t have. A studio insider tells IndieWire there’s no decision whether the series order will remain at 18 episodes, as Feige originally announced.
Like all Marvel shows, “Daredevil: Born Again” had a straight-to-series order. Traditional television production begins with a pilot episode, which is screened for executives before being deemed to be worthy of a full-season pickup. While this remains the standard process for broadcast (although even networks have pretty much abandoned pilot season), streaming generally does without.
In the old-school TV ecosystem, pilots mitigated risk. Back in the day, a network order meant dedicating 22 valuable weekly time slots to one title in service to the program’s advertisers. It was an expensive and inflexible endeavor. These days, Netflix will order only six episodes, which arrive all at once in a sea of library content — and (mostly) without ads. Paid subscribers are the scheduler; the algorithm is their assistant.
Marvel instead applied its filmmaking process onto TV and has now discovered the weaknesses in that approach. The Disney brand also eschewed the concepts of showrunners and TV execs, instead handing film executives the keys — and a (practically) blank check for the budget — and charged them with making mini-movies.
This also meant film producers pulled double duty on films and shows, including the likes of Trinh Tran (“Avengers: Endgame” and “Hawkeye”), Nate Moore (“Black Panther” and “Falcon and the Winter Soldier”) and Stephen Broussard (“Ant-Man and the Wasp” and “Loki”).
Not anymore. Going forward, Marvel television will hire showrunners (“a term we’ve not only grown comfortable with but also learned to embrace,” Brad Winderbaum, Marvel’s head of streaming, television and animation, told THR) and assigning people to the roles of full-time TV executives.
“We need executives that are dedicated to this medium, that are going to focus on streaming, focus on television,” Winderbaum said, “because (TV and film) are two different forms.” Yes, Brad, they are.
The studio insider told IndieWire that Marvel will also embrace pilots, which showrunners will be tasked with writing. This will allow the studio to nip something bad in the bud before it turns into a(nother) $150 million mistake. Netflix is also dipping its toe into those waters; in April, Netflix ordered its first-ever pilot in the form of Samara Weaving comedy “Little Sky.”
In some ways, Marvel treating its series like films made sense. The studio didn’t envision multiple-season runs for its series; “Loki” is the only recent Marvel show to premiere a second season. (“Loki” is also Marvel’s most-watched series.)
A Marvel series was perceived as a longer, cheaper Marvel movie cut down into installments with a beginning, a middle, and a (closed) end. Series weren’t viewed as discrete entities; they were stopgaps between blockbusters and a way to introduce new movie characters. Case in point: Kamala Khan of “Ms. Marvel” will make her theatrical MCU debut in “The Marvels” November 10.
Marvel will now focus its television business on more personal and more contained stories, with an eye toward series longevity, not just “setting up an Avengers film,” as Winderbaum told THR.
In January, Marvel will debut “Echo,” which follows a deaf, Native American character first established in “Hawkeye.” The insider told IndieWire that viewers can watch that show without knowing her backstory with Clint Barton. “Agatha: Darkhold Diaries,” which will premiere ahead of Halloween 2024, also should be less interconnected with the MCU.
With the exception of this summer’s “Secret Invasion,” the 10 Marvel series to date received solid review. There’s also a case to be made that “Loki” is even bigger than Disney+’s Star Wars series “The Mandalorian.”
But Marvel could still use a curveball. The sheer number of series, all brought on during the pandemic and accelerated under former CEO Bob Chapek, contributed to superhero fatigue at the box office and in the post-production process. Current CEO Bob Iger made clear he wants quality over quantity and to be smarter about how everything is rolled out.
Welcome to TV, Marvel.