'The Punisher' is back on Netflix, but comic book fans wonder if the antihero can survive 2019

Key Points
  • Netflix canceled three of its five Marvel shows in 2018.
  • 'Punisher' star Jon Bernthal is 'okay' no matter what happens with his show.
  • Cancelled 'Daredevil' has a petition with over 200,000 signatures asking the streaming service to bring it back for a fourth season.
Jon Bernthal attends 'Marvel's The Punisher' Season 2 Premiere at ArcLight Hollywood on January 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California.
Rachel Murray | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

Season 2 of Marvel Studios "The Punisher" is new on Netflix, but many superhero comic book fans already are wondering whether the antihero can survive 2019. Three of the five Marvel-Netflix shows were cancelled by the streaming video giant in 2018, including the highly praised "Daredevil" on November 29.

"Jessica Jones" and "The Punisher" are the two remaining series, but there has been speculation they soon will be axed as well. Jon Bernthal, who plays the gruesome vigilante recently told the press that he is at peace with the fate of his show and emphasized that whatever happens, it is out of his control.

"When I'm playing the character and I'm doing the job and it's right there in front of me, I do whatever I can to make it as good as I can. But in this business there's so much we can't control," Bernthal told Variety. "Whatever is happening with these shows, these decisions are being made in rooms I'm not invited into and I'm OK with that."

"The Punisher" has received mixed reviews and currently has a 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer. "Daredevil" by comparison has a 91 percent Tomatometer score and its final season was ironically considered "the win that Marvel TV needed" by Rolling Stone.

Jeremy Conrad, a Twitter influencer and Editor-in-Chief of MCU Cosmic is not getting his hopes up for "The Punisher," believing that the remaining Marvel-Netflix characters will eventually meet their demise and be cancelled like "Daredevil" "Luke Cage" and "Iron Fist."

"I think the big pro in not canceling 'Punisher' right now is to combat some of the bad press and fan reaction the past two cancellations have caused. ... Even if the announcement is delayed a bit to avoid negative fan reaction."

The second season of "The Punisher" wrapped up production before the recent cancellations.

"Daredevil" was canceled roughly a month after its third season debuted on Netflix and after "Iron Fist" and "Luke Cage" already had been axed. A petition created by fans to bring "Daredevil" back for a fourth season has more than 200,000 signatures.

"Daredevil" actor Charlie Cox responded to the petition last month in an interview with Comicbook.com, expressing not only his disappointment but his anger with the decisions made by Netflix. "I'm feeling the disappointment, I'm feeling the sadness, I'm feeling the anger about it, and I'm trying not to. ... I don't wanna get my hopes up, because obviously, I know that an online petition doesn't necessarily mean anything's gonna happen," Cox said.

Declining ratings

"Daredevil" had faced declining viewership, according to a Screen Rant article that used data analytics from Jumpshot. Kia Afra, a Chapman University professor and the author of "The Hollywood Trust: Trade Associations and the Rise of Studio System," said the ratings were likely the reason "Daredevil" was canceled, and he said "The Punisher'" had weak numbers as well.

"The Punisher" season 1 had a 70 on Jumpshot's Index, but recent reports using Jumpshot data indicate its second season has experienced a decline of 40 percent. That's not as severe a decline as other Marvel shows canceled by Netflix.

"Daredevil' season 2 scored a 100, but its third season dropped to a 43.

Marvel and Netflix did not respond to requests for comment.

Jumpshot does not have direct access to Netflix viewership data but monitors traffic on electronic devices, as many as 100 million globally. Netflix — which has close to 140 million subscribers globally and just under 60 million in the U.S. — rarely releases any ratings information, and when it does has tended to cherry pick ratings for series or films that have done well, such as its recent surprise hit series "You" and Sandra Bullock film "Bird Box."

On its recent January earnings call, Netflix CFO Spencer Neumann described the limited viewership data the company releases as being less financial than cultural as a metric. "So that what does it mean when 80 million households watch 'Bird Box'? Well, culturally it means exactly the same thing as 80 million plus people buying a movie ticket to seeing it or 80 million households watching a TV show. So culturally, it's meaningfully out there. People talking about it, tweeting about it, posting about it ... But really what's important is that for part of your Netflix subscription, you're in the Zeitgeists, you're – you get – you're watching the programming that the rest of the world is loving at the same time."

Netflix has dismissed third-party ratings estimates in the past, with its chief content officer Ted Sarandos once saying unauthorized ratings numbers didn't "reflect any sense of reality that we keep track of."

At this point, ratings — or a petition signed by 200,000 Daredevil fans — probably won't matter much in the grand scheme of this partnership or in the decisions of the executives on each side, Afra said. Afra noted that the weakening of the relationship between Netflix and Marvel Studios comes at a time when Marvel's parent company, Disney, is planning to launch its own streaming service.

"This is really about two companies, Netflix and Marvel, that are in the process of ending their partnership. Each one has to weigh what advantages there are in keeping the co-productions going for another season or pulling the plug," Afra said. "There is likely no future for them on Netflix."

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