It seems that the hatchet-wielding hitchhiker of its latest documentary isn't the only person waving an axe around at Netflix: another popular and critically acclaimed show has been axed, much to fans' dismay. The timing wasn't great either: the show was canned just as Netflix's twin CEOs told Bloomberg that Netflix has never "cancelled a successful show".
The latest show to be axed is the superhero series Titans, which was critically successful: it's got 86% on Rotten Tomatoes across its four seasons, with Season 3 getting the full 100%. It's a similar story over on IMDb, where it's currently sitting with a strong 7.6 out of 10. And it was popular too. According to Netflix, Season 3 was the fourth most popular show on the network in 2021 and its second biggest hit of the year.
It turns out that there's definitely an axe-wielding show-stopper out there. But this time at least, it isn't Netflix holding the hatchet.
Who killed Titans?
Titans is made by HBO Max, not Netflix, and HBO is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery. That firm is going through some serious cost-cutting right now – the same cost-cutting that killed off Batgirl before broadcast – and it told the showrunners of Titans and another series, Doom Patrol, that the current seasons would be their last some months ago.
The source that told Variety of the shows' cancellations said that it wasn't about the money, however. The truth could be even duller: the shows didn't fit with the planned avalanche of DC content coming from DC studios, which will share the same universe and timeline.
The silver lining to this particular cloud is that the writers knew in advance that they were working on the final season, so they've been able to bring it to a hopefully satisfying conclusion instead of leaving plots unresolved and cliffhangers dangling for eternity. The first three seasons are all available on Netflix UK, and the fourth and final season will hopefully join them shortly: it premiered in the US in November 2022.
Does streaming have a cancel culture?
It sometimes looks that way: in recent months we've seen Neil Patrick Harris' romcom Uncoupled, the fantasy drama Snowpiercer, One of Us is Lying, Inside Job and Dead End: Paranormal Park all getting the chop. But while some of them were culled by Netflix itself, others were – like Titans – the result of other firms' decisions, so for example One of Us is Lying was a Peacock show and cancelled by that company.
I think the will they / won't they drama over season 2 of The Sandman was a good indication of how high the stakes are for the best streaming services today: while season 1 of that show was hugely popular among both critics and viewers, it was also terrifyingly expensive to make.
At least that was Netflix's decision to make, because it was footing the bill for The Sandman. But often, streaming services buy in their shows from elsewhere – the Peacocks, the HBO Maxes and so on. And that means that even if they feel a particular show is a success, they're subject to the editorial and financial decisions of companies they don't control. I suspect Netflix really wanted to keep Titans going, but the final decision was out of its hands.