One of the more epic, large-scale efforts among Netflix’s growing catalogue of original television programming was Marco Polo, a historically-inspired action-drama built primarily around attracting international audiences to the world’s biggest video streaming platform. After middling reception and underwhelming viewership however, Netflix confirmed today that Marco Polo will not receive a third season, and the series has been cancelled.
This is very noteworthy, as this marks the first time that a Netflix Original Series has failed to make it to a third season. Not only that, but this is also the first time that Netflix has prematurely cancelled an original show unique to their streaming platform, rather than organically wrapped it up with a pre-planned final season. Some Netflix shows, such as Hemlock Grove, have now wrapped and won’t receive more seasons, though these shows have always had finales planned in advance until now. Marco Polo, by contrast, won’t receive a proper finale, with the series ultimately ending with several unresolved story elements, which were clearly meant to be expanded upon in a third season that the show won’t be getting.
Netflix and producing partner, The Weinstein Company both issued statements about Marco Polo’s cancellation today, praising the efforts of the actors and producers that brought the series to life so well, though neither directly pointed out the exact reason for the show’s cancellation. The lower-than-hoped reception and viewership likely played a part, though a separate report from The Hollywood Reporter that surfaced today has claimed that it was actually the financial cost of producing Marco Polo episodes that most led to the series being given the axe, and having the dubious distinction of being the first Netflix series to end without a proper conclusion. Allegedly, the two seasons and Holiday special for Marco Polo ended up costing Netflix upwards of a combined $200 million to produce. Yikes.
Our official review of Marco Polo’s first season from 2014 was rather lukewarm, praising the show’s style and performances, even if we took issue with problematic storytelling and Polo himself being an under-served lead. Our review of the show’s second season from this past Summer was slightly more positive, citing improved storytelling and direction along with the same high points from before, even if we criticized Polo still being an uninteresting lead, and an over-use of intentionally unresolved story elements. That latter criticism now stings all the more, with a third season definitely not happening. Surprisingly, our highest review went to the half-hour Holiday special, Marco Polo: One-Hundred Eyes from last December, which we praised as a fun and action-packed origin tale for its appealing titular character.
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