Marvel’s upcoming Disney+ schedule is a frustrating mess

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.
Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. /

It’s been a while since we’ve had a Marvel Disney+ show, hasn’t it?

If you’re keeping track (and I certainly am), over eight months will have elapsed from the season finale of 2022’s She-Hulk: Attorney at Law last October and the upcoming premiere of Secret Invasion on June 21st on the streaming service.

In the past two years of small-screen superhero content, there was never more than three months between Marvel Disney+ shows, so this eight-month gap is certainly unprecedented (and more than likely a product of both the change in Disney leadership and the crisis affecting the visual effects industry).

Additionally, the fact that the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU’s) first 2023 show is premiering nearly halfway into the calendar year is a far cry from the five live-action series announced at last summer’s San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) as being slated for a 2023 release. These titles included the aforementioned Secret Invasion, as well as the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever spin-off Ironheart, the WandaVision spin-off Agatha: Coven of Chaos, the Hawkeye spin-off Echo, and the long-awaited second season of 2021’s Loki.

Thankfully, just this past week, we received confirmation via reporting from Variety that the MCU is planning to release two more shows before the year is out, with premiere dates officially set for Loki Season 2 and Echo as October 6th and November 29th, respectively. Thank goodness for more content!

But there’s a catch.

If you look a little closer at both the Variety report and just a regular calendar, that’s when the concerns become apparent.

For starters, both of these shows will be airing episodes in the month of November, which just so happens to also be the same month that the MCU’s third and final film of 2023, the Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels, comes out in theatres. A film, if you’ll recall, that has already possessed four prior release dates, including one in late July that just changed to November a few months back.

In a year where each new Marvel project so far has enjoyed at least a month-long buffer on either side of its release window, to now have three projects jockeying for space in the second-to-last month of the year just feels odd, and unnecessary.

As well, assuming Loki’s second season releases just one episode per week (as the majority of the Marvel Disney+ shows have done in the past), then its sixth and final episode will hit the streamer on the exact same day that The Marvels hits theatres, November 10th.

To this, I just have to ask – why?

Why set the schedule so that an MCU show’s finale, of all episodes, directly overlaps with their next movie?

I thought this type of cannibalization from Marvel was a whisper of the past – you know, back in 2021 and 2022, when COVID delays meant that they simply had more shows and movies already completed than they had available release windows, – but I guess not.

The generation of online discourse is a massive part of what makes any project successful, and also what absolutely plays a significant role in a movie’s overall box office haul. Part of the appeal of these Marvel shows and these Marvel movies are all the theorizing and analyses they invite fans to partake in, so it’s just plain bizarre to me that Marvel is essentially forcing its audience to choose which project they care about more in the second weekend of November.

This scenario is especially confounding given that the only reason this direct overlap is happening is that Loki will inexplicably come out on Fridays, which is something Marvel has strayed from ever since its very first two streaming shows, 2021’s WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. In fact, it was the first season of Loki itself that bucked the trend of Friday episodes, becoming the first show to shift the schedule to Wednesdays (the thought at the time was to avoid overlap with the day-and-date release of Black Widow in July 2021).

This pattern continued for the next four MCU shows, until She-Hulk went to Thursdays last August, presumably to avoid Andor, the Star Wars Rogue One prequel series that would come out on Disney+ on Wednesdays, halfway into She-Hulk’s run.

At the time, the She-Hulk move made sense – the show just before it, Ms. Marvel, was high in praise but low in views, at least partially due to its first three of six episodes directly overlapping with the Star Wars show Obi-Wan Kenobi. It was understandable that Marvel didn’t want to repeat that same mistake with She-Hulk. It should also be noted, though, that with Secret Invasion this June, Marvel returns to its usual Wednesday slot, which only furthers my frustration that Loki Season 2 will then be on Fridays.

Some people have postulated that maybe Marvel is claiming Fridays this fall because another Star Wars show, this time the Mandalorian spin-off Ahsoka, is currently set for release in August (precise date not yet confirmed), and likely on Wednesdays. Doing the math, though, if six-episode Loki and eight-episode Ahsoka were to share the typical Wednesday release date, at most they would overlap for three episodes – which, as stated above, has happened before – and, if Ahsoka comes out in early August, these two shows won’t cross paths at all.

Now, all these minutiae about release schedules and the days of the week may seem exceptionally tedious to most people, but in the current streaming climate, this stuff matters – a lot. Kevin Feige himself, when speaking to Entertainment Weekly about his franchise earlier this year, acknowledged the challenge of trying to have each Marvel property make an impact in an overcrowded pop culture landscape:

"“It is harder to hit the zeitgeist when there’s so much product out there — and so much “content,” as they say, which is a word that I hate. [Laughs]”"

In light of that comment, this whole current situation would be head-scratching enough, but I haven’t even gotten to the worst part yet. Included in the same Variety article from earlier was the announcement that the Echo series will not only be coming just two-and-a-half weeks after Loki finishes and The Marvels begins its theatrical run – I don’t even need to get into why this is a problem, because it’s basically the same reason I mentioned above – it’ll actually be receiving the binge model treatment.

For the first time ever for one of Marvel’s live-action shows (and the first time since the collection of I Am Groot animated shorts dropped all at once last August), Echo will be releasing all (presumably) six of its episodes at once on November 29th. No weekly release for Echo unfortunately then translates to no weekly Twitter discourse, no weekly theory videos, no weekly review articles, no weekly podcast breakdowns, no weekly episode reaction content on YouTube – you get the idea.

As a friend remarked upon breaking this news to me last week, “[Marvel] really said ‘we expect no anticipation’.” She followed that up with, “the Echo part I’m just finding truly offensive,” and I very much agree. A quick perusal of Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, etc. further exemplifies just how ubiquitous this sentiment is amongst Marvel fans – the general consensus already being that an Echo binge release demonstrates a lack of faith in the show – so there’s virtually no chance that the Marvel Studios marketing department couldn’t have predicted that this is how this decision would be perceived. I know it’s still early, but they also certainly haven’t done anything so far to assuage those fears and suspicions about the show and its quality.

As’s Phase Zero podcast host Jamie Jirak expressed on a recent episode that discussing this release date news:

"“I’ll tell you what, it gives me the ick a little bit. It does not sit right with me. I think it either means that they don’t have faith in this show, or, if it is about the “they think people will be impatient [for Daredevil and Kingpin to show up],” they’ve never cared about that before. I don’t know, it’s a show about a woman of colour with a disability and it’s the first one on their roster that they’re like [makes a dumping gesture] “Here it goes,” and I don’t know, all the Disney+ shows that do this don’t seem to get any traction… Maybe there’s a good reason, maybe it’s gonna be an amazing binge… but it doesn’t sit right with me.”"

Even if we do eventually come to find out that there’s a completely logical storytelling reason for Echo to be consumed in the all-at-once format, or even if it really is just a case of Marvel wanting to experiment a bit with its Disney+ release strategy, that doesn’t change the already-present narrative that this show is something Marvel doesn’t seem to care about. (If you don’t believe me, look no further than the fact that Marvel Studios’ official social media announcement of these Loki and Echo release dates was a combined post, rather than two separate posts, you know, for these two completely separate shows, and on Instagram, the title card for Loki is the only thing users see when scrolling, hiding Echo entirely unless they actually pause to swipe to the next image on the post…)

And as Jirak highlighted, it’s not an especially favorable look for Marvel to set up a show as diverse and groundbreaking as Echo (Alaqua Cox, who portrays the Native-American deaf superhero, is also an amputee with a prosthetic leg, which has become incorporated into the Echo character herself) to be subjected to this type of pessimistic commentary half a year before its release.

On top of everything, why release Echo on this particular late November date? Why release it the week after the American Thanksgiving holiday weekend, and in the middle of the week, no less (Echo marks a shift of Marvel Disney+ content back to Wednesday, for some reason)? It just doesn’t make sense.

This concern was echoed by Jirak’s podcast co-host, Jenna Anderson, on the same Phase Zero episode:

"“I will also say on the binging argument – like, I’ve seen people be like, “Well, what’s wrong with the binge model?” I’m not saying that there’s not value to it, but I think dropping this on a Wednesday, people are not going to have six hours of their time on a Wednesday to be able to binge this show, and avoid spoilers, and be able to be part of the conversation. And so that kind of bums me out a little bit, too, because I feel like the conversation around this show is gonna be so siphoned off, just by people who either saw screeners ahead of time, or are able to do that binge, immediately, on a Wednesday. So that just kind of depresses me a little bit.”"

This treatment of Echo feels especially egregious because of a follow-up point that was made by Feige in that same Entertainment Weekly interview cited above. As the President of Marvel Studios told the EW interviewer:

"“We want Marvel Studios and the MCU projects to really stand out and stand above. So, people will see that as we get further into Phase 5 and 6. The pace at which we’re putting out the Disney+ shows will change so they can each get a chance to shine.”"

“So that they can each get a chance to shine,” huh? How does inundating November with the same number of Marvel projects as the first nine months of this year accomplish this, exactly? How does sandwiching one of the movies between two of the shows let any of these three projects “stand out and stand above”? How does dropping all (again, presumably) six episodes of a show on a random Wednesday, which is something Marvel has never done before for its episodic shows, not even for the animated and mostly-anthology series What If?…, indicate any sign of confidence in that show?

If it wasn’t already clear, as a longstanding MCU supporter, this whole situation implicating the likes of Loki Season 2, Echo, and The Marvels, infuriates and just plain baffles me.

But in the case of Echo specifically, it also disappoints me. I’ve genuinely loved the experience of watching a new episode of a Marvel show each week, and I was very much looking forward to doing the same with Maya Lopez’s solo outing when the time came. I always crave the ritualistic nature of staying up late, watching a new installment in a Marvel Disney+ series the moment it’s available, checking Twitter for insights from fans who did the same as me, and then consuming various reactions and reviews over the next week until it’s then time for the subsequent episode. Some of my favorite memories from Phase Four of Marvel have come from specific episodes on Disney+, as have several of my favorite characters.

How am I supposed to connect with Echo, then, if it releases all at once? Some shows, like She-Hulk and Moon Knight, earned my affection over time, in large part thanks to having witnessed fans around me find elements in each of those shows to cherish each week. And what if I say that I actually really appreciate the weeklong anticipation of hearing the Marvel Studios fanfare at the top of each episode, as well as the creative credits sequences and the theme music? And isn’t a major goal of these Disney+ series to get audiences endeared to lesser-known or under-appreciated heroes? To do that comes with time and word-of-mouth, neither of which Maya Lopez and her supporting characters will be afforded.

I don’t even know a whole lot about the lead character or the premise of this series at this point in time – but I would have loved the opportunity to have six weeks to be pleasantly surprised by it.

And finally, assuming Marvel does have some business or other undisclosed financial reason that necessitates releasing Echo in this bingeable fashion, then at the very least, why aren’t they just waiting until next year to put it out as a bingeable precursor to Daredevil: Born Again? That would make far more sense than dropping it hot on the heels of two projects it has no connection to, but maybe that’s just me.

Overall, I hope I’m wrong to have these qualms with Marvel’s updated release schedule. Both as a Marvel fan and a supporter of the entertainment industry in general, I hope each of these upcoming projects succeeds in their own right – confounding release schedules notwithstanding.

I hope Loki’s sophomore season is well-received and serves as a proof-of-concept to encourage green-lighting second seasons of more Disney+ shows.

I hope The Marvels enjoys a healthy theatrical run and achieves box office success, and doesn’t fall victim to its primary fan base being stretched too thin on its opening weekend.

And for the sake of the show and all the diverse creatives involved, I really hope Echo catapults Maya Lopez into fandom stardom – the same way characters like Wanda Maximoff and Sam Wilson, and Kamala Khan have all luxuriated in the Disney+ spotlight – but thanks to Marvel, the odds are stacked against her.

(As well, should there end up being 18 weeks next year devoted to releasing the 18 episodes of Daredevil, when they couldn’t even find six spare weeks for Echo, let it be known that this Marvel fan will not be impressed.)

Next. My GOTG marathon made me reconsider the franchise. dark