Featuring an ass-kicking Choctaw superhero and an MVP cast of Native actors, the Disney+ series falls under the new Marvel Spotlight banner.
All of the signaling around Echo has suggested yet another Marvel Cinematic Universe fiasco in a long line of them in the years since Avengers: Endgame. The miniseries, spinning off a supporting character from 2021’s Hawkeye, was originally set to premiere last November, then got pushed back to an early January window that’s rarely where networks or streamers put their best shows. It is the first binge release of any Marvel Studios-produced series, where Disney+ has previously done very well getting fans to come back week after week to watch and talk about many of its Marvel and Star Wars projects(*). And reviews were embargoed until the moment the show premiered, which is usually a sign of a stinker that someone wants to hide. (Critics also weren’t given the full season, which means these words about only the first three episodes are being published at the exact moment that all five episodes are now available to watch on both Disney+ and Hulu.
Season Two of What If? got a hybrid release over the holiday break, with one episode being released per day. So there’s definitely some experimentation going on.
Marvel has had a lot of high-profile failures over the past couple of years. Last summer’s tedious Secret Invasion miniseries is the first MCU film or show that it seems not even the most devout fans are willing to defend. The Marvels (an extremely charming, if narratively messy, film) was such a flop that Disney announced within weeks of release that the studio would stop reporting its box office numbers. Once upon a time, audiences not only wanted to see every MCU project, but felt they needed to see them all to fully enjoy each one. But between the sheer number of them, and the lack of quality control of the post-Endgame era, it now feels like homework. The brand’s reputation has gotten so rough in this area that Echo is being released under the new Marvel Spotlight banner, meant for projects where you don’t need to know much, if anything, about the larger MCU. We’ll get back to whether that label applies here, but it’s a dual-edged sword, because it also suggests that the Marvel Spotlight projects aren’t essential viewing.