This review is made possible by advanced screeners of Episodes 1-3 of Echo, provided to Agents of Fandom by Disney for review purposes.
Many fans are curious how the more mature, graphic subject matter of Echo will be portrayed in the MCU. Starring Alaqua Cox as the titular Maya Lopez/Echo, Vincent D’Onofrio as the menacing Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, and also boasting a strong supporting cast, this series is the first property to be released under Marvel Studios’ new Marvel Spotlight banner. The goal of this new endeavor, according to Brad Winderbaum, is to give the studio “a platform to bring more grounded, character-driven stories to the screen.”
Marvel Studios’ perceived hesitance to include more graphic examples of violence on screen has long been a point of contention. It’s a fair critique, especially concerning the dark, gruesome nature of the Netflix-produced Daredevil and Punisher series. MCU action and fight scenes can sometimes look somewhat campy by comparison. This series incorporates more graphic displays of violence while ensuring that it’s not gratuitous — each decision is made in service of advancing the ongoing story.
‘Echo’ Review: A Grounded, Character-Driven Return to Street-Level MCU Stakes
While this is the first standalone project featuring Echo within the MCU, Alaqua Cox first portrayed the character in Hawkeye. The series, which stars Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner, also serves as D’Onofrio’s MCU debut as Wilson Fisk. The actor notably portrays the character in the Netflix Daredevil series for the entirety of its three-season run. Other cast members include Chaske Spencer, Tantoo Cardinal, Devery Jacobs, Cody Lightning, Graham Greene, and Zahn McClarnon.
The series’ first episode immediately dives into the backstory of not only Maya Lopez, but her ancestors: the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. Throughout the first few episodes, Maya’s connection to the Choctaw continues to be explored and expounded upon. Beyond its link to the story itself, however, the extended look into the history of the Choctaw Nation is an interesting glimpse into a culture that has been grossly underrepresented in popular media over the years.
‘Echo’ Isn’t As TV-MA As ‘Daredevil’ or ‘The Punisher’
Some prevailing themes within the Echo series are loss and grief, each of which Maya Lopez has come to know all too well. Her childhood and young adult life are filled with death, heartbreak, and anger. The events that have shaped her life and her current path are all explored in the series’ first episode and make her motivations crystal clear. Maya is out for revenge, she seeks power and, most importantly, she doesn’t seem to care who she needs to use or cross to get what she wants.
The action and combat sequences contained within Echo are well-choreographed and grounded in reality. These are street-level skirmishes among members of the criminal underworld and are treated as such. Depictions of blood and more gruesome injuries or casualties, while not quite on the level of the Daredevil or Punisher Netflix series, are definitely kicked up a notch compared to what audiences are used to seeing from Marvel Studios. And, while the stakes are high for Maya and those close to her, they are far from world-ending, which is a refreshing change of pace.
Alaqua Cox Is a Badass As Maya Lopez
It would be easy for Echo to depict Maya Lopez as a helpless victim, someone whose tragic backstory causes the audience to feel pity for her. However, despite the constant presence of tragedy and loss in her life, Maya is in no way, shape, or form portrayed as weakened or held back by the hand life has dealt her. Maya does not actively display any bitterness over her Deafness or the loss of her limb. Echo is quickly established as a strong, relentless character who, quite frankly, kicks ass and takes names.
The use of ASL and corresponding subtitles are extremely well-executed throughout the series. A great deal of emphasis is placed on how Maya and her loved ones communicate with one another. There is not a single exchange in which the signing is glossed over or done at a poor camera angle where it would not be properly displayed. Maya’s Deafness is never once displayed as a weakness or an inconvenience; she is simply a strong character who communicates differently. There are reasons for the audience to feel sympathetic towards Maya, but her Deafness is most certainly not one of them.
‘Echo’ Is a Huge Step For Representation in Live-Action Comic Book Properties
Both the Deaf community and Indigenous peoples are prominently displayed in the spotlight throughout Echo, which is a long overdue but necessary step towards increased representation in entertainment. The series is full of tales revolving around the history of the Choctaw Nation. This, along with the story of Kahhori (Devery Jacobs) in What If…? Season 2, can go a long way towards depicting more powerful protagonists from Indigenous communities in popular media moving forward.
It’s worth noting that Hawkeye contains some representation of the Hard of Hearing and Deaf communities, beyond just Maya’s introduction. Part of the series’ storyline is based on Clint Barton’s progressive hearing loss following the events of Avengers: Endgame. There is some brief use of ASL between Barton and Maya, Barton and his children, and also between Maya and members of the Tracksuit Mafia. However, the expanded emphasis on non-verbal communication goes the extra mile. It could go a long way towards providing members of these communities with a stronger sense of belonging.
‘Echo’ Has Bright Spots But Ultimately Could Have Done More
Echo presents a break from the recent string of extremely high stakes and world-threatening storylines contained within MCU properties. There’s no cosmic entity lurking in the shadows, nor is there any sort of cataclysmic event to prevent. This is a street-level, self-contained story that focuses on building up its main protagonist, Lopez. It also returns fan favorites, such as D’Onofrio’s Kingpin and Daredevil (Charlie Cox), but in supporting roles. New York City’s criminal underworld, last explored in Hawkeye, will be a prominent theme in the MCU moving forward. If Echo is any indication, this tonal shift is sure to be popular among fans.
Those who expect Echo to contain gore and violence similar to that of Daredevil and Punisher should temper their expectations. Echo is more of a happy medium between the Netflix productions and what audiences are accustomed to seeing from Marvel. There also could have been more hand-to-hand combat as a whole, but the action that is on display is well-executed. Besides said action, Echo boasts several interesting supporting characters and a strong leading performance from Alaqua Cox. The series should prove to be quite enjoyable for more mature audiences.
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'Echo' Review'Echo' Review
- Strong performance from Alaqua Cox.
- Well-executed action sequences and increased level of violence.
- Excellent representation of d/Deaf and Indigenous communities.
- First few episodes set up what should be an exciting conclusion.
- Could stand to increase the amount of action/combat.
- Main antagonist(s) lack screen time through first few episodes.
- Supporting characters could stand to get some more shine.