The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Echo

By Josh Reilly B. & George Bate

Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios’ Echo, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.

When the rights of certain Marvel heroes reverted back to Disney, after years of the characters appearing on Netflix, a question mark remained regarding if and how the MCU would integrate them into their wider universe. There were signs that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Punisher, and more were set in the MCU, such as mentions of the Battle of New York, but those references eventually faded, and what Kevin Feige and co. were planning became less clear. One option was to reboot entirely, and recast the likes of Daredevil, Kingpin, and the rest of the characters that become so beloved on Netflix. However, it’s those very feelings that fans had for the Netflix iterations that appears to have led Marvel Studios to bring back Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio, both of whom appear in the latest MCU Disney+ series Echo

Echo follows the story of Maya Lopez, who was first introduced in 2021’s Hawkeye as a mercenary working for the enemies of that series’ heroes. What was clear from the off in Hawkeye is that Maya is not an ordinary villain, and in Echo, she gets her chance to become a full superhero. Echo shows Maya as she attempts to take down Kingpin once and for all after he was responsible for the murder of her father, thus fracturing the relationship she had built up with Vincent D’Onofrio’s villain since she was a young child. 

(L-R): Zahn McClarnon as William Lopez, Devery Jacobs as Bonnie, Graham Greene as Skully, and Tantoo Cardinal as Chula Battiest in Marvel Studios’ Echo, eleasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.

The story of Echo is a deeply personal one, making this a major highlight of the new show. Maya Lopez is firmly the main character, and the series wholeheartedly embraces Choctaw and broader Native American culture. It’s with these cultural connections that Echo stands out amongst the numerous Marvel projects that have preceded it. This isn’t done as a stunt or marketing ploy to promote Marvel Studios’ proclivity for inclusivity – Echo walks the walk and talks the talk. From the series’ very first scene, Choctaw culture is front and center, to such an extent that it feels like a character unto itself. Coupling this cultural presence with the casting of various great native actors, such as Tantoo Cardinal and Graham Greene, make Echo a culturally unique installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Surprisingly, however, Echo‘s inclination for intimate storytelling is in stark contrast to the extent to which the series is reliant on and connected to previous Marvel projects. This is perhaps best evidenced in the first episode of Echo, which is essentially an extended recap of the Hawkeye series on Disney+. It’s not quite Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 in terms of recycling old footage, but it’s disappointing how the introduction to this new Marvel series hinges so heavily on what came before it. This kicks off Echo on unsteady ground, which coupled with disjointed pacing, makes the series hard to get into initially.

Amplifying this issue even further is that Echo‘s connections to Hawkeye and Daredevil serve as consistent reminders of far superior shows. Daredevil, in particular its first and third seasons, is among the best superhero shows ever made, and the startling drop off in quality from that to Echo is noticeable throughout. One also can’t shake the feeling that Marvel Studios are trying to justify the existence of Echo as a series with the inclusions of Kingpin and Daredevil, if only to provide a cameo-loving audience with enough to chew on throughout the five episodes.

Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin in Marvel Studios’ ECHO, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2023 MARVEL.

Speaking of Daredevil, the character’s appearance in Echo has been a fixture of the series’ marketing material for sometime. After returning as Matt Murdock in Spider-Man: No Way Home and She-Hulk: Attorney At Law, Marvel fans have been eager to get more of Charlie Cox as the man without fear. Daredevil’s appearance in Echo is limited to an action sequence in the first episode, a scene that, while well choregraphed, has little story purpose and serves primarily to make Echo a more exciting show than it is. Given Kingpin’s sizable presence in this show, it makes a degree of sense that Daredevil would show up, but, given all the excitement surrounding Cox’s third appearance in the MCU, it feels like a letdown. 

Greater success is found with Alaqua Cox in the lead role. Cox brings a level of authenticity to the story that adds to the personal, character driven atmosphere. In real life, Cox is an amputee, and a deaf Native American woman, and the authenticity of her casting can be felt throughout. Cox couples this authenticity with an intensity as a complex character shaped by trauma and manipulation. Unfortunately, the scripts fail to progress her character in any significant manner beyond that which was established in Hawkeye, frustratingly making Hawkeye a better Echo series than Echo is.

(L-R): Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin and Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios’ ECHO, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. © 2023 MARVEL.

Echo is also unique as the shortest live-action Marvel show to date, and the first to release all at once on Disney+. It’s soon into the series that it becomes clear why all five episodes of Echo were dropped simultaneously. Fundamentally, the series’ story seems more suited to a two hour film rather than a show. Kingpin is essentially the driving force of the plot, and yet he comes in and out of the show in a jarring and disruptive manner. Beyond that, it feels as if the villain hasn’t been in the MCU long enough for a story such as this, which gets at the roots of his backstory and his past. As far as introductions go, Kingpin’s beginning in the MCU with Hawkeye and now Echo feels as if it could have been handled much better. Vincent D’Norofio is still an excellent casting choice, and is really the only actor that one could envision playing Kingpin, but the handling of the character is certainly not as strong as it was in Netflix’s Daredevil.

VERDICT: 4/10

Echo features a compelling lead and beautifully embraces Native American culture, but offers little more, either as an isolated story or a piece of a more sprawling universe. Connections to better shows like Hawkeye and Daredevil consistently impede upon appreciating Echo and starkly contrast the type of intimate and grounded storytelling the series attempts. Regarding these superior shows, the return of fan-favorite villain Kingpin and a cameo from Charlie Cox as Daredevil are letdowns in a flat and uninspired story. Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez is an undeniably strong and important character, one that deserves far better than what this series entails.

The HoloFiles

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