Echo has kicked off Marvel Studios’ 2024 slate with a violent bang. The Alaqua Cox-led series brings many firsts for the MCU. It’s the first Marvel Studios series to be rated TV-MA; the first to drop all its episodes at once; the first to stream simultaneously on Disney+ and Hulu; and it’s the first project (outside of an episode of What If…?) to star a Native American lead.
[Warning: Spoilers discussed for Echo below!]
The smaller scale of Marvel’s Echo
Echo surprised me in a great way. Announced as a Hawkeye spin-off that no one expected many months before that series even premiered, it seemed like Maya’s solo series was the one project at least some MCU fans didn’t want. Most of the conversation surrounded Daredevil and Kingpin, which sadly seems to still be the case. Rumors about a troubled production didn’t help, and signs of that trouble can be seen in the finished product.
Unfortunately, Echo is also the first Marvel Disney+ series to consist of only five episodes, which is a shame since it falls prey to the same rushed ending as most of the other Marvel Studios original series. Echo was supposed to be six episodes long but ended up being five, with the final two episodes barely being longer than the premiere. Clearly, a lot of content was cut. That being said, what has made it to our screens was a breath of fresh air that the MCU desperately needs at this point.
Echo finally brings viewers into a smaller-scale story that still has high stakes, which is a key ingredient that’s been missing from Marvel’s Disney+ series so far. Both Moon Knight and Ms. Marvel went unnecessarily wide in their scope, sacrificing simpler, character-focused introductions for world-ending stakes. I was so happy to see Echo zero in on Maya’s struggle with her identity, caught between Kingpin Wilson Fisk’s cruelty and her biological family’s estrangement.
Maya Lopez’s development in Echo
Maya is rightfully the focus of her own series, not Daredevil or Kingpin (despite the latter playing a major role). From the beginning, I was surprised by the mythological opening depicting the origin myth of the Choctaw people. As the episodes continued, the exploration of Maya’s ancestors became one of my favorite aspects of the series. Each ancestor felt like a distinct character that fit right into Maya’s story despite only appearing in a handful of scenes.
The idea that Maya’s ancestors are “echoing” through her in times of great need is a beautiful sentiment that brings an entirely new dimension to a superhero name that meant something different in the comics. It reminds me of the new backstory for Namor’s name in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
While I loved where Maya’s family relationships were headed in episode 3 when Bonnie and Henry are held hostage, the family storyline loses a lot of steam in the final episodes. I suspect that’s due to how much was cut from the series, since it definitely feels like there’s an episode’s worth of development missing towards the end.
Bonnie and Maya’s relationship was coming along nicely until the character essentially drops out of the series in episodes 4 and 5. Chula’s scene with Maya in episode 4 was emotional and satisfying, but it’s the only scene where they actually interact in the entire series. I don’t think Maya’s fractured relationships with Bonnie or Chula were healed enough to suddenly team up with them for a superpowered battle against Fisk in the finale.
I loved Maya’s new suit, although her powers could have been explained better. I think their confusing nature contributed to the awkward, disjointed feeling of the final showdown with Fisk. While the ancestors appearing to help Maya was well done, sharing her powers with her relatives felt unearned. I like the concept, but found the execution lacking.
The buildup across episodes 1-4 with Bonnie and Chula was excellent, but it does feel like we’re missing a lot between episode 4 and the resolution in episode 5. Although, I loved Maya telling Fisk that her legacy lies with her people, not with him.
To me, this illustrates the difference between Echo’s rushed ending and other rushed Marvel Disney+ endings. While Maya’s character arc could have been stronger in the finale, she ended on a strong note that makes perfect sense given how she’s evolved through the series.
Other MCU Disney+ characters have had arcs that were flawed from the start, missing huge chunks in the middle, or ended very suddenly. Essentially, I feel as though other characters on Disney+ have taken enormous shortcuts where we really needed proper development. It still feels like Maya’s arc took a shortcut in episode 5, but it’s not as egregious as what we’ve seen recently.
Kingpin and Daredevil appearances in Echo
Speaking of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, I thought the plot of Echo was beautifully woven around his character. Maya wanting to become the queen of his criminal empire after taking him out made perfect sense, after all, she’s essentially his daughter. I also liked seeing her continue a criminal lifestyle, since it’s all she’s known.
I disagree with director Sydney Freeland’s sentiment that Maya is a villain through-and-through in her series, but she’s a very different antihero from characters like Loki.
Maya’s relationship with Fisk was very well-developed and one of the best dynamics in MCU Phases Four and Five. The flashbacks were absolutely necessary, and episode 4 in particular brought Kingpin back to the top of his game.
This is the Kingpin I remember and love to hate from Netflix’s Daredevil, only with added emotional depth. It was also nice to see more scenes set during the Blip, a time period that’s been woefully unexplored in the aftermath of Avengers: Endgame.
Kingpin’s looming presence throughout the series is exactly what I had wanted from him in Hawkeye, rather than Fisk being a twist villain. But in this case, his presence doesn’t add excitement just because we liked him in Daredevil. Kingpin’s shadow is so personal to Maya that it takes on a new dimension altogether. Their relationship is so traumatic and broken that their confrontations have much higher stakes than interdimensional threats or gods going to war.
While I’ve compared the Echo finale to other Disney+ finales, the show as a whole reminds me more of the best parts of the Marvel Netflix original series that marked the MCU’s first foray into streaming. It’s not just that Fisk originated on Netflix. It’s how his grounded criminal empire and his despicable actions make him, his followers, and his enemies feel like real people fighting for their lives.
For example, I was surprised when Maya moved to heal him in the finale. Seeing her get inside his head showed us a scared side to Fisk that we’ve very rarely seen. I thought it was refreshing to see him running away for once, and it was completely believable to me, since Fisk doesn’t usually deal with actually superpowered superheroes.
I was pleasantly surprised to be drawn into Echo and Kingpin’s enmity as deeply as I was drawn into Daredevil and Kingpin’s. Of course, it’s not to the same level because Maya and Fisk have 5 episodes (6 counting Hawkeye’s finale) versus Matt Murdock’s multiple seasons of history. But the Netflix shows are the best comparison because no other Disney+ original series feels like Echo. Someone at Marvel clearly agrees because Echo is actually listed alongside the Defenders Saga projects on the Disney+ Marvel page.
Daredevil’s cameo in Echo was awesome, but I was a bit surprised he didn’t show up again. I certainly didn’t miss him because I was loving Maya and Kingpin’s interactions, but early rumors and reports from 2022 stated that Matt would be looking for a former ally in Echo. I wasn’t really expecting that storyline since I was focused on Maya and didn’t know why Daredevil would be in Oklahoma. However, it’s more evidence that the series may have changed a lot from when it first entered production.
Thoughts on the new Marvel Spotlight banner
I have a slight issue with the “Marvel Spotlight” banner, of which Echo is the first series to be branded as such. “Marvel Spotlight” means nothing. Executives are saying the banner distinguishes standalone character-driven stories that don’t require knowledge of the MCU, but Echo is a direct spin-off of a previous Disney+ series and features one of the few overarching villains in the wider franchise. It also very clearly sets up Daredevil: Born Again in its end-credits scene, where Wilson Fisk begins to think about his mayoral campaign.
I’d also argue that every MCU project should be character-driven, but evidently the executives disagree. To me, “Marvel Spotlight” reeks of Marvel Studios executives losing faith in their content. It’s only making things more muddled and confusing.
Final thoughts on Marvel’s Echo
Echo has the style and story the MCU’s been sorely missing. I loved the action sequences, particularly the roller rink one in the third episode. Cutting out sound for portions of these sequences to show us the world, from Maya’s perspective, was also thrilling.
I do think Echo needed to be edited a little better. Besides the extremely short final episodes and rushed storylines, the first episode was strange because it basically replayed all of Maya’s scenes from Hawkeye at 1.5x speed. This is something I noticed in The Marvels as well, where scenes from the previous project were directly lifted and inserted into the new one. I don’t love that.
As a huge MCU fan, it felt very weird to be rewatching so many old scenes 20 minutes into a new TV show. That’s the kind of thing that should be saved for “previously on” segments. It makes it feel as though the creators don’t trust their audience to any degree, and they must hold their hands.
Those scenes are very important to Maya’s overall story. But if they were shown in a “previously on” segment and instead the fallout was explored more, or new scenes shot from a different perspective were included, it wouldn’t have felt as strange.
I can’t wait to see more of Maya Lopez in the MCU. Alaqua Cox is a fantastic actress and deserves the world. All of the actors in this series brought their characters to life well, and they truly felt like a family that had fractured along several lines. Devery Jacobs didn’t get enough to do as Bonnie, but I’ll certainly be keeping an eye on what she does next after her powerful performance as Kahhori in What If…? as well.
I hope we see Echo in Daredevil: Born Again, but I don’t see how the character really fits back into that world given where we leave her. I love Maya’s character arc, but it does make it hard to guess where she’ll pop up next! Wherever it is, I hope to have writers as strong as Marion Dayre leading the charge!
Marvel’s Echo is now playing on Disney+ and on Hulu. Have you watched it yet? Let us know what you think of the series on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord.