I was both intrigued and worried when Echo was announced to be a streaming series (a spin-off of 2021’s Hawkeye, starring Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld). How will Marvel Studios explore Maya Lopez’s (Alaqua Cox) Native American heritage? Will they somehow clean up Maya’s villainous characteristics from the comics? How will they tell a story with characters who do not communicate vocally? Fortunately, from watching the first three episodes, most of my worries are gone.
[Warning: Light spoilers and impressions from Marvel Studios’ Echo are below!]
General thoughts on Marvel Studios’ Echo
Echo as a series feels totally, and tonally, different from anything that Marvel Studios has produced before. It’s grounded, slow-paced, and rather violent in parts. The threats are personal. No universes are being destroyed or cities being leveled. If this is the way the “Marvel Spotlight” banner is going to be used, I’m all in!
At the beginning of the series, it’s been 5 months since we last saw her in Hawkeye. Maya, who has a bounty on her head, is running away. She finds a hiding place in Oklahoma, her family home. But Maya is not just lying low, she has big plans, which may bring chaos to everyone who loves her.
Exploration of Native American myth
These are stories that are rarely told, and I find every aspect of it fascinating. So much so that I read up more on each story after watching the first three episodes.
All three episodes of Echo I saw open with flashbacks to Maya’s ancestors. First is Chaya, one of the first Choctaw. Second is Lowak, a stickball (Proto Lacrosse) athlete, and third is Tuklo, a sharpshooter in The Choctaw light horsemen unit. The exploration of these characters brings depths to the backstory of this group and their heritage.
There are a few scenes that appear like she’ll be able to call back and get powers from her ancestors, “echoes of her past” if I may. I hope that whenever her powers finally manifest, they will be portrayed in a way that’s grounded and fits the world that Echo has carefully crafted.
The cast and Maya Lopez as a character
Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez is intriguing. The actress has natural charisma and great screen presence. Other actors in the series helped support her throughout. Highlights are all of Maya’s family and friends, as their characters feel natural and fully realized.
There are no clichéd Native American tropes in this series. The writing allows for a deeper feeling of the personal history between the entire cast of characters. Biscuits (Cody Lightning), Maya’s cousin, is a personal favorite. These characters serve to bring tension to the story, as they’re caught right in the middle of the turf war that Maya started.
I’m pleasantly surprised that the creative team behind Echo did not try to redeem Maya as a character. She does not feel remorse for the criminal deeds she has done, and doesn’t plan to leave that life behind.
The series does make her more sympathetic throughout the first three episodes, but also still reckless, selfish, and manipulative. She is still truly a “bad guy” who doesn’t care if anyone else gets hurt in her quest for power. This makes her character unique among all of Marvel Studio’s leads.
The good and the bad of this new Marvel series
I know that words like “violent” “grounded” and “brutal” are being used in a lot of reviews. But for Echo, it’s accurate. The Daredevil fight scene in episode 1 does bring back the memory of seeing Netflix’s Daredevil for the first time. You see people getting killed, bones broken, heads blown off. There are no energy beams, or hi-tech weapons here (at least not yet), with Echo featuring only hand-to-hand and real-life weapons.
Wanting to completely immerse the audience in Maya’s world, the soundtrack becomes muted at the right moment, bringing us inside her POV. Echo also uses Native American instruments to complement the mythology being told, as it unfolds on screen. The fight sounds during the fight scenes are amazing, and made me flinch at times.
While there was a lot that I loved about Echo, there are some bits that I didn’t like as much, beginning with some pacing issues. The series progresses slowly at times, with almost a third of the first episode being our reintroduction to Maya Lopez and the world she inhabits.
There are many introductions of new characters which also disrupt the flow of the story, but I think it will pay off in episodes 4 and 5. The main plot point doesn’t kick into full gear until the end of the third episode, when Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) shows up.
Three episodes in and I’m not sure how they will have time to conclude the story they set up. We already know that D’Onofrio’s Kingpin will not be defeated, as he will show up in Daredevil: Born Again. I hope Maya’s redemption arc (if there is one) won’t be too rushed. Secret Invasion burnt me with a good build-up that failed to deliver, so I’m a bit wary of Echo’s landing.
Final thoughts on Marvel’s Echo
Overall, I enjoyed what I’ve seen so far of Marvel Studios’ newest series, and excited to see where the series goes in the final two episodes. My expectation of Daredevil: Born Again is dialed up to 11.
I’m really happy that Marvel is taking risks. I know that Ms. Marvel and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they show the vastness of the Marvel Comics universe. It’s where all kinds of stories can be told, and I hope this will not be abandoned. Not every show or movie needs to be world-ending, there’s also room for more personal, character-driven stories like Echo.
All five episodes of Echo are now streaming on Disney+ and Hulu. Do you plan on checking it out? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord what you think about it when you do!
[Note: This review was written by Guest Writer Dan Liftman]