This is one of the stranger reviews I’ve written in my career, for myriad reasons. There’s the fact that Echo has ended up as a sort of sign-off for the post-Endgame era of the MCU, which is all sorts of ridiculous considering the titular character is just a cool deaf supporting villain from the Hawkeye series and has no connections that we know of to anything or anybody in the rest of the MCU. It’s not a bad show by any means, but it is just another Marvel series that tells a pretty standard Marvel story in the standard Marvel visual style.
Or at least that’s how it is for the first three episodes, which was all Disney supplied for this review, even though all episodes are dropping at once on Disney+ and Hulu at the same time when we’re allowed . Ultimately, that makes this a review of half of the show.
Echo follows Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), the Darth Maul-type villain character from Hawkeye who shot and presumably killed the Kingpin when she found out that the criminal mastermind had arranged to have Hawkeye kill her father. After opening with a montage about how she and her father fell in with Kingpin, the show picks up with Maya, who is Native American, leaving New York and heading back to her hometown in Oklahoma, where she has plans to start a hostile takeover of Kingpin’s criminal empire. “It’s time for a queen,” she signs to her old pal, who she’s trying to recruit for her coup attempt.
The present-day storyline in the first three episodes is standard Marvel stuff in every respect, with several solidly dope fight scenes but nothing that really differentiates it much from all the other MCU shows from the past three years we’ve mostly forgotten about–and while it’s the first TV-MA Marvel series to debut on Disney+, nothing R-rated happened in the three episodes I’ve seen. But each of the first three episodes does begin with a flashback of sorts, and these moments give us a few brief glimpses at something much more interesting: the Choctaw creation myth, an ancient game of Choctaw stickball, and a short silent film about a young Choctaw woman joining up with the Lighthorseman, the mounted police force of the Five Civilized Tribes, against her father’s wishes.
These scenes seem to have major implications for Maya–the flashbacks play on the show like she is having visions, perhaps indicating that they’re ancestral memories, and after one of these visions Maya seems to gain some kind of new power that she didn’t use again or even acknowledge in the following episode. Random magic powers aside, these flashback bits are far more compelling than the rest of Echo, which is otherwise just another Marvel Studios show in a long line of samey Marvel Studios shows.
Unfortunately, that means the cast doesn’t really have the means to elevate the series, though they do their best–Reservation Dogs star Devery Jacobs stands out in particular as Maya’s childhood best friend Bonnie, as does Cody Lightning as Maya’s comic relief cousin. Alaqua Cox, as the title character, is more of a mixed bag. It’s a tall task to have anybody try to hold together a show like this without speaking, and Cox hasn’t had a ton of experience with that sort of thing since Maya Lopez is the only role she’s had in Hollywood. On Hawkeye, she mostly just needed to be good at fighting, and she was, but holding down a lead role on her own is a whole other thing.
Meanwhile, Vincent D’Onofrio, the old hat who’s been playing the Kingpin for a decade now, was barely in the episodes we were given. Maybe he will elevate Echo somewhat once he takes center stage, if he ever truly does.
Given how generally meh the first three episodes felt aside from the compelling intros, it’s hard to imagine that this show will do anything to stop Marvel’s bleeding. The DC Comics movieverse spent the past six years dying a very slow and meandering death, and Marvel fans spent much of that time gloating about it. But then the MCU barreled toward its own tragic fate by giving us tons of new stories that aren’t related to each other and seemingly don’t matter to the franchise’s big picture, and the Jonathan Majors/Kang the Conqueror situation in 2023 made that lack of cohesion somehow even worse. Now, the MCU is in an arguably similar position as DC’s attempted shared universe: It’s taking time off in order to get its crap together, with only Deadpool 3 and the Agatha-focused WandaVision spin-off expected in 2024.
Since I don’t know how Echo ends, I can’t really say whether it’s a good or interesting story for this era of the MCU to go out on. I don’t know if it will mean anything to the big picture or it’s just another MCU story you don’t have any reason to know about. But I suspect that, like much of the MCU since the start of 2021, it’ll end up being much ado about very little. From where I sit right now, Echo doesn’t suck–but there’s also not a compelling reason to watch it.