Arts, Television

‘Echo’ Proves Marvel Still Has Creative Tricks Up Its Sleeve


Echo marked the first of many milestones for Marvel Studios. Released on Disney+ in January, the show was the first production to receive a TV-MA rating under the Disney+ banner, and the first production under Marvel’s new “Spotlight” branding. The series also officially made Marvel’s Netflix series, like Daredevil, canon to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

These achievements are all impressive, but what truly makes Echo monumental is its main character. With Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), a deaf Choctaw woman, leading the series, Echo takes strides in the representation of Native American culture and people with disabilities. 

Echo doesn’t rely on its representation for success, though, as its story is strong enough to rival some of Marvel’s best Disney+ content. Maya’s character, however, is a little more confusing. 

The series attempts to be character-driven and follow the blueprint of the successful WandaVision. Marvel uses Lopez’s ancestry to explain her complexity, but this characterization winds up feeling less about her as a character and more about the lineage she has to live up to. 

The series follows Lopez’s life after the events of Hawkeye. After killing Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), the Kingpin of New York’s crime network and her dad’s murderer, Lopez believes she has avenged her father. In Kingpin’s absence, Lopez begins trying to take over his crime regime. 

When she returns home to send Kingpin’s crew a message from afar, she’s surprised to find Kingpin alive and looking for revenge. Marvel fans will remember Kingpin from the series Daredevil, in which the crime boss became a fan favorite because of his gritty nature and tactical decisions as an adversary. 

When Daredevil was released, Lopez wasn’t yet woven into Kingpin’s story. Echo makes the transition seamless, working Lopez into Fisk’s story to fit his pre-existing history. 

Throughout the show, Lopez shows a reluctance to reconnect with her roots. Despite being in her hometown, Lopez refuses to reach out to her family members, leaving them to discover her presence at home one by one. 

The shattered family dynamic serves as both a strength and weakness of the series. Some of the best moments in Echo come from Lopez’s interactions with her loved ones, so the lack of close interactions is frustrating as Lopez keeps herself isolated. 

Her disconnect from her relatives drives Lopez to find a place within her heritage, but it takes her too long to reconnect with her family. If not for her stubborn nature, she could have had more depth to her character. 

Echo also uses fight scenes more effectively than prior Disney+ Marvel series, relying less on CGI and more on coordinated stunts and action sequences. The gritty, hands-on action is reminiscent of Marvel’s Netflix shows, and looks cleaner than if CGI had been used. 

The physical limitations of Lopez’s character also elevates the fight scenes. As a deaf woman with an amputated leg, the typical viewer might expect some sort of superpower that overcomes her disabilities. Echo is sure to emphasize that Lopez is a capable hero, without additional powers to back her up. 

Lopez is formidable with her prosthetic leg in fight sequences, making creative use of the metal. Her kicks are more powerful thanks to the metal structure, but she can also take risks because the prosthetic takes no physical damage. Both of Lopez’s disabilities are turned into strengths.

Marvel puts viewers right in Lopez’s shoes in some scenes, completely removing the audio to immerse viewers in her experience. It helps the audience connect to Lopez and her disability, but it also proves that Lopez’s discipline and rigor make her just as aware as if she could hear.

The fight scenes proved innovative, but the series would have benefitted from a greater number of them. At times, Echo felt slow and lacked the trademark action of a Marvel production. Between the pacing and scarcity of emotional family moments, Echo was sometimes just boring.

Although Echo was a step up from some of Marvel’s recent work, it wasn’t as concise and put together as Marvel’s early projects in television and film. The new series proves that Marvel is pointed in the right direction with its creative innovation and representation, but the studio needs to work on its story directions to develop deeply complex characters. 

January 26, 2024