The MCU has been on a bit of a cold streak lately, right? We’ll leave that up to the masses to debate on X/Twitter and in our Instagram comment section. For the past 10+ years, Marvel Studios has single-handedly reshaped the Hollywood landscape with the superhero genre. However, in the past few years, since the release of Avengers: Endgame, which brought forth the culmination of the Infinity Saga; Marvel is well into what is now known as the Multiverse Saga. And despite some interesting releases, most of these titles have not quite connected with fans as they have once before.
A sad truth that even the higher-ups at Marvel have recently acknowledged publicly. Many things can attest to Marvel’s recent stumble. The entirety of the world had to deal with a pandemic, and most recently Hollywood had to deal with both the writer’s and actor’s strikes. This impacted not only production but also production quality and also affected several release dates for Marvel Studios’ upcoming slate.
‘Echo’ was one of those titles affected by Marvel’s crammed production schedule. Echo went from an 8-episode limited series, down to a 5-episode series. Went from being delayed to almost not releasing at all, to being the first MCU title to be released in 2024. In addition, to being the first Marvel Studios Disney+ series to release in the binge-watch format. These are unprecedented times for Marvel Studios and while the studio is aiming to rework its approach to television and also dial back on blockbuster film releases,
Echo is very much still a product of improper planning, lack of vision/direction, rushed and lackluster finales, and another notch on the MCU list of TV series that are 5-6 hour long feature films cut into parts and presented to new and old Marvel fans as a proper television show. This misdirection and seemingly failed attempt to branch out to the world of television has been the MCU’s biggest detriment thus far.
For fans to get their fix on Marvel Television, fans needed to go OUTSIDE of the MCU proper to get that experience with shows like then-Netflix’s Daredevil, Punisher, Jessica Jones, and The Defenders series (all of which are now officially cannon to the wider MCU, you can view this confirmation on the Disney+ app).
‘Echo’ is Marvel Studios’ attempt at recreating that Netflix magic and unfortunately, fails so desperately to capture it. The Marvel/Netflix shows weren’t the creme of the crop of TV shows per se unless you’re specifically looking at the Daredevil series (a series that has heavily influenced Echo). Then you know for a fact that Marvel has big shoes to fill. And boy are those shoes empty…
The series picks up immediately after the events of ‘Hawkeye’, the series in which ‘Echo’ star Alaqua Cox was first introduced as Maya Lopez. This series lazily reuses footage from the entirety of the Hawkeye series to bring new viewers up to speed on who Maya Lopez is and why we meet her at this specific point in her story. This comes off as unimaginative and uninspired and shows that the approach to bringing fans into the world of Maya Lopez post-Hawkeye is deeply rooted in lazy writing. More so when Hawkeye did nothing to make Maya Lopez all the more interesting as a character and failed in connecting the two shows outside of the re-use of this “old” footage.
It was also a way for Marvel to include a Clint Barton/Ronin/Hawkeye cameo without actually having Jeremy Renner present (granted he has spent the past year recovering from his snow-plowing incident); however, my main concern with this is that this opens the door for Marvel to bring back some of the old Avengers in cameo appearances without actually bringing them on set. Now this could be me overthinking but given the state of Hollywood right now and how these studios are heavy on wanting to use actors’ likenesses in alternative ways, this is something Disney as a company/studio may have used to test the waters and see how it faired out with fans.
Those concerns aside, Alaqua Cox has very much grown into the role of Maya Lopez/Echo which speaks volumes about her skills as an actor, especially as a newcomer. She leads with an impenetrable drive and shows that despite her limitations, she can hang with the big boys. However, despite her best efforts, the series has failed to make us connect to Maya on a deeper level and empathize with her plight.
This becomes more evident when we begin to learn and focus on Maya’s heritage and the Choctaw Nation. This representation is very welcomed as representation matters in every sense of the word, however, her heritage and ancestry are not fully fleshed out no matter how much the writers of the series desperately want you to believe it is. Again, there is only so much you can cram and explore in a five-episode series.
This also feels a bit lackluster when you take into consideration that the chemistry between her and her supporting cast is great. Especially when it comes to Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk who is not in the series as much as the marketing wants you to believe, but whose looming presence is felt throughout each episode. Just the mere mention of his name raises some concern and makes individuals quake in their boots. D’Onofrio has a commanding on-screen presence as Fisk which carries over nicely from the Netflix Daredevil series and aids in driving the familial narrative home with some heavy implications not just for Maya but also for her hometown, and New York City as a whole.
Praise aside, no matter how good D’Onofrio is on-screen the writers make very little use of Fisk and fail to make an impact with the character by the end of the series despite the heavy implications for Wilson Fisk’s mayoral run which is teased during the post-credit scene. This is a story about family and what someone is willing to do to maintain those family ties or protect them from the criminal underworld and that’s what we got for the most part. Unfortunately, it all seems aimless and ultimately falls flat.
The ‘Echo’ series is plagued by the same issues as the previous MCU/Disney+ installments. It becomes more evident that the current TV series model at Marvel does not fully work and Marvel has yet to find the right balance between short-form storytelling and long-form storytelling. One thing that can be praised is the series’ efforts to deliver on the action, while momentarily great, it lacks heavily in that department post-Maya’s only encounter with Matt Murdock/Daredevil. The whole six-minute action sequence provides real-time growth for Maya from an innocent girl into the villainous henchwoman Kingpin wants her to be.
All the action sequences we see after this real-time transformation of Maya Lopez still don’t fully resonate in the later episodes of the series. This is very much MCU-type action and violence and the mature rating is most certainly being oversold by the studio and the marketing team. It was great to see Daredevil again and see how he will fair out action-wise in the MCU, we got a small glimpse of that in She-Hulk as well but those half expecting this to be a Daredevil showcase are going to be disappointed rather quickly.
Marvel without a doubt, always brings something new to the table with every new project the studio releases. Unfortunately, ‘Echo’ is more of the same. It has some highs which are very few and in between and has some extreme lows. Poor execution and lack of engagement in the series’s story are what left me rather disappointed with the series as a whole.
This isn’t a series I felt the studio particularly needed to release but I’m always open to new and fresh ideas and more self-contained stories that don’t always involve a Thanos, a Kang, or glowing cosmic space rocks. As Marvel continues to expand with mature content it’ll be interesting to see where this all goes hopefully with Daredevil: Born Again and Marvel’s entire restructure in their approach to television as a whole can deliver what fans expect from the MCU.
All episodes of ‘Echo’ are now streaming on Disney+ and Hulu.
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