Echo leans more towards being a dark crime drama than a superhero flick; the minimal superhero elements in the first three episodes work well.
Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), pointing a gun at Kingpin, serves as the final visual of her in the MCU, and we lived with it for a while. Echo, the new Marvel show on Disney+ Hotstar under the new banner Marvel Spotlight, starts from that very point and takes a six-month leap as Maya is now on the run from bounty hunters and Kingpin’s assassin goons. She aims to end Wilson Fisk’s legacy to save New York, but...
Imagine the pressure on a show marking the beginning of a new banner for a studio that has mostly suffered in the past year, just nine days ago. Marvel Studios witnessed its worst-earning movie and the first flop (The Marvels), with movies and shows receiving poor reviews. Their big bad villain actor was found guilty of assault and fired (Jonathan Majors). Echo stands as the first word of the sentence after all of those things and has the responsibility to kick-start a new year for the studio with a new plan focusing on quality over quantity.
So you see there is a massive baggage of responsibility on Echo’s shoulder and also a new rating that will define a new era in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The first TV-MA-rated show in the history of the MCU, the Alaqua Cox-led Disney+ series, is a winner when it comes to diverting attention to something good and substantial until the third episode at least. Created by Marion Dayre, it is a show that understands its protagonist and respects her existence. There is no need for her to have superpowers up her sleeves throughout the entire first half to stand out.
Written by Marion (who was also a writer and story editor on Better Call Saul, just by the way) with a team of writers who are mostly newcomers to the MCU, Echo is certainly an antidote to everything Marvel that was served and didn’t work in the last couple of years (and I don’t mean at the Box Office). Here is a show that embraces violence for the first time and is more of a thrilling crime drama than a superhero movie/show trying hard to stick to its PG-13 rating. Moon Knight didn’t get to be brutal, you guys.
Echo is deeply rooted and very grounded regarding the new vibe it brings to the table. While she is busy plotting the destruction of Kingpin’s Empire, there is also a side plot that shows us a new culture, the Choctaw. So technically we are witnessing the present as a crime drama as an origin story plays out parallel. The way the writing and execution build mystery around Maya’s roots is what the studio has been needing for a while. There is no oversimplification or spoon-feeding. There is blood on display, and bullets fired, but nothing just to add shock value. Everything has a purpose. It was high time the studio took this decision and should stand on it forever now.
A much bigger reason why Echo works is that even by the end of episode 3, there is no display of superpower. She is an anti-hero with a history that gives her superpowers, but there is no hurry to make her use them. She is a trained assassin who is now going against her boss so he cannot destroy things. She is also going back to her roots. Echo doesn’t have an Iron Man or a Shuri to provide her with gadgets and a suit. She walks into a pawn store with a broken prosthetic limb to get it fixed. The realness in Echo where you can think of yourself without really suspending your disbelief much is what makes it even more fun.
What lets Echo shine even more is the fact that the makers make a conscious choice to not name the Avengers or the other Superheroes in her story even once. This is the underbelly where a bounty is set on her head, and even at her weakest, she is the hero (or anti-hero?), and you are not allowed to think the other way. This is the world where the threats are personal, and it is not the world that is at stake. Even when Daredevil enters (an underwhelming cameo after a very massive hype), Echo still is the highlight.
The acting performances are brilliant and very interesting. The characterization is so fresh that this doesn’t feel like a Marvel show but still is one. Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez is an anti-hero who deserves this show. Her gaze is so powerful that you know she will win the war even when the odds are not on her side. The respect towards ASL adds such a good layer to her part.
What is confusing at this point is the absence of the threat visually. We know Maya thinks New York will be destroyed if she doesn’t stop Kingpin, but to what extent and how exactly? There is no visual indication of the threat until the third episode. What scares me even more is the fact that this is another mini-series, and we have already seen how the studio has messed up the finales big time. Fingers crossed. Marvel, please don’t rush like a wild dog is set loose behind you this time.
Echo Review: Verdict:
Echo brings a new dawn to Marvel in more ways than one, but it has to stay as nuanced as the first three episodes for the next three too. As for now, a potent new anti-hero is rising, and we must all focus on her.