Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez in Marvel Studios' Echo, releasing on Hulu and Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2023. All Rights Reserved.

Echo Review: A Hard-Hitting MCU Blast

Just over a week after the second season of What If…? concluded on Disney+, we have yet another installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe on the streamer. Echo is the latest MCU miniseries on Disney+, proudly boasting a brand new Marvel Spotlight banner during the opening logos meant to symbolize how this is a more grounded, character-driven story that does not rely on preexisting knowledge of the larger MCU continuity. I don’t know how true that is since this show is a spin-off of Hawkeye with a villain famously introduced in Daredevil. However, Echo was a delightful watch that explored Maya Lopez and her Native American heritage despite having a few flaws that held it back from meeting its full potential.

There were green flags all over this project. Echo is the first Disney+ MCU show to go for a TV-MA rating, which signaled that this would be a more mature outing for the franchise that has largely thrived in PG-13/TV-14 territory. Having seen the show, I can’t say that it is fully committed to adult content there is little to no language, and the bloodiest moments are in the trailers. Regardless, this show explores a lot of uncharted territory for the MCU. Recent MCU projects have been unafraid to capture minority voices and put them in their popular franchise. The filmmakers behind Echo collaborated with members of the Choctaw Nation to represent them properly in this show.

Ultimately, it works well as the show follows Maya Lopez, portrayed by Alaqua Cox. The first episode shows her character’s emotional backstory, starting with her childhood, tragedies surrounding her parents, and ultimately being taken in by Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio). The show recaps a bit of what we saw from the two of them in Hawkeye when Maya shot Fisk in the eye for killing her father. But if you’ve seen the trailers, you know that Fisk comes back in this show. There’s a layered, complex relationship between the hero and the villain of this show, especially because it isn’t exactly easy to call Maya a hero.

Maya grew up training under Kingpin. Violence was her answer to everything. One of the best scenes in the entire show occurs in the first episode when Maya finds herself in a brawl with several goons and a very good lawyer. The fight choreography and camerawork is outstanding during this whole sequence. Much of the action set piece is filmed to appear as if it is one take, and it gives a grittier type of action than we’re used to seeing in the MCU. Marvel action is typically fun, exciting, and sanitized, but fans of movies like The Raid will have a great time with the stonework, especially in the first and third episodes.

Another shining element of the show is Cox’s portrayal of Maya. It appears as if she is doing many of the stunts herself, which is impressive for any actor to do, but when you factor in that she is an amputee with a prosthetic leg, that is beyond incredible. Like her character, Cox is deaf. Therefore, Maya does not have any spoken dialogue in the entire show. She speaks American Sign Language (ASL), and this is another wonderful feat. She doesn’t use spoken dialogue to communicate her emotions the way other actors do. Everything she communicates is through facial expressions and the physicality of her signing, which makes this performance captivating to watch.

It can be even more challenging when you take into account that Maya is a stoic character. Trained to be an assassin from a young age, she has a rough exterior. But Echo explores her relationships with her family that tear her walls down. One particular scene between Maya and her grandmother Chula (Tantoo Cardinal) is a beautifully tragic moment where you get a sense of how troubled their history is. The supporting cast is all giving phenomenal work too. D’Onofrio has consistently portrayed a terrifying villain with Kingpin for years, and he delivers again in this show.

Echo makes full use of its style. There are moments in the show where sign language becomes integral to the communication of a scene. There is a strong soundtrack here, with needle drops placed at the right moments. Most of the episodes are directed by Sydney Freeland, who does a superb job of helming the action and the more emotional beats. The only action sequence that did not work for me was a scene set on a moving train in the second episode that had great stunt work and ideas on paper but wasn’t lit brightly enough to see clearly. One of the better ideas in the show is the decision to begin three of the episodes with backstory on Native Americans, offering a fresh perspective that pays off in the finale.

By the time the finale rolls around, Echo leaves you on a decently satisfied note. My biggest gripe is that the show should have been longer than five episodes because there’s so much world-building and so much story to tell here and it doesn’t get to all of it. The show establishes what could have been a very emotional relationship between Maya and her cousin Bonnie (Devery Jacobs), but it does not feel like that storyline came to its maximum fruition. The finale has a lot of setup, but the actual climax only lasts around 10 minutes. It’s a shame that the best action sequence in the show happens in the first episode, with the finale being underwhelming in comparison. Echo is not as great as it could have been, but it’s a solid show with a strong vision behind it.

SCORE: 7/10

As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 7 equates to “Good.” A successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.

Disclosure: ComingSoon received screeners for our Echo review.

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