Echo review: "Plays to its strengths while still bumping into familiar MCU issues"


On paper, Echo might not be the most obvious project to pull Marvel out of the doldrums after a miserable 2023 filled with controversy, creative malaise, and box office disappointment. A Hawkeye spin-off about Maya Lopez who was, arguably, not even in the top three most compelling characters from that show does little to set the pulse racing.

Marvel Studios, however, plays to Echo’s strengths to deliver on the promise of its first TV-MA show – while still bumping into familiar MCU issues along the way.

Echo, as is becoming a habit with Marvel, takes a while to get moving in its first episode, the first half of which essentially serves as a recap for those who haven’t caught up on Hawkeye or haven’t thought about it in a Christmas or two.

Once we’re eventually up to speed with Maya (Alaqua Cox) and her story, the newly-christened ‘King Killer’ retreats home to Tamaha, Oklahoma to mop up the dribs and drabs of lowlifes still clinging onto the empire of Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio).

A return home also means a return to family – and a reminder of Maya’s Choctaw heritage, which cleverly manifests itself not only in times of peril for Echo, but is also weaved into the show’s narrative as short, sharp interludes of Maya’s ancestors at the beginning of each episode.

Maya soon bumps into echoes of her past, including cousin Bonnie (an underutilized Devery Jacobs), lovable friend Biscuits (Cody Lightning), and her family, grandmother Chula (Tantoo Cardinal), and grandfather Skully (Graham Greene).

It’s hard to shake the impression, though, that Echo holds too much back for what is, even then, a rushed final two episodes amid an inevitable showdown with the seemingly unkillable Kingpin.

When that moment does arrive, it doesn’t disappoint. Yet, the combustible elements don’t ignite in the way they should, in part due to a series that’s been Frankensteined together in the editing suite and, worse, Marvel having one eye – pun intended, sorry Fisk – on another story it wants to tell elsewhere.

In the 'Spotlight'


Echo, it should be mentioned, is the first project in the new ‘Marvel Spotlight’ range. Its aim? To shine a light on more grounded stories that don't necessarily need its viewers to have a Rain Man-style recall of the MCU to figure out what’s going on in front of them.

Echo understands the assignment, pairing a moodier, darker tone with entertaining, energetic set-pieces – episode 3’s roller rink sequence is a kooky blast that feels like something ripped straight out of Fargo – and more intimate character drama.

The fight scenes are also a blast, though they never reach the level of Maya’s brief showdown with Daredevil – a balletic, brutal scrap that feels more like an aperitif for the main course of the upcoming Born Again.

A word, too, for composer Dave Porter, whose versatile score heightens the tension and lightens the mood when called for in similar fashion to his work on Better Call Saul and Breaking Bad.

The trouble is: viewers can sometimes conflate cursing and violence with something that automatically qualifies as a top-tier TV series. Yes, The Sopranos whacked more than its fair share and Game of Thrones lopped off plenty of heads, but they had depth beyond that. Echo never quite reaches that level, too often feeling like a show that’s cosplaying as a prestige drama without bringing the required nuance or focus to proceedings. Its title credits – which feel like a carbon copy of True Detective’s iconic opening – are good enough in their own right, but are a pale imitation of its peers.


Therein lies the problem. Echo is a good show – at times, a great one – that feels like high-end Marvel; it’s just not quite able to reach the heights of what it so desperately wants to be – and there’s no shame in that.

That being said, there are genuine moments of real inspiration. As someone with deaf family members, Echo’s treatment of deafness is welcome, with actors all learning American Sign Language (ASL) for their parts and Alaqua Cox carrying much of the wordless scenes with an inherent charisma that wasn’t always present in Hawkeye.

Here, she’s a force of nature and the sprinkling of scenes that really zero in on Echo’s use of sound (or lack thereof), is where the Marvel series truly sets itself apart by showcasing a disability that is largely underrepresented in the medium

Echo, then, wasn’t supposed to capture the imagination – but it’s apparent that its uniqueness is something Marvel desperately needed. It’s an oft-gripping crime drama blended with intriguing historical flourishes, while also being a show that celebrates its lead character’s disabilities without feeling patronizing.

Promisingly, it’s proof enough that street level action, not multiverses and Conquerors, is the way forward in the MCU. On paper, you may not have needed Echo after Hawkeye. This show at least attempts to rip up that script, and makes us want to see more of Maya as a character – despite the show’s occasional odd pacing and the looming shadow of Kingpin weighing down the early narrative.

All five episodes of Echo are now streaming on Disney Plus. For more, check out our guide on how to watch the Marvel movies in order, a look at upcoming Marvel movies, and the latest on Marvel Phase 5.