Picking up where 2021′s “Hawkeye” ended, “Echo” follows Alaqua Cox as Maya Lopez, an Indigenous, deaf amputee who was once the leader of the brutal Tracksuit Mafia.
The five-part series unfolds as Maya retreats home to Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation after shooting her surrogate uncle and New York crime boss, Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (played by an imposing Vincent D’Onofrio).
Back home, Cox’s character must contend with her past trauma and face fraught relationships with her grandma and cousin, Chula (Tantoo Cardinal) and Bonnie (Devery Jacobs), respectively.
“Echo” is an edgy but imperfect outing for Marvel, which has been trying to find footing in its post-“Avengers” era. Last year, the studio had multiple box-office blunders; the November release of “The Marvels” ended up as its lowest-grossing movie of all time.
As Marvel’s first TV-MA release, “Echo” delivers the right dose of dark, violent action, which is a welcome break from the glossy world of the MCU films. Still, the bloody fight scenes are inconsistent when it comes to choreography, and some special effects also fall flat.
While the pacing of its first few episodes seems to weigh it down, “Echo’s” attention to Maya’s internal life pays off as the stakes rise in the second half of the series.
(Critics were only given the first three episodes to preview and it’s hard to imagine this choice didn’t skew some of the more middling reviews.)
Choctaw culture is ripe throughout “Echo” but the series still flirts with tropes that feel stale, especially given the vibrant state of Native American storytelling in the industry right now.
Though her superhero qualities are not immediately apparent, it’s clear that Maya wields great power from within. That force comes to light through a fairly clumsy collection of supernaturally tinged sequences, however.
Some of the most powerful scenes play out entirely through conversations in American Sign Language. In other places, the near absence of noise draws us into Maya’s world: silent, save for the sound of heartbeats thumping.
“Echo’s” ensemble includes a host of Indigenous talent, which helps to ground the show’s messier moments.
Maya’s impressionable cousin, Biscuits (Cody Lightning), is a delightful sidekick, while her grandpa, Skully (Graham Greene), comes to her aid as an impromptu armorer. Meanwhile, she must rely on her uncle, Henry (Chaske Spencer), the owner of a local roller rink who is also caught up in Fisk’s web of crime, to help fight her enemies.
Despite its minor missteps, “Echo” proves Marvel is ready to open its world to a more diverse cast of characters and storylines.
The series provides a satisfying finish and hopefully marks the first of many outings for Maya and Cox, who are an undeniable presence on screen.
All five episodes of “Echo” are available to stream on Disney+ and Hulu now.