- Echo is set to bring the TV-MA rating back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a big way.
- With violent battles and cameos from Daredevil and the Kingpin, there’s already a high standard that the series is being put at.
- Fans have had a roller coaster of quality with the recent MCU outings and Echo has all the tools, including new ones never seen, to stand out from the rest.
The Echo series premiere is blazing a new trail for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s Marvel Studios’ first TV-MA-rated Disney+ show, the first Marvel Spotlight series, and the first MCU TV show to release all of its episodes in a single batch. But above all else, Echo is an experiment in trying to prove that Marvel Studios can create successful content that fits inside the sprawling MCU while still standing on its own.
Echo must succeed in ways that many MCU projects have not. After Marvel’s lackluster 2023 at the box office and uneven results in streaming, the studio is in need of a win. Echo will tread a lot of fresh ground with more adult content and better representation since its titular protagonist is a Native American woman with two physical disabilities. With that in mind, Echo is going to need to hit the right notes to not only succeed as a series but to hit its mark for the MCU.
Echo Aims to Tell a Strong, Self-Contained MCU Story
The cast and crew of Echo reveal a bit more about its titular lead’s past, connection to Wilson Fisk, and the nuance surrounding her morality.
Echo will serve as the origin story for Maya Lopez — a skilled fighter and former leader of the Tracksuit Mafia. Maya previously appeared in the Hawkeye TV series, where she began her evolution from criminal to hero after some help from Clint Barton. Several Hawkeye characters will have supporting roles in Echo, but none will be as important as Wilson Fisk, AKA Kingpin. Marvel’s most infamous crime boss is the series’ Big Bad, manipulating Maya throughout her life. There will be another appearance by Matt Murdock / Daredevil… meaning that Echo is knee-deep in MCU connections.
Those connections will be tricky if the studio is going to use the Marvel Spotlight banner to tell self-contained stories. Daredevil made the jump from his solo Netflix series to the MCU with She-Hulk: Attorney at Law and a cameo in Spider-Man: No Way Home. Echo offers a relatively clean slate for both him and Kingpin to establish themselves firmly in the MCU. But Echo isn’t a series about Daredevil and Kingpin; it’s about Maya Lopez. She will need to remain front and center throughout.
The MCU has pumped out more than 40 interconnected projects since 2008 — an impressive feat but also a hurdle to overcome with new audiences. The Marvel Spotlight banner was created for projects that are more grounded and character-driven. Its purpose is to feature stories that don’t require previous viewing to be understood and enjoyed. Echo not only needs to make Maya the driving force in her story, but it also has to educate the audience on other key characters without them going back to Netflix or the greater MCU.
Echo Will Make Marvel TV Darker Than Ever Before
Echo director Sydney Freeland teases how the upcoming MCU series will live up to its TV-MA rating and show why Maya Lopez is truly the villain.
The MCU has never shied away from violence. Echo’s TV-MA rating is heavily featured in the series’ latest trailer; it’s essentially a marketing point. But to truly make the rating and attention that goes with it worthwhile, violence for violence’s sake won’t be enough. Echo has to take its action to a place the MCU hasn’t ventured yet.
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist set a new standard for violence in Marvel projects when they debuted on Netflix. Daredevil was nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Stunt Ensemble in a Television Series during each of its three seasons. In Daredevil, bad guys often took the kind of beating that left audiences wondering if they’d get up — and that’s the expectation that comes with Echo’s Mature Audiences Only warning. It can’t be another MCU project in which the villains are felled after a punch or two.
There are plenty of skilled hand-to-hand fighters on Marvel’s roster, from Shang-Chi to Natasha Romanoff, but Maya Lopez will have to top them all. Echo is only five episodes long — therefore packing all of its action and story into just a handful of hours. And unlike her comic book counterpart, who possesses photographic reflexes, the MCU’s Maya lacks any superpowers or special abilities. No green screen magic in the final act is going to save the series if the punches don’t look painful and the gunshots don’t find their mark. If Echo can’t make death feel like a real possibility every time Maya clenches her fist, the TV-MA rating will seem unjustified and audiences will be let down.
No Superpowers, No Problem for Maya Lopez
Starring in the upcoming MCU series, Echo, Maya Lopez could become an influential character, especially if she regains her greatest weapon.
The list of MCU heroes not aided by superpowers, special abilities or advanced tech is pretty short, and Maya met roughly half of those characters during her introduction in Hawkeye. Yelena Belova, as a former Black Widow, may seem like she has powers, but like her predecessor Romanoff, Belova is more than competent in a fight without any unique abilities or tools. The Hawkeyes — Clint Barton and Kate Bishop — are even more similar to Maya. They’re masters of hand-to-hand combat and pretty handy with a bow and arrow, and in a world of armored heroes, super-soldiers and more than a few extraterrestrials, they’re pretty underpowered.
Not only does Maya lack the enhanced abilities and fun toys that so many of her predecessors possess, but she also has two separate physical disabilities. She’s not the first deaf character to appear in the MCU — that distinction belongs to Makkari from Eternals — but Echo will highlight that aspect of her character. Throughout Hawkeye, Lopez communicated via a combination of American Sign Language (ASL) and lip-reading. There will likely be a few times in Echo when her inability to hear what’s going on around her presents itself as a disadvantage.
Maya also has a prosthetic leg. From what audiences have seen so far, it’s more of a help than a hindrance in fights — presenting as a built-in weapon and a pain-free limb capable of blocking enemy attacks. Echo must walk a fine line when it comes to portraying Lopez’s physical disabilities. The show would be wise to follow the path already started by Hawkeye, acknowledge a character’s disabilities and respect them, but don’t let them overshadow that character. Showing heroes with disabilities thriving in the face of added challenges is key, but for millions of people, those disabilities are part of everyday life. As such, the series must highlight Maya’s potential advantages and disadvantages in equal measure.
Echo Can Further Native American Culture in the MCU
What If…? actress Devery Jacobs denies fan theories about the connection between Kahhori and her Echo character Bonnie.
Echo will prominently feature Lopez’s heritage as a member of the Choctaw Native American people. A good portion of Echo is expected to take place in Oklahoma when Lopez leaves New York City and returns to her hometown. Series producer and director Sydney Freeland spoke at the premiere event and emphasized the importance of the Choctaw culture to the show, saying that, “One of the things we’re most excited about is being able to portray the Choctaw culture hopefully in an authentic and exciting way.”
It will be the second time that the MCU has explored a character with Native roots. The Disney+ series What If…? introduced Kahhori, a Mohawk woman who harnessed the power of the Space Stone. The character’s debut episode was voiced in entirely native tongues: the Mohawk language Kanien’kéh and Spanish. Devery Jacobs provided Kahhori’s voice and will make her live-action MCU debut in Echo, portraying a character named Bonnie. The response to What If…? Kahhori Reshaped the World has been positive. The authentic portrayal of the Mohawk people along with the use of the Mohawk language, provided a new layer of depth to the MCU that Echo will look to build upon with its focus on the Choctaw Nation.
Cultural exploration, a darker tone, a main character with multiple physical disabilities and a series looking to find a place in the MCU while standing on its own — Echo has a lot of expectations to meet. Navigating each topic with dexterity and grace will be a challenge, but if anyone can deliver, it’s Maya Lopez. If Echo tells a good story that hits all the right notes, it will be a massive step forward for Marvel.
Maya Lopez must face her past, reconnect with her Native American roots and embrace the meaning of family and community if she ever hopes to move forward.
- Release Date
- January 10, 2024
- Marion Dayre
- Alaqua Cox , Zahn McClarnon , Vincent D’Onofrio
- Main Genre
- Superhero , Action
- Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Streaming Service(s)
- Disney+ , Hulu
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