Why Is Echo Rated TV-MA?

Summary

  • Echo is rated TV-MA due to its content and the protagonist being a villain seeking revenge and personal gain.
  • The fight choreography in Echo is fantastical and not presented as intense like Netflix’s Daredevil.
  • Maya Lopez’s morality in Echo is more nuanced and gray, making her a more complex and relatable hero than traditional comic book characters.


The following contains spoilers for Season 1 of Echo, now streaming on Disney+.

For better or worse, the Marvel Cinematic Universe caters its films and series for an all-ages audience, straddling the line between stories appropriate for children and engaging for adults. When Marvel Television partnered with Netflix, one distinction those series made from the MCU was crafting the shows for adults. When Maya Lopez was introduced in the family-friendly Hawkeye, fans may have expected her solo series to stick to the Marvel Studios playbook. Yet, the reason why Echo is rated TV-MA is because Maya Lopez’s solo story isn’t for kids.

In the opening moments of Echo, there is some implied nudity in the scene depicting the Choctaw Nation’s creation myth. The original Choctaw people, who crawled through a cave to their new world are covered in an Earthy skin. When they transition to looking more human, it comes complete with clothing. While Netflix series like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage included not-safe-for-primetime sex scenes, their TV-MA rating made sense. American audiences are a lot less comfortable with depictions of sex than violence. However, there isn’t any romance or nudity, involved in Echo. Instead, Echo earns its TV-MA rating for two specific reasons: the bloody, mortal violence and the fact that Maya Lopez is a villain, at least by comic book standards. While nowhere near as evil as popular antiheroes like Tony Soprano or Walter White, Maya’s quest is one of revenge and personal gain.


The Violence In Echo Makes the Most of the TV-MA Rating

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Like Daredevil, who joins Maya in her series for a fight scene, Echo is a show that doesn’t shy away from brutal violence. Unlike Marvel’s first TV-MA series, however, the fight choreography is still fantastical. When facing off with some adversaries, particularly near-nameless henchmen, Maya Lopez is able to dispatch them with a few well-place strikes. There are few brutal, breathless beat-downs like those Daredevil is known for. In fact, in the first episode, Maya Lopez’s first job for Kingpin involves her brutally taking out a group of criminals at a meeting meant to be a parlay between rival organizations.

Midway through the series, Maya’s war against her surrogate “Uncle” brings the full weight of Kingpin’s forces down on her. A character named Vicky betrays Maya and her Uncle Henry, for whom he worked for years. He does this to get a payday from Kingpin’s thugs. Instead, he’s beaten brutally and dies choking on his own blood, as it pours down his face. It’s likely the bloodiest scene Marvel Studios ever produced, and rivals the blood-soaked final battle between Daredevil and Kingpin in the Netflix series’ final season.

Of course, Echo‘s TV-MA rating isn’t just limited to the violence seen on-screen. There is a lot of death, with much of it coming at the hands of the series’ protagonist. Her first major salvo against her “Uncle” — not counting when she shot him in the eye — comes via an explosive hidden in a train car. An entire warehouse full of workers — some of whom may not even have realized they worked for criminals — is destroyed in the explosion. Death is dealt equally from the heroes and the villains in this story. Most superheroes earn their titles by adhering to strict rules against murdering their enemies. Maya Lopez is super, and she may even be a hero. But her world is harsh and violent, meaning death is always an option.

How Maya Lopez Is a Different Kind of Marvel ‘Hero’

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From a big-picture perspective, Maya Lopez’s origin story is one fans of comic books are familiar with. Her mother is murdered after nameless enemies of her father cut the brakeline on the car, causing the accident in which she lost her right leg. As audiences saw in Hawkeye, her father is murdered when Kingpin sold out the Tracksuit Mafia to Ronin, during his war on crime before The Blip was undone. When she learns it’s the man she calls “Uncle” who was responsible for her father’s death, she serves him some hollow-point justice.

Even when she thought she killed him, her desire wasn’t to reunite with her surviving family or start living a life of heroics. Rather, she wanted to continue to take down Kingpin’s organization. There was a bounty on her life, so she couldn’t hide anyway. Instead of trying to simply find somewhere safe to survive, she tells her biological uncle that she wants to take control of what’s left of Kingpin’s organization when she’s done. She’s not Frank Castle, waging a war on criminals in the name of revenge alone. She wants to sit on the throne and call the shots, complete with targets.

Critics of superhero stories often point to the “childish” sense of morality. Fantastical is a more accurate descriptor, but either way, it suggests there is always a “better” way to combat evil than simply killing. What makes Echo Marvel Studios’ first truly “Prestige TV” drama is that Maya’s morality is more nuanced and grayer than comic book heroes usually get to be. This series is rated TV-MA not just because of the violence itself, but how the show’s hero applies it. Maya Lopez is someone adults can root for, since most of her victims are worse people than her.

Echo Is TV-MA Because It’s a Mature Show In Every Sense of the Word

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One of the greatest things about this show is Echo‘s partnership with the Choctaw Nation. While What If…? Season 2 gave indigenous kids a hero in Kahhori, it’s a fantasy that doesn’t accurately depict the true horrors of colonialism. While Echo doesn’t dive too deeply into that particular history either, the history it shows — from myth to more reality-based history such as the Lighthorsemen — is authentic and powerful. Even though some members of Maya Lopez’s community are law-abiding citizens and others are deep into criminality, they remain a community almost without judgment.

Maya’s grandmother blames her father for the death of her mother, leading to Maya’s estrangement. The story Echo tells is not one in black and white, but rather highlights the kind of no-win struggle some communities face. While Maya shares some traits with Tony Soprano or Walter White, the larger community story is more akin to The Wire. Forget a system that simply “doesn’t work,” there is no “system” in place the Choctaw family in the series can turn to. Maya’s story finds her trying to navigate a world she had no part in creating or even choosing to inhabit.

The people who were supposed to care for her and guide her failed her, in one way or another. Kingpin is the true architect of her misery, and this is what makes him her prime target. But instead of trying to take him down so that he doesn’t do this to another family or community, she just wants to replace him. Perhaps she thinks her reign atop the criminal enterprise will be kinder, more compassionate, but it certainly wouldn’t be gentler. By connecting Maya directly to her ancestors, the final episode changes her original goal. She’s not a hero, not yet, but she may no longer be a villain.

Maya Lopez’s story is rated TV-MA for all the reasons shows get this rating, specifically death and violence. However, since that means it is for “mature audiences” only, it has allowed the storytellers to tell a mature story. There is no easy answer or solution that can be derived from donning a costume and fighting the “good” fight. To Maya, there are no good fights, just fights. And Maya Lopez fights to win, no matter the cost. She’s not willing to sacrifice her family for her goals, but she was also not too concerned about putting them — especially her cousin Biscuits or Uncle Henry — at mortal risk to achieve her aims. It’s the kind of story only Marvel Studios could tell, complete with a mysterious superpower.

All five episodes of Echo are now streaming on Disney+.

Alaqua Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio on the Echo Promo

Echo

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.

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