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Marvel's Echo Review

I can't say why, but of late I feel like I'm swimming against the tide when it comes to my viewing opinions. Maybe I'm getting older and less critical? Maybe I'm just trying find the positive in everything? Maybe I'm being contrarian without intending to? Whatever the reason, despite the negative reviews that seem to be plaguing Marvel's latest entries, I enjoyed Echo on Disney+.

By no means am I saying this is the greatest show I have ever seen, but I sat through five episode thoroughly entertained. In fact, my biggest gripe was the required subtitles. I can't be certain whether the streaming was poor or my internet connection just sucked while I binged, but a lot of times the subtitles skipped or were delayed compared to the sign language or Choctaw that was being communicated. I would love to appear highfalutin, but my American Sign Language skills are incredibly limited and I don't speak any Native American languages.

Let's start with the character, Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo. She was created by David W. Mack and Joe Quesada. Both are well known, fantastic comic artists and writers. I am not familiar with the comic book version, but I did research the differences, which are many. The creative team behind the streaming version felt the comic book characters ability to mimic (echo) her adversaries movements would not translate well to television. Instead, for the show, she's highly trained and incredibly skilled in hand-to-hand combat. In the comics, she is of Cheyenne and Latin American descent. In the series she is from the Choctaw Nation. And perhaps the biggest plot point, in the comics her mother left the family of her own free will. This does not happen that way in the series.

As for the show itself, there was a lot of Native American culture showcased in this series. I was thrilled to learn that Marvel teamed up with the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma to showcase the authenticity of their culture. Once again, I plead ignorance, or rather I am not well versed in their history, beliefs, and legends. So, much like Black Panther and Shang-Chi and the Legends of the Ten Rings, I was thrilled to see an unfamiliar culture, both ancient and modern, come alive on screen. I loved the legends they portrayed and how that passed on through the ages.

I would also like to add, that the representation of the hard of hearing community was fantastic. The use of American Sign Language was authentic and realistic. As I've stated before, my daughter is hard of hearing, so it means the world to me and more so to her, to see characters representing her disabilities onscreen, and not used to a disadvantage. Not being able to hear is Maya's normal and to see her thrive, adapt, and utilize her community without prejudice was awesome. In fact the one huge jerk that didn't have the patience for Maya found out the hard way via Kingpin.

With Echo, each episode opens with a spotlight that showcase a story or legend of the Choctaw people. Since these were not prefaced at all, I found them somewhat confusing at first, but as I watched and let the scenery develop, I came to understand I was watching the beginnings of the Choctaw people, specifically the powerful women that are directly related to Maya. It was fascinating and would pay off greatly as the show developed.

Over the course of the five episodes, we are re-introduced to Maya Lopez, played by Alaqua Cox (Hawkeye) through a series of flashbacks from her previous appearances on Hawkeye as well as new footage showcasing her early life in Tamaha, Oklahoma. Her dad, William, is once again played by Zahn McClarnon (Reservation Dogs, Westworld). Along with a young Maya (Darnell Besaw - Hawkeye), we meet her cousin Bonnie (Wren Zhawenim Gotts - Reservation Dogs, American Gods), her mom Taloa (Katarina Ziervogel - Finality of Dusk), and her grandparents Chula (Tantoo Cardinal - Killers of the Flower Moon, Dances with Wolves) and Skully (Graham Greene).

I'd like to pause here and give a huge shoutout to Graham Greene. He is such a versatile actor with an amazing ability to flip back and forth between drama and comedy with ease. He always adds a sense of gravitas when he's on screen and I enjoy seeing him every time. I won't recite his entire filmography, but if you haven't, you need to see some of his best projects like Dances with Wolves, Thunderheart, Maverick, Die Hard with a Vengeance, The Green Mile, American Gods, The Last of Us, and Reservation Dogs to name a few. His turn in Echo is no different, a must watch every time he's on screen.

Over the course of the five episodes, we learn how Maya lost her mom, her leg, and how she was forced out of Oklahoma due her grandmother's vengeance towards her father William. We also learn Maya's mom did not die in a simple car accident. Someone cut her brakes in order to get to William. He leaves Oklahoma with his daughter and heads to New York City, which is where we know the crime story a little better. Flash forward to the events after Hawkeye, Maya has learned of her father's murderer and taken action against the man, the one and only Kingpin.

She's heads home to Oklahoma to ostensibly get away, while also ending Kingpin's influence in her life and community. She makes every effort to slip into town on the sly, but is quickly discovered by her easily influenced cousin Biscuits (Cody Lightning - Smoke Signals, Brick) and her uncle, Henry Black Crow Lopez (Chaske Spencer - The Twilight Saga, Sneaky Pete). She enlists them both to help her, but only Biscuits agrees at first. Once violence starts however, Henry relents. But that comes later.

Enter the Tracksuit Mafia to take vengeance for the big man. Despite their history of violence, it is always hard to take these guys serious. The name alone makes them a joke. Regardless, head Tracksuiter, Zane (Andrew Howard - The Hangover Part II, Watchmen) offers a good level of menace as his out of place crew visits Oklahoma. Due to an offered reward, they track down Maya and thus threaten her and everyone connected to her.

As turmoil comes to a head and it looks like the end for Maya, Bonnie, and Henry, Zane and his crew unexpectedly back off. Henry quickly deduces why. Kingpin is the only man with the power to stop them. Which is when we find that Kingpin survived Maya's assassination attempt. Surprisingly, we find that Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio - Full Metal Jacket, Adventures in Babysitting) wants to bring Maya back into the fold, not punish her for trying to kill him. Obviously this takes Maya by surprise as she fully expects the worst case scenario.

Forced with the difficult decision of caving to Kingpin's threats if she does not rejoin his "family," or continuing to thwart his empire, Maya digs deep and finally discovers her heritage. I fully recognize that this might seem like a cop out or cheesy, but I enjoyed Maya's discovery of her connection to the ancient Choctaw and that she has a special link that "echoes" through the ages. There's a particularly touching scene where Maya utilizes this echo and we see all the powerful woman from the pre-episode spotlights and flashbacks flanking her in support. Adding to the gravitas, Maya dons the authentic Choctaw outfit her grandmother made for her that tells the history of her lineage with every stitch.

I don't want to get into too many specifics and potentially offer up spoilers, but let's leave it at Kingpin leaves Oklahoma on his private jet and the Tracksuit Mafia is defeated. The small town of Tamaha and Maya's family seem safe for the moment. Do yourself a favor and make sure you watch the after credit scene. It sets up Kingpin's potential future, that directly correlates to a fantastic comic book storyline. I cannot wait to see this play out.

As I've said before, I am thrilled to see these street level heroes and villains once again take the forefront of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Prior to watching this, I re-watched Hawkeye and was reminded of how good that was. Echo further adds to that story, and despite several reports of rewrites and reshoots, the final product was very satisfying. With the next Daredevil series being pushed back and reworked, I was very happy to have this installment of comic book stories to get me through. I highly recommend a watch, not because it's the best thing I've ever seen, but because the newest model of movies and shows from Marvel remind of comic books themselves. Sure, not every story is award winning, but for the most part all of them are entertaining and offer insight to a world I can't get enough of.

Check out the trailer for Echo:

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