This article contains spoilers for Echo episodes 1, 2, and 3.
The best fight scenes invite combatants to use their environment in novel, creative ways. In other words: if a fight gives you lemons, make lemonade. In the case of the skate rink brawl in episode 3 of Marvel series Echo: if a fight gives you an arcade game shooter, tear off its plastic guns and use the connecting cables as freaking WHIPS.
Indeed that’s exactly what our antihero Maya Lopez a.k.a. Echo (Alaqua Cox) does to some Kingpin goons in the thrilling third episode of Echo. It turns out that the moment developed as organically behind the scenes as it did in the midst of Maya’s rumble.
“I had an idea and [that moment] just came together so beautifully,” episode 3 director Catriona McKenzie tells Den of Geek. “Here’s a native woman who is interfacing with a shoot-em-up Western game.”
McKenzie, an Indigenous Australian raised in Sydney, is the kind of director who likes to “blow shit up,” having previously worked on The Walking Dead and the upcoming fourth season of The Boys. She compares the improvisation and collaboration necessary to bring a script to life with her twin passions of beekeeping and “restomodding” ’50s and ’60s cars. As such, she was a shrewd choice to helm one of Echo‘s most impactful installments.
“Episode 3 was a bit of a bottle episode so I did have a lot of autonomy,” she says. “Being able to bring all those resources to bear is just so awesome. No one said ‘no.’ No one said ‘stop, you’re crazy.’ So we just kept going.”
Indeed, episode 3 serves as a sort of midpoint climax for Echo‘s 5-episode first season. Through the first two episodes, viewers have seen the titular Marvel hero accomplish some impressive feats, including going toe-to-toe with Daredevil and jumping off of a moving train, but it’s not until the donnybrook at her uncle Henry’s classic Oklahoma roller rink Black Crow’s Skatelife, that we really get a sense of her full abilities.
For McKenzie, getting the location right for the fight was an all important first step.
“[The roller rink] had been bought as a key location by production. There were no sets,” McKenzie says. “There was some structural stuff we had to shore up in the space. It’s an actual skate rink in Georgia. We demolished part of it and had to make sure it was engineered to not fall down.”
Once the location was in place, the beekeeping director was able to tweak it to her liking, which included lighting the whole set (something she picked up from Ridley Scott when observing him film Alien: Covenant in Sydney), finding a use for those plastic gun nunchucks, and identifying the rink’s “Make America Skate Again” mural as something Maya Lopez could literally crash through.
None of it, however, would work without a star willing, able, and eager to get creative. According to McKenzie, Cox trained for months leading up to the filming of the roller rink clash, which took roughly a week to film. The actress, who like her character wears a prosthetic leg, tackled as much of the fight as possible (including my own beloved gun nunchaku moment) while ceding the rest to her stunt double.
“One of the very first things I did when I got down to Georgia is watch [Cox] train. She’s so athletic and she just got better and better. We would design stunts that were easier for her to do but I was so proud of her. She was awesome.”
After a stream of lukewarmly received television titles on Disney+, Marvel is trying something a little new with Echo. Existing only tenuously within the Marvel Cinematic Universe under the new “Marvel Spotlight” banner, Echo is designed to harken back to the more physical, less CGI-heavy days of Daredevil yore.
If episode 3’s highly kinetic roller rink ruction is any indication, more physicality might be the right route to take.
All five episodes of Marvel’s Echo are available to stream on Disney+ now.