We all know something has gone a bit wrong in the MCU. Phases 1 to 4, up to and including the double-whammy of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, were a great ride. However, there were still some troubling signs. Captain Marvel, for instance, felt unnecessary, thrown together, and like it only existed to give the character a way in to Endgame. Since then, it’s had a fair few stinkers. It was in this context that I sat down to watch Echo.
From Falcon And The Winter Soldier, through The Eternals, She-Hulk, Secret Invasion, and The Marvels, it is like all the zip and vigor has drained out of the MCU. There have been a few bright spots, like Hawkeye.
So, therefore, my expectations were pretty low. Maybe it was coming from this low place to start with, maybe it is because we have been conditioned to no longer associate quality with the Marvel ident, but I was surprised. I didn’t hate it. I enjoyed it. I would even go as far as to say it felt interesting and different within the MCU.
Much has been made about this being the first of the new Marvel Spotlight events, and the first TV-MA-rated show since Marvel TV was brought into Marvel Studios. It earns that rating pretty early on, and then keeps earning it.
The first ten minutes are pretty heartbreaking, setting a very young Echo off on her journey. The little kid playing young Echo is an incredible likeness of the main access. She’s also pretty good. None of the kids in the early scenes are annoying, which is a gift these days where child actors are concerned.
Likewise, Zahn McLarnan is good in his few scenes as her father. The Tracksuit Mafia are also introduced, along with the most important return for the show. It’s always great to see Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin. Here, it seems to match the darker, more mature mood as his character is more like the chilling villain we remember from Netflix’s Daredevil.
There is a nice little scene early on when he arrives at a crime scene, a policeman attempts to stop him before another cop hurriedly ushers his colleague away, whispering “Do you know who that is?”, instantly re-cementing his place as somebody of power and influence.
There is a pretty violent early scene where we get a glimpse of what appears to be Hawkeye in his vengeful Ronin guise. Also, Daredevil (Charlie Cox) turns up pretty early on, wearing a proper Daredevil costume and doing proper Daredevil stuff, as opposed to his neutered presence in She-Hulk.
From the moment a man is shot through the chin, into his head, complete with blood splatters, it is clear this is not your usual MCU and, as I said, that is refreshing. There are also a couple of nice moments, one involving a motorcycle showroom, where Echo’s deafness is portrayed well on screen and the sound, or lack of it, is used to great effect.
Potential comic relief is introduced, and even he isn’t insufferable. There is a nice montage of Echo doing some dirty work for the Kingpin that places her well within what we say in Hawkeye and also the wider MCU.
We do eventually also have it confirmed that the glimpse we saw earlier is Ronin, and Renner turns up in a brief cameo.
Is it perfect? Definitely not. There is still the usual, unwelcome trope of a light woman beating the shit out of guys twice her size. Also, while it has been quite a few years since I did any sign language, there is also plenty of that Hollywood thing where the merest hand wave and slightest twitch seem to portray whole sentences.
Overall, though, it’s definitely got a different mood and a darker vibe than anything else Marvel have done on the small screen since the original Daredevil show. It doesn’t hurt it at all. In fact, it leaves you wanting to see a bit more of this from Marvel.
The MCU had some pretty big themes and emotional beats buried under the fluffiness. Things like Cap’s journey to his natural ending, Thor’s sense of loss, and so on. Here that stuff is more front and center.
It has been 16 years since Iron Man made its debut on the big screen. A fourteen-year-old kid watching that could conceivable have a family, a career, and a mortgage by now. A thirty-year-old who saw that is now starting retirement planning in earnest. The MCU audience has grown up. Through things like Echo and the upcoming, completely re-tooled Daredevil: Born Again, is the MCU finally going to grow up a little bit with them?
There are signs, and Echo, based on this first episode, could be one of them. I am now very hard to please when it comes to the MCU and recent abject disappointment. This left me moderately pleased, and a tiny but hopeful.
Of course, this is just episode one. The series has plenty of time left to shit the bed. Who knows, many Outposters may already be a few episodes ahead of me and bring me bad news in the Disqus below?
But, based on what I saw in episode one, I will be watching episode 2 soon. I would watch much more of this over even a millisecond more She-Hulk, that is for sure.
All episodes of Echo are now available to stream on Disney+.
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