One of the positives MCU has managed to carve out even amidst the dismal streak since the end of Infinity Saga, was their priority to share stories that represent people from marginalized communities. As a medium, comic-book literature has always prided itself on being the vessel that carries the experiences of different voices across the world, and through projects like Moon Knight and the Black Panther movies, MCU has managed to somewhat honor that pride. As the first MCU project of this year, Disney/Hulu’s combined venture, the miniseries Echo, centered on the amputee, specially-abled Native American heroine Maya Lopez, had the potential to add another feather to MCU’s proverbial cap and also had the necessary means at its disposal to make for a memorable entry. However, the answer to the question of whether the series was able to justify its potential is not that simple and straightforward.
Produced as the first series of MCU’s ‘Marvel Spotlight’—an exclusive directory of content that promises a more character-driven and practical approach—Echo profits from getting a solitary treatment that safely distances it from MCU’s mind-numbing jam-packed mainstream fare. Adding to that, with seamlessly choreographed action sequences, memorable performances from the supporting cast, and anticipation for the much-awaited appearance of Kingpin and Daredevil (both important characters in Maya’s lore), the series flaunts enough positive signs to stand out amidst the recent tirade of generic superhero content. However, the annoying MCU trend of adding unnecessary flashy elements to solidify the point of cultural representation affects Echo as well, which almost runs the risk of unironically making a mockery of the theme of representation. Aside from the series’ short length, this aspect sticks out like a sore thumb, which mars an otherwise unique MCU venture.
Why Did Maya Return To Her Hometown?
The first episode of Echo, titled Chafa, showcases Maya’s background and contains an extended recap of the character’s first appearance in the Hawkeye miniseries. Born with speech and hearing impairments, Maya shared a strong bond with her mother, Taloa, who shared Maya’s suffering and helped her to express herself through it. Little Maya’s world came crashing down around her after a horrid car accident resulted in the death of her mother and left her an amputee. As Maya’s father’s shady past was responsible for the tragic event, her grandmother Chula decided to banish both him and Maya (?) from their family in Tamaha, Oklahoma, and the father-daughter duo ended up in New York.
In the city of dreams, William found a job in the dreaded Wilson Fisk’s Tracksuit mafia gang, and Maya found an adoptive uncle in Fisk, who offered her protection in his own, diabolical ways. Years later, William gets murdered by the hero-turned-vigilante Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, and a grief-stricken Maya swears vengeance upon him. Fisk used Maya’s pent-up rage to his benefit by assigning her as his enforcer, and Maya proved the usefulness of her combat skills honed through the years by holding her ground against the protector of Hell’s Kitchen, Daredevil. Eventually, Maya will apprehend Clint Barton and learn that it was Fisk who orchestrated William’s murder by tipping off Clint. An enraged Maya shoots Fisk, and the ensuing emotional turmoil forces her to reconnect with her birth family as she decides to return to her hometown of Oklahoma.
Was Maya Able To Reconnect With Her Choctaw Legacy?
Aside from trying to mend the emotional estrangement with her family—especially with her grandmother, Maya’s return to her hometown marks the beginning of a spiritual journey as her connection with her ancestral Choctaw tribe starts to emerge in mystical ways. The origins and legacy of the Choctaw are showcased in flashback scenes at the beginning of each episode, beginning with Chafa, the first of her tribe, who saved her people and founded the tribe, to Lowak, the brave warrior woman who saved the land of her people, and eventually ending with Tuklo, who challenged gender norms and, as the only female member of the Lighthorsemen, became the protector of her community. The Choctaw were healers and protectors—a trait Maya’s mother Taloa had inherited along with some mystical healing powers—and something she wanted to pass on to her daughter.
A grown-up Maya, a major part of whose life has been spent under Fisk, aka Kingpin’s shadow, finds it difficult to connect with her ancestral identity, as a life spent in crime has left her jaded and self-loathing. Flashes of ancestral memories start haunting her, bringing her to the crossroads of conflicting perspectives as her past life and destined responsibilities crash against each other. To add to her misery, it is revealed that Kingpin is alive, and he confronts Maya at her home in hopes of reconciling and bringing her back into his fold. In order to reconnect with her, Fisk shares the sordid tale of his childhood—the fateful day when he killed his abusive father to save his mother’s life. On a side note, the depiction of this event makes Netflix’s Daredevil canon in the MCU, something that fans have wanted to have verified for a long time. Unable to bring herself to hurt Fisk, Maya decides to leave her hometown and reject Fisk’s proposal to join his criminal empire as well.
An enraged Fisk abducts Maya’s family during Choctaw nation Powwow, forcing her to return to her hometown once again to coerce her into taking up the murderous trade once again. Before confronting Fisk for the final time, Maya sees a vision of her mother, who helps her channel her inner grief and rage through positive influence, which finally allows her to accept her place amidst the Choctaw. In a flashback sequence of Maya’s childhood memory, the connection the Choctaw shared with the sapsucker Biskinik is explored through a conversation between Maya and her mother, which further emphasizes the tribe’s prime responsibility as life-givers and healers.
Shrugging off her self-doubt and inner conflict, Maya finds acceptance in her own self, and the powers of her legendary Choctaw ancestors get bestowed upon her, which she utilizes to thwart Kingpin’s plans and rescue her family. Maya helps Fisk heal from his traumatic past memory as well, and the dreaded Kingpin eventually retreats before getting apprehended by the authorities. As the season ends, it is revealed that Maya has reconciled with her family and is ready to start things off on a new page, while Fisk has already started conspiring to become New York’s mayor.
Echo‘s ending sets up the upcoming Daredevil: Born Again series, or, should we say, the fourth season of Netflix’s Daredevil, but also connects a number of links in the process. Kingpin is supposedly going to become the Thanos-level prime adversary against the street-level characters, which means not only Daredevil but New York-based heroes like Spider-Man and Kate Bishop will face the Big Willy sooner or later. With Punisher confirmed to be returning to partner up with Daredevil, there is a strong possibility that most of the neighborhood vigilantes are going to form a team like The Defenders to tackle the threat. After all, as if brute strength, cunning, and absolute control over the underworld weren’t enough, Kingpin’s political aspirations will help him legitimize his nefarious machinations as well, something that will undoubtedly spell doom for the do-gooders.