Thursday, January 25, 2024

Echoes of the Future

The reason for the title is that I'm hoping this show will lead the way to characterization and story taking point in projects over continuity and spectacle. Those are the core of every good comic book run. Hey, I can dream!

How about that Echo show? Only five episodes but it packed in a boatload! Cultural history, an outstandingly portrayed character who went through personal and power based transitional arcs, a fun, well detailed and relatable supporting cast, and an excellently developed villain.

It is extremely rare these days to see a "mature" story, that uses that label to tell a mature story, rather than one that only ratchets up the violence, or follows the Eighties path of "boobs."
(Come to think of it, Maya was never sexualized. No skimpy skin tight superhero costume, no "destressing" in the shower scene, no sleeping in her underwear for no reason. Considering the usual mindset of those that run film and TV studios, the frequent fanboy target audience of most superhero stuff, and she is very attractive, Its nice to see them be classy enough to avoid that route.)
[I couldn't figure out how to put in that "attractive" part without sounding creepy...and I still don't think I pulled it off. However, I wanted to highlight the sleazy choice could have been made but wasn't. I'll stop now, I think its getting worse.]

There was a bit of language use, the combat was a bit more brutal than in other Disney + shows, and the inevitable "Wilson Fisk beats someone brutally" scene was on camera. Aside from that it was mostly all about the themes.

Echo's powers started as Taskmaster clones (which the MCU has) and went gone through a wild, weird and Phoenix Force laden path in the comics. This is one instance where the I applaud the MCU decision to ignore almost all of her powers, and transition in the comics, both for Maya's introduction in Hawkeye and her growth, changes and development in her own series. 

Marvel has ALWAYS been about reformed bad guys. Sometimes it feels like half the Avengers were former villains, going back to "Cap's Kooky Quartet" in issue 16 in 1965. Having Maya accomplish this via reconnecting with her family and culture made the change feel earned and permanent.

Maya was a key part of the Hawkeye series. While her back story was given, Echo showed that a character can be reinvented with far more depth but without contradicting what went before, or drastically altering who the character is at the core. 

There is a lot that needs to be established and Echo actually rewards maturity and patience early on. Each episode is both shorter, and faster paced than the previous one. Those that take in the character development and world building at the start of the miniseries are rewarded with more meaning and emotion in the action filled and tense confrontations scenes it builds to later on.   

Outside of Maya's growth and development, another mature aspect was how the show reviewed the effect the loss of Maya's mother had on the family, and how that tragedy reshaped every relationship. Maya's grandparents and cousins were kind, wise and fun people. They were also deeply shattered by the loss of their child and aunt, and the perceived betrayal of Maya following her father, who was already seen as the reason Maya's mother was taken from them, into a life a crime. Her reconnection with them confirmed her alliance with their more altruistic world view, rather than that of the Tracksuit Mafia/ Kingpin henchman side of her family. 

Healing was shown as a process of going back to family and friends, which can also involve reconnecting with one's culture. In Marvel, where all mythologies are true, this is important because super powers frequently come from that cultural connection. Given how Hollywood and comics have treated Native Americans in the past, it was cool to see the Choctaw Nation being consulted and listened to about their history and legends, to weave them into the Marvel narrative. 

The subtitles used for signing, but not when people were speaking to Maya, allowed the audience to really follow the story from her point of view. An element of realism within the superpowers was provided in having those who were less used to signing to perform it much more hesitantly. This is an example of the excellent storytelling of the show. In scenes of complete silence, or languages without subtitles, there is never any doubt as to what is going on. Both the narrative and emotions are obvious.

Kingpin was showcased as terrifying in multiple ways. Not only as a physical threat, but also as a master of emotional manipulation, information processing, and general cunning. He will provide a viable threat to larger groups and "higher tier" heroes in upcoming shows and films. Yet he still clearly had weaknesses of his own, both mental and emotional, which Echo was able to exploit.

A cool story, threatening villain, and great supporting cast would not be everything needed, however. Without the right lead, the whole thing would have fallen apart. Luckily, they found Alaqua Cox to originate the role in Hawkeye and continue in it to lead this series. Maya needed to be believable as a fear inducing leader of a criminal gang, yet also as someone who is inherently a good person. Her bonds with family needed to feel real enough to change her life, but her connections with her criminal past had to feel strong and tempting enough to maintain the suspense of the show. Plus she needed to convey intelligence, a huge range of emotion, and the physical prowess to be a hand to hand combatant that could hold her own with the likes of DaredevilAlaqua Cox did all of this and more, truly leading this series throughout the story line.

Final thought- I'm hoping the show gets another season, and not only because it was really well done with an excellent lead, I want to see more of Maya's cousin Biscuits, which won't happen if the main character is only used in other shows and movies. I guess I'm always a fan of when the goofy but good hearted guy turns out to be useful in the grand scheme of things.

Post Final Fun Fact- When Skully is putting on his "Tonto speak" bit to boteh ridicule and sell stuff to the clueless tourist couple, one thing he says is, "Many moon come Choctaw." That is a reference to one of the first, if not the first George Carlin routines I ever heard, before hearing any recordings of Mr. Carlin. My parents, awesome as always, told me his Indian Sargent bit, that he used to do on daytime talk shows and released on Take Offs and Put Ons before finding his true voice.

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