But for me, it’s the links between Maya’s evolution as a character and her Choctaw ancestors that contain the richest story elements. For example, the first episode begins with the mythological story of the first Choctaw people, which serves as both a lesson in their history and table setting for Maya’s place among them.
The second episode starts with a thrilling flashback to an intense game of stickball, or Ishtaboli. As the Choctaw Nation explains on their official website, this sport was used as “a method of mediating social relations, village conflicts and tensions between tribal members as well as other towns or districts” and “a competitive contest within a tribe to keep warriors in shape for warfare, sharpen the defensive skills of the tribe and hone hand-eye coordination for successful hunting.” In “Echo” it serves as part of the origin story for the manifestation of both a new ability that Maya had not yet encountered and the legacy of her family.
In the third episode, we open with an entirely different kind of narrative framework. A vintage western plays out in the style of a silent film, following a young Choctaw girl who aspires to be a warrior like the men in her tribe. But again, the history of the Choctaw people and the strength of female warriors among them is a key element of this story. There’s an ambitious blend of different genres that provide a gateway into Maya’s story and the woman she’s still struggling to find within her.
So while the overall approach of “Echo” might seem familiar as a crime thriller, and it may not feel like a necessary story in the overall MCU arc, it’s the presence of this authentic culture, dynamic supporting characters, and a unique lead that offers a distinctive perspective, not unlike how “Black Panther” injected new life into Marvel’s movies with its African roots. Though there are stumbles in the show’s pacing, and it’s clear that budgetary restrictions kept the series from elevating the action sequences a bit more, Marvel has made a secondary villain’s story more engaging than I had anticipated. Here’s hoping the last two episodes can bring it home.
/Film Review: 7.5 out of 10
All episodes of “Echo” are available to stream on Disney+ right now.