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Review: Alaqua Cox Delivers Another Beautifully Nuanced and Intense Performance as Maya Lopez in ‘Echo’

Review: Alaqua Cox Delivers Another Beautifully Nuanced and Intense Performance as Maya Lopez in ‘Echo’

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Marvel Studios kicks off 2024 with Echo, a five-episode series centered on Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), who made her debut in 2021’s Hawkeye. It’s the first Disney+ that’s TV-MA, a promising rating for fans of Netflix’s Marvel era. Echo is also the first to launch under the Marvel Spotlight banner, which Head of Streaming Brad Winderbaum said focuses on “street-level stakes over larger MCU continuity.”

Maya’s introduction in Hawkeye gave us a glimpse into the villain’s tragic backstory, which has now been expanded by director-executive producer Sydney Freeland (Reservation Dogs), co-director Catriona McKenzie (Chilling Adventures of Sabrina), and head writers Marion Dayre (Better Call Saul) and Amy Rardin (Charmed reboot). 

This review contains some slight spoilers for Hawkeye.

The last time we saw Maya, she had a gun pointed at her “uncle” Wilson Fisk/Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), the man responsible for her father William’s (Zahn McClarnon) death. We hear a shot as the camera pulls up, leaving his fate ambiguous. Although, did anyone really think he died? Considering it was announced he’d be returning for this series and Daredevil: Born Again, it’s no spoiler that Kingpin is indeed alive, sans an eye. 

But Echo doesn’t open exactly where the Hawkeye season finale left off. We start out in Oklahoma’s Choctaw Nation with a young Maya Lopez, brilliantly played again by Darnell Besaw (who happens to be Alaqua Cox’s cousin), along with McClarnon reprising his role as a much happier-looking William. It’s a cozy bonfire-and-shadow-puppets-night, so of course, something awful is just around the corner: the tragic accident that led to William and Maya’s departure to New York.

Since the first episode is tasked with getting the audience caught up with Maya’s story so far, new scenes are intercut with moments from Hawkeye — little Maya asking her dad about dragons, Maya at karate practice (with a visit from “uncle”), grown-up Maya fighting at the gym, and the moment she sees her father killed by Ronin.

While it’s not totally necessary to rewatch Hawkeye to understand what’s going on, I highly recommend doing so anyway (and Daredevil if you want to get super acquainted with the world). It’s a great series on its own, but also her interactions with Clint Barton/Hawkeye/Ronin (Jeremy Renner) and longtime friend/second in command for the Tracksuit Mafia Kazimierz “Kazi” Kazimierczak (Fra Fee) are important to her character. 

Picking up five months after her showdown with Fisk, Maya heads back to her hometown of  Tamaha, Oklahoma, where we meet new characters Chula (Tantoo Cardinal), Maya’s maternal grandmother; Skully (Graham Greene), her kind-hearted pseudo-grandfather; and Bonnie (K. Devery Jacobs, who recently voiced Kahhori in What If…? Season 2), her cousin with whom Maya had a sisterly bond.

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Maya’s real uncle, Henry “Black Crow” Lopez (Chaske Spencer), operates the local skating rink but is also involved in Fisk’s expansive empire. In an interview with BGN, Spencer discussed how Maya’s arrival affects Henry since he had a hand in moving his brother and niece to New York. “It’s something that he’s had to wrestle with. I think when Maya shows up it’s also a time for him to seek forgiveness and to forgive himself.” 

Hawkeye had New York City’s criminal underground juxtaposed with the whimsical holiday season and comedic banter between the energetic Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) and her hero. And while Echo has its own moments of dark humor, including hints of levity from the instantly lovable Cousin Biscuits (Cody Lightning), the series is a stark contrast to other Disney+ fare, which Vincent D’Onofrio accurately described as emotionally and physically violent. 

To say Maya is hardened would be an understatement. A lifetime of grief, exposure to a criminal empire, and the accumulated pain from losing both parents has shaped her into the ruthless warrior she is today. Fisk sees an opportunity to weaponize that pent-up rage and brings a teenage Maya into the business. The first of many intense fight sequences is a wonderfully shot 6-minute-long take, which notably features an appearance from Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox), last seen in She-Hulk: Attorney at Law

The brutal fight scenes are elevated by the sound design that frequently drowns out background noise, putting us into Maya’s unique perspective as someone who’s deaf but also someone beginning an emotional, rage-fueled journey. And with the imposing Kingpin as a mentor/paternal figure, the skilled martial artist is a natural when it comes to violence. 

In Echo, Alaqua Cox delivers another beautifully nuanced performance as Maya Lopez, a culturally rich, badass villain whose perceived disabilities are her superpowers. The grounded, action-packed origin story possesses a deeply authentic quality thanks to the Indigenous creatives in front of and behind the camera, as well as their collaboration with the Choctaw Nation. 

Fans are rightfully excited for the return of Kingpin and Daredevil and their official inclusion in the MCU. But Echo is unmistakably Maya’s story, exploring her Native American roots and how she reconnects with her estranged family as a different person, bringing so much chaos with her. The contrast between her spiritual, kind-hearted biological family and the hardness of her mob family shows that Maya Lopez truly lives in two worlds. 

All five episodes of Echo drop January 9 on Disney+ and Hulu.

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