Echo Reveals a New Villain Problem for Marvel and Disney+

Marvel has big plans for Kingpin. So why won’t they tell us about him?

Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil

While Marvel’s cinematic universe scrambles to fill a Kang-shaped void on the big screen, the stars are aligning on the streaming front. Thanks to the new series Echo, the MCU is headed toward a fresh(ish) start. Marvel has launched a new offshoot of its 15-year-old franchise, Spotlight, which is essentially a continuation of the street-level universe introduced in Netflix’s old Marvel shows.

Alaqua Cox’s Maya Lopez (aka Echo) is now one of the Defenders, a group of gritty superheroes who count Daredevil and Luke Cage among their members. The Defenders also share an antagonist in Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin of New York’s criminal underbelly and the latest MCU threat.

With the help of Hawkeye, Echo, and eventually Daredevil: Born Again, Fisk has been positioned as the Thanos of the Spotlight universe. Given his prominence in the comics, and the threat he poses to heroes as varied as Daredevil, Spider-Man, and the X-Men, the comparison is certainly applicable. He even shares a few quirks with the Mad Titan: each is a misguided leader driven by loss and a need to “cleanse” their world. Conceptually, Fisk is the perfect successor to Thanos. But from a storytelling perspective, he might have a bit more in common with a villain from a neighboring franchise.

Thanks to Hawkeye, we know Kingpin and Echo have a history.

Marvel Studios

Fisk might be new to the MCU, but he’s certainly familiar to fans of the Defenders. Vincent D’Onofrio played Fisk in all three seasons of Daredevil, which made his cameo in Hawkeye the first sign of life for the previously defunct branch of the franchise. That Kingpin is now transitioning into the MCU proper, making the Netflix shows canon in the process, should be exciting. And if Echo did anything to reinforce Fisk’s importance to the franchise, it certainly would be. Unfortunately, he isn’t given much to do, nor are his goals even defined until Echo’s very last episode.

It doesn’t help that so little of Fisk’s character is hashed out in Echo. The series is building on the foundation of two other Marvel shows, both of which established Fisk as a challenging, compelling villain. But rather than add to his rich background, Echo assumes its audience is familiar with Fisk’s previous appearances. It doesn’t even attempt to introduce the character anew, which could have gone a long way to help casual fans. Instead, it chose to rest on the work previous shows have done. That directly contradicts Echo’s role as a standalone series, and this isn’t the first Disney+ show to make that mistake.

Marvel’s watered-down approach to Kingpin feels a lot like Thrawn’s introduction in Ahsoka.


Star Wars series Ahsoka pulled a similar stunt with Grand Admiral Thrawn, an antagonist who’s played a consistent role in the sci-fi saga’s margins. Thrawn’s first appearance can be traced back to the early ’90s, and he’s popped up in novels, animated series, and comics ever since. Ahsoka marked his long-awaited live-action debut, but the series failed to establish his importance to a new audience.

Lucasfilm clearly has big plans for Thrawn. Like Fisk, he’s been positioned as the next Big Bad of the Star Wars saga, at least on the small screen. There will be more opportunities to elevate each character to the status they deserve, but it’s disappointing to see multiple Disney+ shows struggle to establish such crucial story beats. A disappointing pattern is emerging in series designed to bridge the gaps between TV and film.

Weak characterization isn’t inherently damning, and both Echo and Ahsoka do enough to keep their audiences from feeling alienated. But Disney is entering uncharted territory, and its previous successes won’t be enough to keep things interesting.

Echo is streaming on Disney+ and Hulu.

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