Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Echo Episode Two: Lowak



It is only two episodes into the five-episode run of Echo and already a theme is fast emerging. Each episode will be named after a strong Native American female, though I imagine that none will be as strong as our one-legged, deaf, mute, potentially lesbian Native American. Lowak has an astonishing six "story by" writers and four credited screenwriters. How four to six people could come up with something like Lowak almost makes the case that the studios were right to not want to have large writers' rooms if it was going to be so muddled and poor.

We go to 1200 A.D., where Choctaw warrior princess Lowak (Morningstar Angeline) plays for keeps in the Native American lacrosse. With her people's survival on the line, Lowak must win, which she does. Moving to present day, we see that former hitwoman Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) is still taking refuge in her hometown of Tamaha, Oklahoma to regroup after killing Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin, her former mentor and boss. She plans to take over Kingpin's empire, telling her Uncle Henry (Chaske Spencer) that it is time for a "Queen-Pin". As part of her plan, she opts to place a bomb on a shipping container on its way to New York, getting unwitting help from her idiot cousin Biscuits (Cody Lightning).

It is only through the power of the ancestors that Maya manages to free her prosthetic leg when it gets caught in the train link. Due to the damage to her prosthetic leg, Maya has to go to her grandfather Skully (Graham Greene), who tells her of her distant ancestor Chafa, the first Choctaw and savior of her people. Her grandmother Chula (Tantoo Cardinal) eventually learns that Maya is back, as does Maya's cousin Bonnie (Devery Jacobs), both due to Biscuit's general idiocy. Henry, who works for Fisk, warns Maya that she is playing with fire, but she will not listen. 

I figure that each succeeding Echo episode will connect Maya with another one of her strong, female ancestors. We got that in Chafa, and we get that in Lowak. How exactly this multigeneration contact can take place to where Maya can summon the power of Lowak to free her from the train Echo does not explain. I guess I am just supposed to take it on faith that Native Americans can get superpowers through their heritage, even if they do not know exactly from where these powers come from.

Lowak does feature some curious tropes that are now both cliche and slightly laughable. The ancestor Lowak somehow can take down a group of Native American men physically stronger and bigger than her also apparently due to her connection with her mythical, mystical ancestor. Maya similarly has almost superhuman strength and agility to silently take to a moving train, with poor Biscuits trying hard to keep up in Chula's truck.

Chula just so happened to see Biscuits drive by her in her thoroughly damaged truck. That is so unoriginal that it makes one want to scream. Why not, for example, have Bonnie pop in on Biscuits, see the extensive damage, and text their grandmother photos of what Biscuits did. It might have provided for more interaction between characters and even brought a bit of lightness to Echo, a show that seems to think it must be thoroughly serious to be good.

Lowak also indulges in a bit of comic racism when Skully is attempting to sell Indian tchotchkes to a couple of idiot na hullos (Biscuits' term for Anglos). As Skully works to sell them on  on the importance of the objects by making vague claims of their powers and autheticity, they hear from him what appears to be a Native American chant. It is clear that he is saying "Buy this damn thing" but says it in a cliched Native American sing-song manner that Lowak suggests that anyone with good hearing would be so easily fooled. 

Oddly, it reminds me of a similar scene from of all things, the Whoopi Goldberg/Ted Danson comedy Made in America. A pair of old white women go into Goldberg's Afrocentric gift shop, delighted in the many voodoo dolls and black paraphernalia that they purchase. Made in America was meant as a silly comedy. Echo is meant as a respectful homage to Native American women by making them superheroines. Yes, I know that that scene was meant to be a bit of lightness, but it does not work.

Again, we have a lack of good performances save for Greene and to a lesser extend Cardinal (the face she makes when she sees Biscuits drive away in her all-but-demolished truck is weird). Cox has such a hard face, one that shows no emotion. Lightning, to be fair, was tasked to play an idiot and wimp, so I guess he did well in that role. Jacob's Bonnie gets little to do, and it is a shame. 

What I figure was meant as the exciting section on the train looked second-rate, unexciting and a bit boring. Lowak continues to have the issue of simultaneously speaking and signing. I wish it would commit to one or the other. Oddly, the best scenes in Lowak are the ones not involving Maya. Both when Skully & Biscuits or Chula & Henry are involved, we see glimpses of a better story. The interplay between Biscuits and Bonnie on the other hand, did not work, though to be fair they were over walkie-talkies. 

Lowak again has four screenwriters and six story creators. The question then is, "it took six people to come up with this?". 


Next Episode: Tuklo

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