Echoes is addictive and intricate but wastes its painstakingly planned-out mysteries by forgetting how to write three-dimensional characters you care about or exciting set pieces to enjoy. Unnecessarily confusing and yet hard to ignore. This could be another hit for Netflix.
This review of the Netflix limited series Echoes season 1 does not contain any major spoilers.
Identical twins get a raw deal in the entertainment industry, they’re either the subject of horror movie clichés or a fascinating oddity in comedies and crime thrillers alike. Echoes attempts to exploit this unchanged allure to its own advantage, making an entire series out of the unique premise of identical twins switching identities to avoid punishments. Unfortunately, the show focuses exclusively on its own convoluted mysteries and forgets to provide any emotional connections or stakes to keep audiences engaged. This is a thriller of the trashiest caliber that is sure to confuse and wow in equal amounts.
The show centers on identical twins Gina and Leni (both played by Michelle Monaghan). Gina is a successful writer in LA, who happily lives in a swanky mansion with her husband Charlie. Whilst Leni and her husband Jack (Matt Bomer) reside on a large ranch in Mount Echo, where something is evidently amiss. These manipulative sisters swap lives once a year, in secret, to enjoy two distinct careers, two marriages and to share one daughter. They have managed to fool everyone for decades now with this con, but trouble arises when Leni goes missing in suspicious circumstances. Gina is forced to return to her childhood town to help find her sister, who may or may not have been kidnapped.
Opening episode, “Home”, does a superb job of hooking the viewer in. Teasing a dark and devious mystery that involves creepy dolls, sinister pacts, a criminal underworld and many more sinful secrets that are ready to be explored. There’s your standard ethereal flashbacks to provide snippets of tantalizing clues too, hinting at a troubled past. It’s a flawed but intriguing introduction that then promptly descends into absurdity.
This is one of the most confusing and needlessly complicated stories I’ve come across in a long time now. A series that will be an absolute nightmare for critics to succinctly discuss, as the twins constantly change identities to the point where you’ll be struggling to confidently state just who is who. How can you care about these twins, when you can’t tell them apart? All we are provided with are different accents and hairstyles, which are easily interchangeable. This is not enough to go on, especially when the plot is so brazenly complex. Viewers will be left with a headache, until the whole sorry saga is thankfully unravelled, by which time they may have already switched off entirely.
Echoes is fraught with unrealistic characters, unbelievable scenarios and a decidedly distracting score. The dialogue can be amateurish at times, as the writers try to offload expositional dialogue in an attempt to shoehorn in their masterplan. Again, this is a thriller that forfeits tension and entertainment in the pursuit of masterminding its own deeply intricate narrative. The filmmakers choose to put all their efforts into twists and turns, ignoring any character development or suspense.
This is even more infuriating when the whole backstory is eventually revealed and frustratingly (and surprisingly) makes perfect sense. There is a great premise hidden within this soap opera drama that is just utterly wasted. When a story as complicated as this actually works, viewers should be jumping for joy, celebrating the writer’s hard labors, but the way it is edited and ordered, the creators drain all real tension and score a kind of own goal of sorts before the big reveal. Netflix’s Echoes is just too smart for its own good and this self-satisfied, smug approach, in the end, trumps everything, making it its greatest downfall.
The thriller garners a three star rating due to its promising moments and addictive nature. The first episode is stunning, whilst the odd episode here after conjures some hope for a fitting end. Even with all the negatives, there is still an engrossing plot buried underneath all the dodgy special effects and clichéd action. This is a missed opportunity that may have worked better as a novel instead. I’m sure no matter what I say, this will be a hit for Netflix, who have a habit of preferring style over substance lately.
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