Enervating Apple TV+ series Echo 3 comes to a close this week. The show finally springs kidnapped CIA plant Amber from her prison, but there’s a lot more to freedom than no longer seeing the same four walls.
This bizarro, jingoistic wife-guy fantasy comes to a screeching halt with a conclusion preordained from its first incredibly strange seconds. Come for the last gunfight, stay for the most risible attitude toward human life I’ve yet encountered on scripted television.
Echo 3 recap: ‘Heat’
Season 1, episode 10: In the season finale, entitled “Heat,” Amber Chesborough Hass (played by Jessica Ann Collins) is out of jail but catatonic. Her husband, Alex “Prince” Haas (Michiel Huisman), is trying to talk her out of her stupor but is having no luck. She barely speaks, she’s still in the same clothes she was rescued in, and she doesn’t know where she is most of the time. When he hugs her, she screams in Spanish and bites him. He seems shocked by this despite apparently being a big deep-cover operative guy with years of experience with this kind of scenario.
He complains to her brother Bambi (Luke Evans) that Amber’s behaving like a wild animal. Bambi says Amber’s traumatized, stating the obvious.
“I get that but I’m her husband!” Prince says.
Like that matters in the slightest. Is this man the dumbest human who ever lived? He and Bambi left Amber to get tortured in prison for three months. What exactly did Prince expect? There’s footage of her saying that she hates the military and other out-of-character statements from her time inside, and it really rattles them.
Journalist Violeta Matiz (Martina Gusmán) shows up to interview Amber, and Bambi allows it because she won’t talk to either him or Prince. Maybe Violeta can crack her. If nothing else, maybe she can finally get Amber to take her sedative and sleep.
Fallout from the raid to free Amber
Violeta tries to get answers about the raid, but everyone’s stonewalling her. Even her husband, Ernesto (Juan Pablo Raba), won’t give her straight answers, and he works for the government. So she ambushes the president at a concert and makes him confess that he knows the Americans did the attack, and that Colombia wasn’t involved. She scares him enough that he closes the airports and has the police put out an APB for Prince and Bambi.
For their part, Bambi and Prince are both second-guessing whether rescuing Amber was the right move, what with the hundreds of people they killed and the fact that they started a war between Colombia and Venezuela and the United States. But hey, why get too bent out of shape over matters like that?
As they’re talking, Amber breaks out of their safehouse and flees to a local church in the middle of the night. The boys panic. Bambi tracks her to a church and, though she says she’s not coming home, he talks her out of that. They did, after all, basically ruin Latin America for her. It’d be pretty ungrateful of her to not go home with them.
Escape from South America
The following day, with the roads blocked and police everywhere, Bambi, Prince and Amber have to get to the harbor, where Mitch (James Udom) waits with their boat out of the country, on foot. There’s a reasonably tense foot chase pocked with shootouts as they head to the water. There’s also the very insulting implication that violence is so baked into everyday life in South America that no one cares there’s a shootout going on until the army starts using big, loud guns. Ah, these provincials — so inured to violent gun deaths that they don’t even panic when people are getting shot. Gimme a break.
Anyway, a bunch more pointless deaths later, they’re finally on the boat riding into the sunset. Then the most heart-stoppingly callous thing that has yet happened on this desperately confused show occurs: Amber says Prince must divorce her. She won’t be able to look at him without seeing all the guys he killed to save her.
He says that it was nice to do something not for his country but for himself: Rescue his wife. Then they give each other an uneasy look. Then Echo 3 ends.
I never like to just put my foot down while a show is transpiring. You never know how things will turn out, and if you go too hard critiquing the politics of a show early on, maybe the creative team makes you look foolish down the road. I mean that’s a big maybe. Mostly, shows disappoint you more than they surprise you. But hey, benefit of the doubt.
Ultimately, the finale of Echo 3 is the last nail in the coffin of this writers’ room’s conception of the world and indeed this dreadful, confused show.
So … to recap … to save the marriage of two murderers and government stooges, the following happened: A marine with kids is left to die on a mountain in Afghanistan. A house full of revolutionaries, then a camp full of revolutionaries, is shot like dogs. A DJ is kidnapped and tortured. A German humanitarian is assassinated. A war between two countries is fomented. A veteran rescue ops agent is gunned down. A bunch of imprisoned sex workers and chemists and day laborers are blown up. And a marketplace full of innocent people is shot up. And then the show won’t tell you whether all that was worth it.
I’ll save you the consternation: It wasn’t. It absolutely was not. Echo 3 is an absurd pileup of misery and murder, a joyless look at how selfish, gun-toting operators raised on GI Joe and Marvel comics just blow huge holes in the world map they don’t like whenever they’re inconvenienced.
You call that an ending?
Is it fitting that Prince and Amber both end the show as miserable wrecks? Sure. But I’m sorry their only punishment for destabilizing Venezuela is going home. Once they return to the states, he’ll have sex with that girl who wants to marry him some more. And she’ll keep being a CIA stooge or a high-paid researcher.
What?!?! All this for that?!
If I thought for a minute Echo 3 creator Mark Boal and his team weren’t deadly serious about this, I’d say this is the most damning portrait of the U.S. military ever filmed. But they are. They most certainly are. Instead, this bizarro tragedy about guys who kill everyone and still don’t get the girl just stands there, demanding you accept its blood-soaked shoulder shrug as a good enough button to the wasting of seven or eight hours of your life.
It’s infuriating — and frankly, a little scary — that this many people read the Echo 3 logline and signed off on it.
Watch Echo 3 on Apple TV+
You can now watch the entire first season of Echo 3 on Apple TV+ if you can stomach it.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On the Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the director and editor of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.