Hawkeye Experiences “Echoes”

I had barely finished the review of the two-part series premiere of Hawkeye that the next episode aired. Review of previous episodes (well, just one so far) may be found here.

Warning! Spoilers under the cut!

When we last saw our two crack archers, they had just been captured by the tracksuit mafia – after Kate unfortunately messed up Clint’s plan by an ill-advised rescue attempt, and had been tied to wobbly animals (which the tracksuit mafia just loved to activate – now torture by wobbly animal is truly a new one), since the tracksuit mafia has set up camp in an abandoned toy store, cause all the nice empty warehouses in New York City are being converted into lofts. Gentrification is a bitch, even for organised crime.

But before the show returns to that cliffhanger, we get yet another flashback to the childhood of another little girl, just like episode 1 opened with a flashback to the traumatic experience that set Kate Bishop on the path to becoming a superhero. The little girl we see in “Echoes” is Maya Lopez, a deaf girl with a prosthetic foot. We first see Maya struggling in a regular school, because she can’t read the teacher’s lips (it was a surprise to see a teacher wearing a hijab, since public school teachers are not allowed to wear hijabs and other religious symbols in many countries). However, Maya is also smart and determined. We next see her during a martial arts tournament, where she knocks a much bigger boy to the mat, and later during a boxing match, where she knocks out her opponent.

We also see Maya with her father (we never her mother). Maya clearly has a loving relationship with her father, though the family seems to have financial issues (come to think of it, there were hints of financial issues in Kate’s flashback, too), since Maya’s Dad can’t afford to send her to a special school for the hearing impaired. But going to a regular school will probably be better for Maya, her Dad says, because this way she will learn to live in two worlds.

But even though Maya’s Dad is a good father, not everything is right with this little family. Because it gradually becomes clear that Maya’s Dad is a criminal and the leader of the tracksuit mafia. He also reports to a higher ranking criminal – Maya calls him “uncle” – who is hinted to be Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin. Fisk was last seen in Daredevil and The Defenders, played by Vincent D’Onofrio, who did a great job, though no one is sure whether the Marvel Netflix shows are still canon or not.

After her boxing match, Maya returns to a garage run by the tracksuit mafia and witnesses Ronin killing them all, including her father. Maya vows revenge and we can absolutely understand her.

The opening flashback featuring Maya’s backstory is very strong, as AV-Club reviewer Caroline Siede and io9 reviewer Germain Lussier point out, and the parallels between Kate and Maya are very obvious. Both lose their fathers young and in both cases, Clint is connected to the deaths, only that he saved Kate, but not her Dad, from the Chitauri and killed Maya’s Dad during his Ronin phase.

Now any kind of media featuring any kind of superheroic and/or vigilante action (I don’t exclude myself here) tends to ignore the fact that villains and their henchpeople are still human beings with families and loved ones to make it easier to kill them off indiscriminately. In my own work, I’m not a huge fan of indiscriminately killing off villains and henchpeople and I have written action tales with no bodycount. Nonetheless, killing off villains and henchpeople can’t always be avoided or at least I haven’t figured out how.

So it’s good that Hawkeye reminds us that yes, even bad guys have families and loved ones and even villains can be good parents. It’s also nice that Hawkeye does not let Clint off the hook for the things he did while he was Ronin. Daily Dot reviewer Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is not entirely sure how the series will handle the fact that Clint killed a shitload of people with little to no excuse and I’m not sure how they will resolve this without a cop-out either. Especially since I strongly suspect that several members of the tracksuit mafia did not survive their encounter with Clint and Kate.

Maya Lopez a.k.a. Echo is a character from the comics and her backstory is very similar to the one in Hawkeye, only that the superhero Maya vows revenge upon for the murder of her father is Daredevil and not Hawkeye/Ronin. In the comics, Maya eventually learns that Daredevil is innocent and that Wilson Fisk killed her father and framed Daredevil. Will the series go the same route (which would offer an overly neat resolution to the issue that Clint is both a gruff father figure and cold-blooded killer)? We’ll see.

In the present day, Maya (played by Alaqua Cox in what according to Tor.com reviewer Annika Rollock is her first ever acting role) is the leader of the tracksuit mafia and Kazi, who appeared to be their leader in the first two episodes, is her chief henchman.

When Maya spots Clint’s hearing aid, she begins signing, but Clint is not very good at signing and can’t read lips at all. “You rely too much on technology”, Maya tells Clint. But then Maya was either born deaf or lost her hearing at a very young age and grew up with signing and lip reading, whereas Clint lost his hearing as an adult and is more likely to rely on technology. Traditionally, Marvel has been better with regard to disability representation than many others – not that that’s a high bar – and had disabled characters (Daredevil, Professor X, Nick Fury) as early as the 1960s. Nonetheless, it’s great to see not one but two deaf characters in a superhero show of all things. I also liked it how the sound of altogether absent or heavily muted whenever we’re viewing the action from the POV of Clint or Maya.

Maya – with Kazi serving as her interpreter – has no idea that Clint used to be Ronin, but think that it’s Kate. Clint points out that this makes no sense, because Kate is much too young. He also tells Maya that Ronin is dead. “Who got him?” Maya wants to know. “Black Widow”, Clint replies, which from his POV is absolutely true. He was Ronin until Black Widow tracked him down and he became Hawkeye again. Maya, on the other hand, is not convinced, since Black Widow is conveniently dead and can neither deny nor confirm that she stopped Ronin.

The interrogation ends when Clint frees from himself from his duct tape bonds and proceeds to mop up the tracksuit mafia, using various toys and even a ball pit as weapons. But Maya is still a damned good martial artist. She manages to knock Clint’s hearing aid out of his ear and promptly steps on it, leaving Clint at a serious disadvantage. However, once Clint grabs hold of his bow and arrows, the tide turns. He nails Maya to the nearest wall and frees Kate, who has been struggling with her own duct tape bonds.

Clint and Kate flee the toy store. Outside, Kate wants to “borrow” a vintage Dodge Challenger, but Clint points out that car is much too pretty to destroy and instead hotwires an equally old, but much less flashy model. Clint wants Kate to drive, but she hops into the passenger seat (and in fact, I wondered whether Kate, who appears to be a lifelong New Yorker, can’t drive, since she never had to), so Clint has to drive, while Kate holds off the pursuing tracksuit mafia (including Maya driving the Dodge Challenger Clint wanted to spare) with Clint’s stash of trick arrows.

Compared to what Alarm für Cobra 11 has been dishing up for twenty-five years now, car chases in US TV shows are often underwhelming and this includes Marvel shows that such The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Therefore, I was thrilled how good the car chase in Hawkeye was. Very different from Alarm für Cobra 11, but just as action-packed.

A large part of the fun is that Clint does not label his trick arrows and Kate has no idea what each one does. The effects range from a putty arrow (which turns the windshield of Kazi’s truck into a big mess of purple putty) via a suction cup arrow (which does nothing in this context, but proves useful later on), an arrow which emits purple smoke, an explosive arrow, which takes out a carload of tracksuit mafia goons, an arrow which emits grappling hooks which draw in Christmas trees during a chase across a Christmas tree lot.

The chase comes to a head on one of New York City’s many suspension bridges (Tor.com reviewer Annika Rollock claims it’s the Triborough Bridge, though the suspension bridge in Hawkeye has a second deck for subway train, which the Triborough Bridge does not appear to have), when Clint and Kate are forced to brake to avoid crashing into a car ahead of them. Clint tells Kate to trust him and fire a regular, non-trick arrow into the air. Once she does, Clint hits it with an arrow labelled PYM (well, at least that one was labelled), which uses a small quantity of Pym particles to turn Kate’s arrow into a giant arrow, which smashed and disables the tracksuit mafia’s cars (and very likely damages whatever bridge it is). The Dodge Challenger is also destroyed, much to Clint’s chagrin. Before the tracksuit mafia catches up with Clint and Kate on foot, they both dive off the bridge, using Clint’s grapling hook arrow trick from Avengers to land on a subway car on the lower deck of the bridge. Kate also learns what suction cup arrows are good for.

We next see Clint and Kate aboard the subway, where Clint praises Kate’s archery skills, while they both realise almost simultaneously that they need to walk the dog Kate rescued (who acquires a name – Pizza Dog – in this episode). We now get several nice scenes of character development and bonding between Clint and Kate. The most touching of these scene is when Clint’s phone rings, while Clint’s hearing aid is still out of comission, and Kate has to scribble the replies of Clint’s little son Nathaniel on a notepad, so Clint can talk to him in real time. That moment made me misty-eyed (and not just me, both Caroline Siede and Germain Lussier also call that scene heartbreaking), especially when Nathaniel tells Clint that it’s okay if he can’t be home for Christmas. Both Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld show some great acting here, Renner as the world-weary superhero who really just wants to be home with his family, but has to mop of his own and Kate’s messes, and Steinfeld as the young woman who’s lost her father and now witnesses the love of another father for his kid.

Once Clint has gotten his hearing aid repaired, courtesy of a slightly dodgy doctor, there is another great scene in a diner, where Kate continues her efforts to improve Clint’s branding by designing a new costume for him, which is basically Jack Kirby’s classic Hawkeye costume (only that Kate can’t draw, unlike Kirby) and which Clint categorically refuses to wear. Kate also tells Clint that she is finally what she always wanted to be, a heroine who protects others. Clint cautions her that yes, he knows how she feels, cause he’s been there, but that there is a price as well. He also tells Kate that he’s no one’s role model (much to the shock of Kate who has idolised Hawkeye since she was a little girl) and that his job was basically to be a ghost, to come and do the job and go unnoticed.

It’s worthwhile remembering that Clint was never supposed to be an Avenger. He was not supposed to be a part of Nick Fury’s Avengers initiative, and only got dragged into the whole mess because Loki took over his mind. And the only reason the newly deprogrammed Clint winds up joining the Avengers is because he happens to be with Black Widow when Steve and Tony come to fetch her and because he can fly the Quinjet. Like Kate, Clint, the invisible and silent S.H.I.E.L.D. agent clearly relished the opportunity to finally be a hero out in the open. Unlike Kate, he also knows what his job has cost him, namely his health and almost his family.

I noted in my review of the first two episodes that Hawkeye, Star Trek Discovery and Masters of the Universe: Revelation all deal with the themes of trauma, grief and how to overcome them. However, in this episode Hawkeye also delves into the theme of how to combine heroics with family life and if this is possible at all, a theme that also loomed large in Masters of the Universe: Revelation, where various characters have very different approaches of combining family and heroics. We have the original Sorceress who leaves her partner and baby daughter, because she believes that she cannot combine her duties as the sorceress with having a family. We have Duncan a.k.a. Man-at-Arms who somehow manages to combine his life as a hero with being a single Dad to Teela and adopting every stray he comes across. We have Adam who keeps his heroic identity as He-Man a secret to protect the people he loves and only winds up hurting them. And we have Teela who realises that becoming the Sorceress does not have to mean giving up the people you love.

Clint handles balancing heroics and family life similar to Duncan, only that unlike Single Dad Duncan, Clint has the benefit of a supportive partner. And while Clint may not be perfect as a Dad and husband, he actually does okay. He never keeps his identity a secret, his family knows what he does and support him. And while Clint may not always be there and probably missed a lot of moments in his kids’ lives, he tries to be there for them as much as he can. As for Kate, we don’t know where her path will lead. Right now, she’s young and has no attachments except for her mother (and that relationship is complicated) and her dog, so a superhero career seems attractive. In ten or twenty years… who knows?

Clint knows that Maya is not the true leader of the tracksuit mafia, but that there’s someone above her, someone dangerous, possibly Wilson Fisk. Meawhile, Kate is still suspicious of her Mom’s fiancé Jack Duquesne and with good reason, too. So she suggests sneaking into the penthouse of her Mom, while her Mom is away, and hack into the databases of her Mom’s security company to find out more about the tracksuit mafia. So that’s what they do. Clint wanders the house, impressed by the lavish home Kate grew up in (does he recognise the building from the Battle of New York, we wonder), while Kate manages to find a mysterious company named Sloan Limited listed as Kazi’s employer (but how does Kate know his name, let alone how to spell it?). Her attempt to dig up dirt on Jack gets her locked out of the system, however. Though Kate and Clint will have the chance to ask the man himself, once Clint finds his own retractable Ronin sword at his throat, since the apartment was not as empty as Clint and Kate though after all.

This episode doesn’t do a lot to advance the plot beyond introducing Maya’s backstory, though it does have both nice action sequences and character moments. In many ways, Hawkeye reminds me of the Netflix Marvel series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders), only that it balances the grittiness and fairly small scale street level threats better with humour and banter, whereas the Netflix series often became annoyingly grim to the point that I quickly stopped watching them, even though I initially enjoyed them. The holiday setting adds some much needed cheer to the proceedings and the fact that Hawkeye is short, only six episodes, also means it won’t get bogged down with padding like the Marvel Netflix series. Plus, Hawkeye also has some interesting things to say about grief, family and the costs of being a hero, whereas the Netflix series (except for series 1 of Jessica Jones) didn’t have a lot to say.

All in all, I’m enjoying it and looking forward to the back half of Hawkeye.

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3 Responses to Hawkeye Experiences “Echoes”

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