If there was an off-note to last week’s two-part Hawkeye premiere, it was the slightly odd choice to end the second episode with a dramatic close-up of Kate and Clint’s captor, Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox). Since we didn’t know anything about her, it wasn’t a reveal that particularly packed a punch. But oh what a difference eight minutes can make! The extended origin story prologue that kicks off this all-around strong third episode does such a great job of succinctly establishing Maya’s backstory that she now feels like an essential, deeply sympathetic part of the show’s world. There’s also the fact that the prologue maybe (maybe) reintroduces a fan favorite character from the Netflix Defenders universe, but more on that later.
One of the big (and controversial) innovations of these Disney+ Marvel shows is that they’re director-driven, rather than writer-driven, as has traditionally been the model for TV. In fact, Hawkeye is the first Disney+ Marvel show not to have one person direct the entire thing. And you can really feel the shift this week as British directing duo Bert and Bertie take over from Rhys Thomas, who helmed the first two episodes. “Echoes” is just as funny as last week’s episodes and even more action packed. But it also has an air of melancholy that’s distinct as well. This is an episode that never loses sight of the fact that our hero killed Maya’s dad. And that adds some dark emotional weight to even its zippiest action moments.
Key to making this episode work are those great opening performances from Darnell Besaw as young Maya and Zahn McClarnon as her demanding but loving dad William. Rather than send his deaf daughter to a school for the deaf, William wants her to learn to “jump between two worlds” at a traditional school, where we see what a challenge it is for Maya to lip read in a busy classroom. It’s the same high expectations William gently places on his daughter in her karate class, where he reminds her that speed matters more than strength. Yet William’s high standards are balanced out by his warm paternal instincts too. By the time Ronin has killed William for his involvement with the Tracksuit Mafia, we understand just what a massive loss it is for Maya—and why she would choose to channel her anger into becoming a leader in the organization.
The episode’s melancholy doesn’t end there, although we do get a brief respite during the stellar action setpiece that gives this hour its backbone. After last week’s episodes struggled to deliver anything more than passable action scenes, this week ups the ante in a major way with a welcome dose of creativity from Bert and Bertie. That starts when Clint breaks free from his binds and parkours his way over some empty shelves, using stuffed animals as his main weapon. And it continues out and onto the street, where Clint shows off some impressive getaway driver skills as Kate works her way through his collection of trick arrows.
With its lengthy opening oner set to rock versions of “Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy” and “Russian Dance” from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker, the whole car chase is an absolute blast. The episode has particular fun with those trick arrows, which can shoot putty and nets, blow things up, and deploy acid and smoke bombs. The showiest moment comes when Clint uses a special Pym Particle arrow to enlarge a regular arrow to battering ram proportions. Although, for my money, the best moment in the whole sequence is when Clint finds himself engaging in a hand-to-hand squabble over a gun with the passenger of another car, all while he’s driving down a bridge.
Like the best action scenes, this one is as much about character as cool imagery. As Kate helpfully establishes while giving one of her captors advice about dealing with his girlfriend, the theme of the week is communication. And since Maya smashes Clint’s hearing aid before the action begins, he and Kate have to figure out how to communicate without talking. It’s funny when they’re out of step and sweet when they’re in sync. Kate gets a chance to genuinely impress her idol with her archery skills. And though Clint still isn’t thrilled with the idea of someone following in his footsteps, by the end of the episode he and Kate are much more of a full-fledged team than they were before.
Kate also gets to demonstrate her empathetic side too, as she helps Clint communicate with his young son Nathaniel over the phone in one of the episode’s most quietly heartbreaking sequences. While Hailee Steinfeld continues to shine, it’s actually Jeremy Renner who impressed me most this week. There’s a palpable worldweariness to his take on Clint in this series, not just in his obvious “I’m over this shit” moments but also in quieter moments like the one where he has to reckon with his young son preemptively telling him that it’s okay to miss Christmas. Clint no longer bounces back with the spring of a young superhero—physically or emotionally. And Renner excels at projecting worn down, guilt-ridden dad energy.
Even the goofy diner scene where Kate pitches Clint on Hawkeye’s classic comic’s costume is more somber than funny. Though Clint tells Maya that Black Widow killed Ronin—trying to pass off his metaphorical experience as a literal one—Kate senses that Clint and Ronin have more of a connection than he’s letting on. I’ll be curious to see how much Hawkeye is actually willing to hold Clint accountable or whether it’s just using his Ronin backstory for some temporary dramatic weight. Watching Maya cradle her dying father is a pretty brutal image if the show plans to give Clint full redemption by the end. For now, however, there’s an interesting tension to watching his bond with Kate grow as we wait for the other shoe to drop.
It’s a good place to leave our central duo at the halfway point of the season. And while the episode’s cliffhanger suggests that Jack Duquesne is going to take center stage next week, it’s another Marvel villain that’s on my mind at the moment. “Echoes” reveals that the Tracksuit Mafia is actually run by Maya’s “Uncle.” And while we barely get a glimpse of the mysterious headhoncho, the little chuckle we do hear definitely made me think of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk from Netflix’s Daredevil series. (And that was even before I learned that Maya and Fisk are linked in the comics as well.) Could we be in for a crossover that revives a corner of the MCU that Marvel Studios has basically disowned? It’d be a big but welcome swing. And it’s a good example of a tease that nods towards in-the-weeds Marvel aficionados in an episode that otherwise has something to offer Marvel fans of all levels.
- If “Uncle” doesn’t turn out to be Fisk, maybe he’ll be Kate’s dad?
- I love the balance Hawkeye strikes between having Kate openly idolize Clint but also mercilessly tease him, like with her “Good thing they call you HawkEYE and not HawkEAR” text.
- The episode doesn’t want us to think about it, but Kate definitely killed someone when she blew up that van, right?
- Between this and Reservation Dogs, Zahn McClarnon is having a hell of a year!
- I appreciate Kate acknowledging the fact that Kazi (Fra Fee) is hot, although I’m currently unsure if his connection to Maya is supposed to be flirtatious, familial, or just boss/underling.
- The shot of that Christmas tree lot Santa re-inflating is impeccably timed.
- “I hope he’s got a dongle arrow to make this useful.”