“Hawkeye” Episode 3 Tells Echo’s Side Of The Story


Of the few people who are actually talking about Hawkeye and making their opinions known on what is potentially the least-watched live-action Marvel Disney+ show yet, it seems from social media that most are just sticking around to witness the return of Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, better known by his supervillain alias, Kingpin. And after Hawkeye‘s third episode debuted yesterday, the series may have just ensured that Kingpin will continue to overshadow the rest of the story, much like how the character looms over everyone thanks to his impressive 6’7″ stature.

Echo | epicstream.com

And mind you, all we see of Kingpin in episode three, in the roughly five seconds that he’s onscreen, is one of his hands, and a little bit of his suit. We hear him chuckle, but he doesn’t actually say a word to confirm that Vincent D’Onofrio is back in the iconic role. I’m excited to see Kingpin, don’t get me wrong, but it’s slightly frustrating that in five seconds he managed to pull focus away from everything else that happened in this episode, including our official introduction to Hawkeye‘s primary villain for the moment – Echo (Alaqua Cox).

To some degree, that’s on head writer Jonathan Igla and directors Bert & Bertie for not giving Cox’s adult version of Echo a standout action sequence or emotional beat, even though there were plenty of opportunities to blow audiences away on both counts. Her child version, played by Darnell Besaw, has one brief fight at a karate class that translates her photographic reflexes from page to screen, but while promising, we have yet to see Cox’s Echo utilize those abilities again. And her final scene with her father, who famously dies in the comics leaving a bloody handprint on Echo’s face, is significantly less impactful when Disney shies away from showing much blood.

But at the same time, it’s worth noting that MCU stans will find a way to overshadow Echo no matter what. Even when it was revealed that she would become the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to receive their own spinoff, all that anyone could talk about was how Kingpin and Daredevil could use Echo’s show as an arena in which to continue their conflict from the Netflix Daredevil series, as if Echo doesn’t have any stories worth telling from her own viewpoint.

And that’s a shame, because Echo happens to be a fascinating character, and Alaqua Cox in her debut performance brings a commanding presence to the role. A deaf Native American woman (and in the MCU, an amputee like Cox), left in the care of Kingpin after her father’s murder, Echo in the comics has a reputation as one of the most formidable street-level antiheroes in the global criminal underworld. There’s already so much going on with her in this episode that Hawkeye doesn’t even have time to reference the fact that in the comics, Echo was the original Ronin before Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) took on the mantle.

Nonetheless, the two characters still have a very intriguing dynamic in the MCU. There’s a somewhat generic revenge storyline going on, with Echo under the (most likely false) impression that Clint as Ronin murdered her father, but what’s most compelling about their relationship to each other is how they interact as two characters with hearing disabilities. Hawkeye depicts a range of experiences through Echo, the MCU’s second deaf character after Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari in Eternals, and Clint, who has partial hearing loss.

Clint, Kate, and Lucky the Pizza Dog | denofgeek.com

This includes depicting the stark differences between the two, as well as the similarities. Echo uses sign language and as a child had to rely on lipreading because she wasn’t able to attend a deaf school, while Clint is still in the process of learning sign language and can’t hold a full conversation with Echo without the help of a translator using simultaneous communication (or SimCom), a controversial method where one signs and speaks at the same time, sometimes to the detriment of both languages but particularly to the signed language because the speaker is often a hearing person who mentally prioritizes their spoken language even while using SimCom.

I have not been able to find any articles specifically regarding the use of SimCom in Hawkeye, and thus it would be impossible for me to say as a hearing person who doesn’t speak any sign languages whether the SimCom in the show is accurate and intelligible. But something that I have seen others address, and that I noted myself while watching this episode of Hawkeye, is that the way shots are framed, the characters’ hands are often out of frame while they’re signing. It might seem like a small thing to some, but it also demonstrates why representation can’t stop at onscreen visibility. It takes a diverse team behind the camera to make sure that visibility is…well, visible.

I do appreciate, however, that Hawkeye actually utilizes its diversity for more than just surface-level visibility; Clint and Echo’s disabilities are an integral part of both their characters, and in this episode at least both deal with unique situations and challenges that arise because of their disabilities. At one point, Clint’s hearing-aid gets smashed under Echo’s boot during a fight, which in turn requires him and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to work together more closely, culminating in a scene where she helps him through an abrupt phone call from his son. It’s strongly reminiscent of a scene in The Umbrella Academy‘s season one finale, but still poignant and powerful.

In the superhero genre especially, it’s also important that diverse characters get the chance to be cool, which is why Makkari’s magnificent power display in Eternals was such a joy to behold. And here, it’s great to see that Clint at least is finally being given that chance thanks to his collection of trick arrows, each more dangerous than the last. Even though it’s pretty obvious that the show’s CGI budget got diverted elsewhere (let me guess, it’s all going into making Kingpin look taller), several of the arrows are very well-used, and the Pym Tech size-alteration arrow is particularly clever in theory.

In next week’s episode, we’ll also presumably see Clint take up a sword as he deals with the Swordsman himself, Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), who pops up right at the end of episode three (wielding Ronin’s blade) to remind us that, oh yeah, there’s a whole separate plot revolving around that unsolved murder mystery in episode one that has yet to tie into everything going on with Echo and Kingpin. At this point, with my theory that Echo would be connected to the MCU’s Red Room officially very unlikely to materialize into anything substantial (a shame, I thought it was a good theory), I have no idea when or why Yelena Belova will show up.

Kate Bishop | hollywoodreporter.com

Perhaps, in trying to wrap up all these storylines with a neat little bow (and arrow), Hawkeye will bite off more than it can chew, but for the time being I’m just enjoying the ride. As long as Renner and Steinfeld continue to have great banter and chemistry, and Echo continues to develop into a more well-rounded antagonist to the duo, that shouldn’t be hard. I just have to hope that they don’t let Kingpin steal the show from them without putting up a fight.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10

Hawkeye’s First 2 Episodes Kick Off A Street-Level Story


Even with the first two episodes released simultaneously this morning, Hawkeye is taking just a little bit longer to pick up speed than Marvel Studios’ last four Disney+ shows. It’s getting there, but the ending of episode two left me still waiting for that big “wow!” moment when the show would kick into gear – and disappointed that such a moment won’t arrive until next week at the earliest. If the series had more than six episodes to its first season, I wouldn’t be concerned, but now I wonder if Hawkeye will even have the time it needs to find its groove, much less stay in that groove long enough to make an impact.

Clint Barton and Kate Bishop | empireonline.com

In the meantime, Hawkeye takes us on a pleasing, if somewhat safe and slow-moving, joy-ride around the outskirts of the MCU’s criminal underworld. The series gets progressively more exciting as it ventures deeper into that dark and largely uncharted territory, although the trappings of Christmas in New York City are never far from sight, providing a visual contrast to all the violence and crime (in just the first episode, we have a murder and a musical number), and a pop of color that keeps the series from ever looking as blandly gritty as some of the Marvel Netflix shows that shared similar plots and street-level characters.

Hawkeye, a.k.a. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), is kind of a quintessential street-level character, as his enhanced accuracy and precision are superpowers grounded heavily in realism, that give him a slight advantage over your average criminal but don’t offer much if any protection from, say, Loki or Ultron or Thanos – the villains whom the Avengers took on, and whose low-level minions Hawkeye and Black Widow usually got saddled with killing. The Avengers movies were simply too epic in scale for Hawkeye’s bow and Black Widow’s batons to make much of a difference, so the writing emphasized their relatable qualities and made them out to be the team’s heart and soul, with Black Widow even sacrificing herself for the Soul Stone; taking the metaphor a step too far.

But sometimes all you need to do is reel it back a little for these characters to work. Not every hero needs to save the world every day – sometimes the most vividly-realized villains are those who threaten the hero on a more personal level, endangering them and their loved ones, challenging their worldview, or both. Because that gives us a reason to care, and it makes every injury sting a little fiercer. It’s not impossible to write a supervillain who checks those boxes, either, but the threat usually rings truer when it’s coming from someone grounded – like Echo (Alaqua Cox) who at least for now seems to be Clint’s primary antagonist in Hawkeye.

And we’re not even introduced to Echo until the end of episode two. Until then, Hawkeye is slowly working his way through her henchmen, a bunch of burly Eastern European men who call themselves the Tracksuit Mafia, and despite their ridiculous name (although, as Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop would be the first to admit, their branding is on-point), they’re more than a match for Hawkeye when he’s dispossessed of his bow and forced to rely on his limited mixed martial arts skills. We see him and Kate get hurt, repeatedly, and the show doesn’t gloss over those injuries like Black Widow did every time Natasha fell from some great height and miraculously walked off without so much as a scratch.

When Kate gets a nasty cut on the forehead, there’s an entire sequence devoted to properly cleaning her injury, in which Clint demonstrates those effortless mentoring skills that make him so popular with aspiring young superheroes. Clint knows the reality of what happens to average people who get entangled in Avengers business. By the time Hawkeye opens, two years after Avengers: Endgame, he’s already wearing his hearing-aid from the comics and using sign-language occasionally (the second MCU character to do so after Eternals‘ Makkari), which is explained as being the result of all those battles and loud explosions.

It’s easy to see why, in-universe more than in the real-world, regular folks look up to Hawkeye. He’s theoretically more accessible than any of the other main Avengers, whose ranks originally included a literal god, an ageless superhuman, a billionaire encased in high-tech armor, an enigmatic double-agent, and a man who did most of his work with the Avengers while trapped inside an uncontrollable green monster. Conversely, Clint is just a guy; but ironically, while that might seem to make him a better role model, Hawkeye plays with the idea that maybe…just maybe…we shouldn’t put any of these people on pedestals.

Clint is just a guy, but that means he’s also fallible. In his relatable mission to get back to his family, he’s always walked that thin line between doing what’s right and what’s best for him, demonstrating even less remorse about it than Black Widow. Sure, MCU fans love to defend him by saying that the victims of his serial killer spree in Endgame were all criminals, and maybe that’s true, but we still don’t know by what devious methods Clint acquired the Ronin mantle he used to commit those killings, and I’m inclined to believe that Echo might expose truths about him that nobody – least of all Hawkeye’s protégé Kate Bishop – wants to hear.

Eleanor Bishop and Jack Duquesne | indiewire.com

If Hawkeye continues down this path of deromanticizing the myth of the superhero, it could be revolutionary for the MCU. Kate Bishop in particular would come out the other side having learned some important lessons about the responsibility of heroes to wield their influence wisely, that would serve her well as she steps into a leadership role over the Young Avengers. I don’t know if the show will commit to this idea, because Disney absolutely still wants people to put the Avengers on pedestals and buy all their merchandise, but it’s nice to think about.

And even Kate is more morally gray than I expected. Not quite on the level of Hawkeye murdering people and leaving their bodies in the street, but the show doesn’t pretend that she hasn’t been spoiled all her life by her extraordinarily wealthy mother Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga), who’s secured her a spot in a high-end college and a permanent job at Eleanor’s own security company. Tony Stark also benefited from mind-boggling wealth and nepotism, which the MCU simply never saw as a problem until after his death when The Falcon And The Winter Soldier raised the question of why he never paid the Avengers, but with Kate they could right those wrongs by actually addressing her privilege, and the ways it can be weaponized for good or evil.

We’ll see if the show chooses to double down on any of these themes, or if my reading is completely wrong in the end. What’s more certain is that, as was the case with WandaVision and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier and Loki, these first two episodes are seeded with clues regarding the season’s overarching mystery. There’s always more going on beneath the surface of these shows than what meets the eye at a first glance, and because these mysteries often lead circuitously back to characters that will be significant going forward, we’ve learned to pick up on these clues more quickly and to connect the dots.

Sometimes we’re still completely wrong, and the Mephisto debacle is a testament to what can happen when fans get so wrapped up in theories that they forget to focus on the show itself. But Hawkeye definitely wants us to know that someone relevant was behind the murder of Armand Duquesne (Simon Callow). While it might not have been his suave nephew Jack (Tony Dalton), their family history in the comics is shady nonetheless. Jack is better known as the Swordsman, an identity alluded to when Kate challenges him to a fencing duel in which he only pretends to be unskilled.

But if Jacques didn’t murder Armand, who did? Kate’s mother is a likely candidate. She had motive, surely, although we still don’t know exactly why Armand was threatening to call up his “powerful friends” to deal with her. Echo is another option, and Yelena Belova is supposed to appear in Hawkeye, although I have no idea why she’d want to kill Armand. The name that’s come up among fans is that of the Kingpin, the crime-lord who is Echo’s father figure in the comics and arguably the most prominent street-level villain. He has yet to appear in the MCU, although Vincent D’Onofrio memorably portrayed the role in Netflix’s Daredevil and there is some speculation that he may return to the role.

Thus far, we haven’t been given enough clues to build a compelling argument for or against any of these potential killers, and the murder mystery takes a backseat in episode two while Clint is off investigating the Tracksuit Mafia at a medieval-themed LARP (live-action roleplay) event that is a completely random and boring setting for a scene that drags on pointlessly. The slow pace of both these episodes is a problem, but Renner and Steinfeld have an easy chemistry that helps keep the momentum going, and Steinfeld at least sells all of her solo scenes (the same can’t be said of Renner, who is giving a strangely distant performance when we first reunite with him).

Lucky the Pizza Dog | collider.com

But with some assistance from an adorable dog that loves pizza, Renner and Steinfeld carry the first two episodes of Hawkeye through most of its rougher patches and hopefully won’t have to wait too long before the show finds its footing and rises to the level of Marvel Studios’ other Disney+ shows.

Episodes Rating: 7/10