Villains are the heroes of their own story, and sometimes heroes are the villains of those stories. The third episode of Disney Plus TV series Hawkeye contains both. Echo is fully introduced to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, tragic backstory and all, and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) sees more fallout from going rogue as Ronin.
Carrying on from ‘Never Meet Your Heroes’ and ‘Hide and Seek’, ‘Echoes’ has Clint and Kate Bishop held captive by the Tracksuit Mafia. Their leader, Maya ‘Echo‘ Lopez (Alaqua Cox), wants revenge on Ronin after her father and his henchmen were brutally killed by the vigilante. Kate and Clint dodge the question until they can escape, leading to a trick-arrow-filled car chase through New York City.
Guns, novelty weapons, and urban roads are a staple of the MCU, and the handling here is on par with the better action movies in the franchise. But it’s the characterisation that’s the focal point; the way Clint and Maya are portrayed when it comes to their hearing disabilities, and what it means to be separated from the people you love.
After years of explosions and fighting the greatest evils the world has ever seen, Clint’s hearing has been eroded to the point he needs a hearing aid. This isn’t the cost of a life lived saving others, but a cross to bear after using violence as a balm for grief. When the Snap took away his family, Clint tore through the criminal underworld, using blades over his bow-and-arrow. Glossed over in the movies because it’s Hawkeye and we need him to save the world, his show is digging into the repercussions.
Maya’s been deaf since birth, sharpening her other senses to stay up in a world that marginalises the disabled. Her dad, William Lopez (Zach McLarnon), guided and comforted her, and Clint took him away. Cox is pure, deep-seeded anger, bodying decades of frustration. There was some criticism towards Avengers: Endgame on how Ronin seemed to target non-white organised crime, as if that was more beyond reproach than, say, a white supremacist or other far-right militant groups.
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In ‘Echoes’, there’s some emphasis on those choices, making it clear that not only was Clint not really solving anything, he was hurting people that were already on the fringes. His need for some bloody reprieve caused suffering. Later, in the diner, when he tells Kate he’s not one of the good guys, she struggles to let go of the incredible Avenger she has in her mind.
Kate serves as the idealised young Avenger-to-be, undeterred in placing Clint on a pedestal. One of the more solemn moments involves her helping him understand his son on the phone – she sympathises, and he has quiet acceptance this is his life. Renner suits someone who doesn’t care to be liked much, and Steinfeld does well as the embodiment of his chance at doing something better in the world.
That said, we don’t get much expansion on her home life, and the trade-off between this all being her entrance to the world of Marvel Studios and Renner’s exit is almost arbitrarily split. She gets an episode, he gets an episode, and nobody’s agent gets angry about it.
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These threads don’t altogether mesh with Clint and Kate breaking free from Maya and her cronies, either. Pym particles and pink goop are good sight gags, and Clint embracing his inner-Batman for a daring grappling hook manoeuvre is plenty fun, but there’s not a lot of substance to it. We don’t learn much about the characters through what’s happening, and Maya becomes just another crook with muscle to run away from.
Directors Bert and Bertie certainly understand the kind of things we’ve missed from Hawkeye in his MCU outings to date, and longer shots keep us in the moment with Clint’s daring ingenuity. The problems are on script level, trying to fit good drama with wily action. Right now, they aren’t quite sitting together.
Marvel aficionados’ ears will surely have plucked up at the mention of Echo’s uncle, suggesting something wicked this way comes. I dare not speculate too much on who it is, but Hawkeye is shaping up to be a quick-shot that mostly finds its target.
Hawkeye is streaming now on Disney Plus.
Echo introduces strong themes to otherwise uneven MCU episode with Kate Bishop and Clint Barton