Hawkeye – Season 1 Episode 3
Hawkeye introduces a new major character while continuing to build the bond between Clint and Kate.
Maya Lopez aka Echo (Alaqua Cox) is soon to star in her own Disney+ series with her introduction to be found in this one. This approach has been known to have drawbacks such as pushing the main character of the show far into the background in favour of setting up the spin-off or the introduction being transparent setup for further storytelling. Fortunately this show is so far managing to avoid falling into both traps with Maya fitting nicely into the story this show is telling without stealing the limelight from other characters.
The episode opens with a summation of Maya’s backstory starting in 2007 with her as a young girl struggling to keep up with what her teacher is saying. Instead of allowing this setback to defeat her, it acts as encouragement and inspires her to work hard to not only keep up but get ahead. It’s an attitude that follows her through her life with her refusing to let her deafness define her or hold her back. Her father, William (Zahn McClarnon) is an obvious strong influence on her development and supports her every step of the way. The scene where he tells her stories of Dragons as well as filling her in on what does and doesn’t make sounds is really endearing and quickly sets up a close relationship so that the loss has meaning.
Maya learns important lessons from her father, particularly around how to deal with being deaf and integrate that into her life. She asks him why she isn’t enrolled in a specialist school for the death and William tells her that it will be better for her in the long run because she will learn more by dealing with the challenges presented to her in a normal school. He talks about her jumping between two worlds which has multiple meanings considering all that she and her family are involved in but for the purposes of her development it’s about learning how to function in the world while being deaf.
As she grows older she engages in martial arts training and it is revealed that she has a prosthetic leg. William applies the same mantra and encourages her to work with what she has rather than see it as a limitation. He gives her important advice on winning fights and it is highlighted that Maya isn’t at all held back by her prosthetic leg. The episode races through Maya’s background but there’s plenty of substance to what is shown with a clear emphasis on what motivates her to excel while also setting up a mystery around the identity of her “Uncle”. He is mentioned and his face isn’t shown so this may be building up to the reveal of Wilson Fisk in the MCU. The uncle is clearly a character of some importance so the eventual reveal will come with some fanfare but that isn’t for this episode.
In true comic book tradition Maya has a major loss that haunts her in her adult life. Her father was taken from her by Clint in his days as Ronin so this neatly ties into the theme of ongoing theme of consequences. Clint’s dark past has caught up with him and he has to deal with the fallout of what he did. In this case he deprived Maya of her father and inspired vengeance from her. The one advantage he has at this point is that she is unaware that Clint and Ronin are one in the same though she knows that there is a connection between them. He lies and says Ronin was killed by Black Widow with him being witness to it. From a certain point of view this is accurate as Natasha was the one to find him in the midst of his darkness and offer him a way to put it behind him. As far as he’s concerned Ronin ceased to exist when she did that so he has tried to bury that part of his life.
He is now learning that it’s not as simple as that as Ronin isn’t easily forgotten by those who were at the end of his blade -or adjacent to it- and it’s now a mess Clint has to deal with. Kate putting on the costume unwittingly awakened some very old resentments and brought attention to her that is definitely more than she can handle. Clint sees it as his responsibility to put an end to the Ronin persona so that Kate can be safe and he can continue on with his life.
Clint isn’t aware of Maya’s backstory so doesn’t have a full understanding of what she is going through or the part he played in it. His perspective is that Ronin is hated for cutting the gang’s numbers which is something he already struggles to live with. When he inevitably finds out about what he personally took from Maya without realising it there will be a reckoning. She represents a tangible consequence to the choices he made during that period of his life and facing her is akin to facing one of his victims. In many ways she is one so the time will come where he has to answer to her and understand the wider consequences of what he did.
One of the ideas forwarded in this episode is that wearing a costume has a significant physical and emotional price. People idolise costumed heroes and aspire to be them but they lack the consequence of everything that surrounds the appealing image. Clint is especially averse to being recognised as a costumed hero because he spent so much time working to not be noticed. As a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent stealth was the order of the day and it’s widely accepted that Clint was one of the best at carrying out a mission while leaving no footprints. This changed when he joined the Avengers and became widely known as a result. He lacked a defining costume but the bow and arrow gimmick was enough for him to be recognised as a superhero. Clint never had any desire to be idolised or represent anything for anyone but in the case of Kate it happened entirely by accident after her imprinting on him during the Battle of New York. Kate wants Clint to actively work to project a heroic image so that he can bring the same hope to others but he resists that. He insists to her that he’s not a role model and that the life she idolises isn’t what she thinks it is.
Jeremy Renner’s performance as he advises Kate is filled with weariness. Clint is tired of the stress that life brings and wants to be real with Kate about what comes with it. His negative self image comes from his relentless murderous campaign as Ronin which leaves him ignorant to the possibility that he could be an inspiration to anyone. His assertions that he isn’t a role model are fundamentally erroneous because as a father he has chosen to be that for his own children. He has to be because that’s one of his key responsibilities as their father. His connection to Kate has a parental edge to it so he naturally takes on that role in the lives of young people he encounters, particularly when he sense that they need guidance as Kate clearly does.
Kate fundamentally disagrees with the view that he’s not a role model because he has been exactly that for her from a young age. She inspired him to gain skills and better herself in every conceivable way. She points out that he casually took action in line with being a hero and a role model even if Clint can’t see it. This furthers the idea that his arc may end with him realising that he does have something to offer and embracing that about himself. Equally it could end with him doubling down on his discomfort with the idea of being a role model and giving Kate his blessing to turn Hawkeye into a beacon of hope in her own way. Either would be in keeping with what this show has developed so far. There remains an open question around how Kate will react when she finds out that Ronin and Clint are one in the same. There’s a strong sense that she is closing in on the truth with her currently knowing enough to recognise that the identity of Ronin is a personal sore spot for him that he’d rather forget about completely. For now she has Clint on a pedestal so this knowledge could shatter her perception of him.
Communication is a big theme in this episode with it being beautifully explored through creating difficulties in maintaining that communication. Clint’s hearing aid is damaged early on which means he can’t hear what Kate is saying to him. This is punctuated through carefully deployed muffled silence to put the viewer in Clint’s perspective. A really impressive extended action sequence takes place while Clint is unable to hear Kate meaning that she has to listen to him and follow his instructions because any protest won’t be heard. It’s a great sequence with plenty of variety including hand to hand combat, impressive pinpoint archery skills, a car chase and lots of trick arrows that are played for laughs while also highlighting how useful they are. Clint’s skill and experience shines through showing that his inability to hear doesn’t slow him down and Kate’s aim is shown to be impressive with Clint guiding her to the most effective targets. This reinforced Kate having skill that needs to be honed with Clint’s guidance allowing her to begin doing that. The approach to communication throughout the sequence allows it to be constantly character driven through the lens of it being a learning experience for Kate.
The communication theme extends to a later scene where Clint answers a phone call from his son when he’s unable to hear him. Kate acts as an interpreter by writing a summary of what is said so that Clint can react to it. This is a really powerful scene as it highlights the cost associated with wearing a costume that Clint later talks about while presenting him in a really vulnerable light where he is forced to admit that he needs help. The hearing aid is a manifestation of the consequences that come with the life he has chosen and the life that Kate wants to embark on. It’s also a really moving sequence that reinforces Clint’s desire to have a normal Christmas with his family; something that looks less likely as events progress.
It’s also explored through Maya and how she interacts with those around her. She directly suggests to Clint that he may get on better without his hearing aid; something he agrees with to at least some extent and attention is drawn to the fact that her henchmen refuse to learn sign language. Her open sign language conversation with Kazi (Fra Free) offers an opportunity for Maya’s take on the situation to become known while injecting some doubt as to how far she’s willing to go. This prevents her from being a plot function and ties into the importance of finding a way to communicate so that understanding can be reached.
One criticism that could be lobbied against this episode is that there isn’t a great deal of overall plot progression. There doesn’t really have to be as the focus is on escaping the hostage situation that ended the previous episode but with so few episodes in this season there are potential issues with having an entire episode that only manages to get around to the plot around Kate’s future stepdad being a potential murderer. It does allow for a striking cliffhanger ending though the pacing is negatively impacted leading up to that point. It’s a small blip in a nearly flawless episode but it does stand out.
An excellent episode that continues to develop the strong Clint Barton/Kate Bishop dynamic, introduces a compelling new character and boasts an incredible extended set piece. Maya Lopez’ introduction where her backstory is detailed works really well. It sets up her not letting her deafness define her or hold her back while establishing her relationship with her father as a key motivator in her life. The advice he gives around jumping between two worlds is important to her and it reflects in how she conducts herself in the present day. Losing her father because of Ronin sets up deeper content for Clint to deal with once he learns that. He is already consumed by guilt over his actions in that role so there will be a reckoning to come where he is faced with a direct consequence. It’s a fascinating detail that connects him to Maya in a really fundamental way. This ties into the idea of idolising costumed heroes without understanding the true cost of living that life. Clint never wanted to inspire anyone as his professional life was all about going unnoticed but Kate is proof that he has made an impact without realising it. His assertion that he isn’t a role model is erroneous has he has chosen to be one through being a father. His natural instinct is to fall into a paternal role as shown by the way he relates to Kate.
Communication is a major theme in the episode that is explored in different ways. The extended set piece is built around Kate and Clint communicating without Clint being able to hear her. It’s impressive and entertaining with the trick arrows and the variety keeping up the momentum. The theme feeds into Clint being unable to hear his son on the phone and Kate acting as an interpreter; a truly endearing moment that highlights the cost associated with wearing a costume in Clint’s specific case as well as showcasing some vulnerability on his part. Maya’s henchmen refusing to learn sign language ties into this as does her open conversation with Kazi. One criticism that could be lobbied at the episode is the lack of overall plot progression. The pacing is negatively impacted towards the end prior to the cliffhanger ending. It’s a minor blip but enough to be noticeable.
- the incredible extended set piece
- Maya’s excellent introduction that expertly sets up her character
- Maya being established as a direct consequence Clint will have to face
- Clint’s ongoing discomfort with the notion of being a role model
- commentary on the cost of being a costumed hero
- Kate and Clint’s constantly engaging dynamic
- the varied exploration of communication as a theme
- Clint’s vulnerability when unable to hear his son
- minimal plot progression
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