The first two episodes of Hawkeye had a lot of ground to cover. Not only did “Never Meet Your Heroes” and “Hide and Seek” have to set up Clint Barton’s (Jeremy Renner) Christmastime adventure in New York City as he tries to get back to his family for the holidays, the show also had to introduce Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), set up her history with Hawkeye, her present situation with her family, and introduce an entirely new series of villains, including the Tracksuit Mafia and Bishop’s potential new stepfather Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton). But with all these pieces now in place, the show’s third episode, “Echoes,” can pivot to Hawkeye’s best aspect: the team-up between Barton and Bishop. But what’s even more surprising is that “Echoes” takes elements that are usually Marvel’s weaknesses and makes them a strength.
“Echoes” begins by going back to 2007, and introduces us to a young Maya Lopez (Darnell Besaw), a deaf child who is remarkably adaptive to the hearing world around her. When her teacher worries that she might have trouble keeping up in class, it turns out she’s more than capable of following along. “Echoes” also introduces Maya’s father William (Zahn McClarnon) in an incredibly tender scene, and also shows that Maya has been an extremely effective fighter since she was a child. As an adult (Alaqua Cox), Maya watches her father die at the hands of Ronin, which explains why, as the Tracksuit Mafia’s apparent #2, she sent the group after Barton and Bishop.
Maybe it’s just because Lopez will become Echo, a character who is also getting her own show on Disney+, or that Lopez’s uncle in the comics is Kingpin, which could be setting up yet another major villain in the MCU, but Hawkeye does a fantastic job of making the audience care about Echo in a relatively short amount of time. The MCU has frequently had a problem making their antagonists interesting, and while it seems just a matter of time before Echo is one of the MCU’s newest heroes, Maya Lopez steals the show in “Echoes.”
The MCU also often has a hard time making their big action sequences compelling, as they can frequently become overwhelmed with CGI and murky fight choreography. But almost half of “Echoes” is dedicated to an extended action chase scene between Barton, Bishop, and the Tracksuit Mafia and it works quite well. The sequence starts at an abandoned KB Toys and seems mostly practical, before moving into a car chase filled with surprises in the form of trick arrows that do everything from throw slime at an oncoming car, to a Pym Arrow that grows to an enormous size when hit with another arrow. As far as MCU action scenes go, this one is delightfully inventive and playful.
But most importantly, “Echoes” focuses on the new dynamic between Barton and Bishop, as the first episode that keeps them together the entire time. The first two episodes thrived when these two were together, and even though Barton spends the majority of the episode not able to hear what’s going on around him, it still doesn’t diminish the chemistry between these two characters.
Written by Katrina Mathewson and Tanner Bean, “Echoes” strengthens this central bond, while continuing to enhance what we already like about these characters. Steinfeld is great as the comedic lead here, even bringing levity to the action sequence with her uncertainty about the trick arrows she’s using. And any MCU character that makes fun of Imagine Dragons is absolutely a solid addition to the Marvel universe.
In addition to making Maya Lopez a sympathetic character before we’ve even been properly introduced to her, Mathewson and Bean’s script also continues to make Barton interesting in a way that he rarely has been before this series. A phone call he has with his son where he can’t hear the other end is affecting and once again reinforces what is at stakes for Hawkeye in this series, and “Echoes” shows how Barton’s past as both Hawkeye and Ronin are still weighing down on him in ways he hasn’t fully reconciled yet.
After an action-packed first half, “Echoes” does start to sag a bit near the end, especially when the pair go back to the Bishop family home, but considering what’s come before, and that this section is clearly just setup for next week, it’s hard to fault the episode too much for ending on a weak moment. Regardless, “Echoes” turns usual MCU negatives into positives, introduces an intriguing new character, and continues to make Clint Barton and Kate Bishop a thoroughly enjoyable pair, both together and separately.