This episode has some real highlights, including a great New York action sequence, but the most impressive one has got to be the comic book talking heads sequence. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are sitting and talking to each other. They’re staring almost directly into the camera in one-shot close-ups, and they just have a conversation. Back and forth, back and forth, just like a Marvel Comics talking heads sequence. It’s pretty awesome and made me think Rhys Thomas really loved the comics.
Except Thomas didn’t direct this episode, it was Bert & Bertie, so I guess Bert & Bertie really grok the talking heads formula.
The New York action sequence has Renner and Steinfeld doing a car chase with bows, arrows, and bridges. Not a great car chase, but focusing on Steinfeld’s archery—Renner finally lets her use some of his trick arrows, though he keeps the best one for himself—it’s really distinct for the show. Especially since the episode opens with Alaqua Cox’s villain origin story and feels like they will spend the whole episode on her.
We find out she had to go to public school instead of deaf school because dad Zahn McClarnon couldn’t afford it. It lessens the impact when we later find out McClarnon ran the Tracksuit Mafia and was an actual bad guy. Still, the opening with young Cox (played by Darnell Besaw) and McClarnon plays sympathetic and wonderful. She then trains in martial arts from a young age to be a crime lord to numbskulls when she grows up.
“Hawkeye”’s oddly lethal. Like, for a while, all the stuff with the Tracksuit Mafia is non-lethal because they’re jackasses. Steinfeld has a funny interchange with one of them about his relationship troubles, and Cox doesn’t want the heroes killed, so there’s never any real danger. Until all of a sudden, there’s real danger, except the bad guys are mostly boobs, so Steinfeld and Renner can kick ass. Lethally. No dead bodies, but it’s the Batman Returns logic of “you blow someone up, they don’t survive.”
With Cox’s origin story, the beginning really feels like a Marvel Netflix show. Like they’re going to do a whole episode setting her up. They don’t, but it’s an effective prologue.
And there’s a bunch of juxtapositions between Cox and the heroes. Cox has been deaf since at least childhood, if not birth, and Renner’s now got hearing loss. Cox is a childhood martial arts star, Steinfeld’s a childhood martial arts star; Cox has daddy issues, Steinfeld has daddy issues. The Steinfeld analogs don’t get explored here, but Cox and Renner both having hearing loss is a plot point.
Some terrific acting from Steinfeld and very sturdy work from Renner. They really should’ve done the MCU Dad thing with him from go. He and Steinfeld’s mentor and protege relationship gets some nice development here, altogether avoiding the surrogate dad stuff, which is awesome.
Cox is good; Fra Fee’s solid as her sidekick (the only other polysyllabic Tracksuit).
The cliffhanger’s wanting—another comparison to Marvel Netflix, it’s set up for an immediate, binge watch resolution—and makes the episode feel too short, especially since they very obviously tease a reveal villain for later on. But “Hawkeye”’s the real deal. And the Christmas in New York setting just keeps paying off, this episode seemingly doing a Lethal Weapon homage.
Also—the Tracksuit Mafia’s headquarters is an old KB Toys. The branding’s so obvious you’d think there was a tie-in or Disney owned them, but no, it’s apparently just a KB Toys.