Features and Columns · TV

Why A Cheek Pinch is the Most Exciting Action in ‘Hawkeye’

Car chases, gunfire, and giant Pym-enhanced arrows are cool and all, but they got nothing on these villainous grabby fingers.
Hawkeye Episode Explained
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on December 2nd, 2021

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. In this entry, we explore Hawkeye Episode 3 (“Echoes”) and examine the large man looming in the shadows. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

Worlds are colliding. The Multiverse makes anything possible. Sliding corporate realities don’t hurt either. Characters who a year ago would never meet now share the game board.

Hawkeye is a series that looks light and fluffy on the surface but dig just a few inches beneath, and you’ll discover radical implications for the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. A tiny gesture hidden within this week’s car chases and gunfire represent a possible shift in the franchise’s criminal underworld. Did you hear that laugh? Is that you-know-who? Place those bets.

In Episode 3, we begin in 2007, a year before Iron Man launched into theaters. A young girl struggles in a classroom with bright, smiling, yelling faces. Her father (Zahn McClarnon) could not afford the private school specializing in deaf students, so she must navigate an uncaring world. Dad sees this as a plus, and soon, she will as well.

Maya Lopez Bridges Two Marvel Realities

The child is Maya Lopez, played in adulthood by Alaqua Cox. In the previous episode, we first saw her commanding the Tracksuit mafia, who strapped Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to a pair of coin-operated kiddie rides. We discover her dangerous ties to New York’s seedy underworld through flashbacks and how Clint Barton’s Ronin persona from Avengers: Endgame triggered Maya’s vengeance quest.

Maya has photographic reflexes, meaning once she observes a certain physical feat, she can mimic, or echo, the action. In Episode 3, we first see her use this ability while attending a martial arts class. Her dad does not stick around to see her defeat her opponent, leaving her “uncle” to drive her home afterward.

Maya does not mind dad skipping out. She beams when the uncle reaches out with a huge, white hand and pinches her cheek. The unseen titan chuckles in delight at her smile, and that laugh sure sounds like Vincent D’Onofrio’s unique Kingpin chortle from the Netflix Daredevil series. And that would make sense considering Maya’s comic book origin.

From Daredevil to Ronin to Kingpin

Maya Lopez first appeared in Daredevil volume 2, issue 9. Created by David Mack and Joe Quesada, she begins her comic book narrative as a sympathetic antagonist to Matt Murdoch’s blind-yet-sensory-enhanced vigilante. She’s hired by Kingpin to hunt down Daredevil and, in the process, falls in love with Murdoch. Eventually, the two team up, and Maya is actually the first person to wear the Ronin costume in the New Avengers series before Clint Barton takes on the mantle.

In Hawkeye, we witness her father’s murder by Barton’s Ronin. Barton satiated his rage by slaughtering criminals after his family got blipped during Avengers: Infinity War. In Barton’s hunt to slay Maya’s uncle, her henchman father received a blade to the chest. This encounter occurred at an auto repair shop sporting the moniker “Fat Man,” another allusion to Kingpin.

When Kate Bishop stole the Ronin costume from the supervillain auction, she accidentally gained Maya and her uncle’s attention. Barton cannot explain her innocence without outing himself as the killer, and he poorly creates a fiction where Black Widow supposedly killed the ninja assassin. Maya isn’t having it.

The further into Hawkeye we go, the more obvious it seems that this series will ultimately be Barton’s great reckoning with his Ronin sin. He let hate into his heart, and he raged through the world, slashing wounds into the hearts of others. He never considered the humanity dangling on the end of his sword. It’s time for confession, and only Maya can offer forgiveness.

What or Who is Sloan, Ltd?

Throughout Hawkeye Episode 3, Barton educates Bishop on the murky superhero world she’s so eager to join. He’s trying to sell her on the pain and regret that comes with the costume. He’s dancing around Black Widow’s death. He’s dancing around the red on his ledger. Barton’s agony needs exposure for the baton to pass between Hawkeyes; he has to get real with the fangirl at his side.

After ditching the Tracksuit Draculas, Barton and Bishop return to her digs where they can access her mother’s security firm. They don’t have much to research, just a name: Kazi (Fra Fee), Maya’s righthand goon. The computer connects the thug with Sloan Ltd. Curiouser and curiouser.

There are several Sloans within Marvel Comics continuity, but only one associated with Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk, Willie Sloan, aka Willie the Goat. He’s not a major character. Sloan only appeared in two Spider-Man spin-off comics before he was dreadfully dispatched.

Sloan was a snitch, a punk who had the goods on Kingpin, or so he thought. In Peter Parker: Spectacular SpiderMan #67, Kingpin gave Sloan some bogus information hoping to confuse a federal investigation. The not-so-supervillain Boomerang killed Sloan, hoping to gain Kingpin’s favor, but earned the mob boss’ wrath instead. Kingpin then sicced Boomerang on Spider-Man, knowing the wall-crawler would easily detain the chump.

Fixing the Marvel Netflix Problem

Willie Sloan may or may not have anything to do with Hawkeye. At the very least, the company acts like Fat Man Auto Repair. It’s a breadcrumb. One leading toward Vincent D’Onofrio’s return, an MCU homecoming that would make many happy.

Right now, the Marvel Netflix shows exist in this shady middle-world. They were initially sold to us as existing within the same universe as The Avengers. But while the shows frequently referenced the movies, the movies never referenced the shows. The vibe was that Kevin Feige wanted nothing to do with Marvel Netflix overseer Jeph Loeb.

That’s all about to change. Loeb is long gone. Feige and Marvel Studios have all the toys.

Charlie Cox’s Daredevil is all but confirmed to appear in SpiderMan: No Way Home. Considering how that film is mixing it up with the Multiverse, it’s easy to imagine the Netflix shows crossing the barrier into the MCU. But maybe they don’t need to cross the barrier. Perhaps it’s like they were originally sold to us. Maybe the Netflix shows have always existed within the MCU. Now, they’re just one cheek pinch within reach.

Kingpin is Back, No Doubt

We don’t have to worry about the “maybes” with Maya Lopez. We know she’s a new big player. Her Disney+ series, Echo, is scheduled to arrive alongside Ms. Marvel, SheHulk, Ironheart, and so many more. While we were distracted by the baton pass between the two Hawkeyes, we forgot about the baton pass between the two Ronin.

Maya was the first to don the suit in the comics, and Barton followed. They could easily flip that for the MCU. Maya could continue the fight that Barton started against Wilson Fisk. She only needs to forgive Barton for that whole killing dad thing. Oof. That’s going to take some work.

Maybe a whole season of work? Ah, that word again. Dammit.

We’re going to get a slow build to Kingpin with Hawkeye, but once he’s here, he’s sticking around for a bit. Kingpin is a major figure within Spider-Man and Daredevil mythology. He’s going to cause serious MCU ruckus.

This is not a case of seeing Mephisto in every WandaVision corner. Kingpin is here. We just heard him. We just saw him. Get ready. Get excited. D’Onofrio is back.

Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)