Hawkeye, Episode 3 | Last Stop
Super shenanigans in New York and London.
TV REVIEW /// Hawkeye, Episode 3, "Echoes"
Episode summary: After escaping a new threat, Clint and Kate join forces against an expanding criminal conspiracy. (IMDb)
This review of "Echoes" might seem a little hypocritical after my complaints about the previous episode barely moving the narrative along and focusing on the characters instead - the same issue is present here, but everything else is done so well and was enjoyable to watch that I didn't mind that the status quo is still pretty much where it was at the end of the first episode.
That's going to be a big problem for the last half of this six-episode season as there's going to be so much to fill in, including a certain crime boss who is hinted at in the episode's opening sequence showing Maya's (Alaqua Cox) backstory, growing up Deaf and losing her father to Clint's roaring rampage of revenge as Ronin, before succeeding him as the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia.
It's a brilliant sequence that makes her instantly sympathetic despite being positioned as an antagonist (her own Disney+ show as Echo has already been announced, so don't bet on her staying an adversary) and a nice mirror to Clint, who is hard of hearing himself. With Makkari in Eternals also being a Deaf character played by a Deaf actress (Lauren Ridloff), those with hearing issues have been very well represented in the MCU in 2021!
Clint's hearing issues also lead into another emotional moment once he and Kate get a moment of peace as his youngest son calls and Kate has to quickly scribble down what he's saying so Clint can reply properly. It's a really great scene, with Steinfeld's expressions alone showing how much she feels for Clint and his family, while Renner is just brilliant as a dad whose heart is breaking while pretending to be fine for his son.
I will say that there's a strange 'filter' to Clint's character throughout the series so far that reminds me of how Avengers: Age of Ultron played into the possibility of him being killed off. The guy is still in great shape and his performance isn't dropping, but could we get a tragic ending to the series that forces Kate to take on the Hawkeye mantle permanently? Remember, Yelena is still on her way to seek her misguided revenge...
As for the action, it almost feels like a different show to the previous two, with some nice lengthy shots showing of some great choreography, including an extended one-shot sequence that is incredible to watch, beginning a car chase filled with trick arrows that both wow and underwhelm Kate - the Pym arrow (apparently Hawkeye is still in touch with some other heroes) is used to particularly devastating and funny effect.
As an episode on its own, "Echoes" is fantastic fun and possibly one of the single best episodes of any of the MCU Disney+ shows so far, with the only problem being that it still feels like we're not getting anywhere fast with the story. I'm really enjoying Renner and Steinfeld, plus Cox is incredible as Maya considering this is her first-ever acting job, but I'm wondering if there's a little too much left to get through to do these characters and the performances justice.
"Echoes" feels like the episode where Hawkeye finally found its feet and everything clicked nicely into place, even if the majority of the story elements set up in the first episode have still barely moved on. Renner and Steinfeld work brilliantly together, the action is good, the humour is even better and there are a couple of really great emotional beats to boot. There's a lot to fit into the last three episodes though...
[8/10 - Very Good]
GAME REVIEW /// Last Stop
Game summary: The lives of John, Donna and Meena become entwined as a supernatural crisis looms over each of them. (IMDb)
A London-set episodic adventure with dialogue choices while taking controlling of three very different people? Last Stop sounded perfect to me, even if the reality left a lot to be desired. There's so much potential for excellence here that it's the failure to be as good as it could've been that frustrates the most - it does so much right that what it does wrong stings more than it should.
First off, the episodic nature feels a little odd. I initially thought that maybe it was released that way over a period of time, but that doesn't seem to be the case and the fact that each 'chapter' of the three main characters' stories take place at set times means there is a definite timeline to things, so it seems strange that the game doesn't even off you the option to play it in the order the events take place.
Secondly, there's the uneven relationship between the stories, with some chapters feeling short to the point of irrelevance and, in contrast, some last a fair bit longer than others. This wouldn't be that much of an issue if you could just play the game in order as it would make sense to switch characters when they need to do something, but having set sets of chapters means it occasionally feels like a character's individual chapter in a set only exists because they need each character to have an equal number for each of them.
Trying to keep the story 'balanced' this way also means none of their stories flow particularly well, sometimes dragging out stories to ensure a character gets an equal showing or cutting them short just as an chapter is getting interesting so that other characters don't get forgotten about. I like a lot of the plot across the three stories, but how it's delivered just didn't work for me at all.
Then there's the ending chapter, where all three stories come together, which seems to have been transplanted from an entirely different game. There's absolutely no build-up to just how different things will be and it's pretty jarring to go from mildly odd stories about a body-swap, marital trouble and creepy weirdness to full-blown science-fiction without warning.
Oh, that's right: one of the stories is about a marriage breaking down and containing no strange elements other than Meena (Maya Saroya), who you control, working for a mysterious organisation, who only come across that way thanks to the context of obviously having something to do with the other, stranger, stories. It's not bad, but it really does contribute to making the ending feel out of place.
The other stories - Jack (Brennan Reece) and John (James Doherty) swapping brains and Donna (Shvorne Marks) meeting a mysterious, but dangerous stranger - fit each other much better, but even despite their more fantastical nature, they still don't prepare you for the finale either. But part of that may again be due to having to slice each story up to give each character the same number of chapters and ruining any sense of continuity.
I should also warn that the dialogue choices you make are ultimately irrelevant to the characters and the plot - think of them more as you playing an actor improvising their lines but ultimately having to follow the scripted plot. You might not be able to change how things unfold, but a lot of the dialogue is still pretty entertaining can make for some amusing moments depending on what you choose to say.
Fortunately, I really liked the characters in Last Stop. Wait, scratch that - I found them all interesting to play as, with Meena not actually being that nice of a person at all. That marital trouble I mentioned? It's her fault thanks to an affair she's having with a local GP. She's also pretty paranoid and (unsurprisingly) secretive, which doesn't help to endear her to anyone, but she's still engaging enough to keep you invested in her life.
Which is also true of the other characters. Jack and John's story is the most light-hearted of the bunch and is the most fun to play as, although a lot of credit has to go to Lulu Simpson as John's daughter, Molly, whose comments about their predicament can be very, very funny. The interactions between all three of them are pretty great to be fair, including one brilliant moment between Jack and John when they play piano together.
Donna's story is probably the most interesting from a plot perspective thanks to the nature of the mysterious stranger, and his powers mean you might wonder what's going on at certain points but, trust me, it does make sense. Her story feels like it comes the closest to fitting the ending, but even then it does very little to set up just how weird things will get.
Another thing Last Stop does really well is depict a side of London that you won't see in most video games, with it taking place in mainly quieter areas, away from the usual sights and sounds most would normally expect to see. As someone familiar with London and these types of areas, it was great to see the city shown this way for once, but I can't imagine anyone who is unfamiliar with these kinds of areas will care too much.
In terms of looks, the game is at least consistent, even if the only people given faces are those who have speaking lines - it's a little weird at first, but you soon accept it because the game wants you to focus on the characters anyway and anyone else is effectively just set dressing. The animations can be a little odd at times, but are otherwise filled with enough character to make everyone important feel unique in their body language, as well as in terms of personality.
The performances of the cast are all pretty great too, regardless of how much you like them or not. In fact, I can honestly say that there are no lines of dialogue that I chose which felt out of place or even out of character. Having played through Last Stop just the once, I may have missed weaker deliveries on the lines not chosen, but the voice-acting has to rank pretty highly for any game as far as I'm concerned.
Ultimately, Last Stop is a game that feels like its structure handicaps the story as a whole. The way each group of chapters is dished out just doesn't work and undercuts the excellent performances of the cast and the generally very good dialogue they're given. It can be fun to figure out what happened when, but I really think simply experiencing the story in the order it happened would've improved things no end.
Last Stop does a lot things really well, but the flaws are too significant to recommend it fully - the imbalance between the three stories being the most prominent, along with the sense that the choices you make are more a case of tone rather than affecting the plot or the characters in any manner. Still, it's fairly short and fun while it lasts, which makes it an ideal Game Pass title to play.