Hawkeye's hidden depths came up a couple of times in the first season, but became a semi-regular thing in Season 2 with episodes like "Head to Head" and "Beneath the Surface" demonstrating why he's an Avenger, despite his lack of "power."
Another thing Season 2 likes to do is justify Falcon's presence on the team with episodes like "Nighthawk." So it was only a matter of time before these two characters got a team-up episode.
|Plus, they're both named after birds. Hey, if it was enough of a reason for Nighthawk to take an interest in Falcon....|
The nerd in me is quick to say "Well, maybe it works similarly to the Romulan cloaking device in 'Balance of Terror,' and the cloak works both ways, meaning that it has to briefly uncloak in order to see anything."
The reviewer in me is quick to say "What's wrong with making the jet translucent? That's the usual animation shortcut to denote invisibility. Why did the animators choose to have it momentarily uncloak?"
And the eternal struggle within my brain continues.
Speaking of eternal struggles, inside the invisible Avenjet, Thor and Hulk are thumb-wrestling while the Avengers all wait for the arrival of the Wrecking Crew in the warehouse below, as per the intel Black Widow intercepted.
Hulk loudly roars in triumph as his ginormous thumb holds down Thor's... which you'd think would undermine the fact that the jet is invisible, but whatever. Thor says that winning a mere thumb-war is no true victory, which is his cue to get punched in the face.
As Thor and Hulk threaten to brawl simply to alleviate their boredom, Hawkeye is dealing with his boredom by stacking cards. He tosses one into the air, then throws another card so hard that it slices the first card, resulting in two cards in an X shape. And each X lands on top of the existing Xs that already landed.
|Impressive. And impossible. Which is why it's impressive.|
Hey, at least he's not baffled by a phrase like "banquet hall" this time.
Falcon starts compiling a technobabble description of his gadget, which makes Hawkeye pretend to fall asleep. But Captain America interrupts the Avengers' activities by announcing a visual down below. And despite my inner nerd screaming that I should thoroughly examine whether or not the jet was cloaked while running the visual scan, I'm going to just move on with the episode to see if there's something worth nitpicking instead of a one-second animation choice.
Anyway, the warehouse below has a few visitors in the form of the Wrecking Crew, consisting of Wrecker, Piledriver, Bulldozer, and
No Thunderball. The Wrecker heads inside and rips up the floor, revealing
"AIM's abandoned tech," according to Wrecker.
|I have to assume that there was an easier way to get to them than ripping up the concrete floor, though.|
You know, I can't help but wonder what's been going on with AIM since last we saw them in "Head to Head."
Their missile threat was successfully halted by the Avengers, but we never saw S.H.I.E.L.D. actually take any members of AIM in, since S.H.I.E.L.D. was being controlled at the time by MODOK and his newfound mind-control powers. Even if MODOK's AIM underlings managed to escape in the kerfuffle, we can probably assume that AIM has taken a hit with the temporary loss of their large-headed leader. And this would seem to be confirmed by the fact that this cache of military-grade robotic warsuits has absolutely nothing in the way of protection. AIM resources seem to be elsewhere. Possibly breaking MODOK out for a future episode....
Anyway, the Avengers arrive.
Captain America: "Avengers..."
Iron Man: "Don't think that's where Cap was going with that, Hulk."
Hulk: "Tired of waiting."
The usual sort of burly brawl begins, and the Avengers start mopping the floor with the Crew, to the surprise of no one.
The Wrecking Crew usually appear as minor threats in the Marvel Animation Universe. As of this writing, they've only been the main villain in a single episode, Ultimate Spider-Man's "Damage." In the rest of their appearances, they're just there to add flavor or team up with the true mastermind of the episode. And what I find pretty amusing is that, although not exactly spelled out in the episode proper, the Wrecking Crew seems to be aware of this. Hence, stealing the AIM warsuits.
Speaking of those things, the Wrecker manages to get inside one, quickly figures out how to operate it, and uses it to grab Hawkeye in his gigantic robo-fist.
Now, I think I've said this before, but I feel as though it bears repeating here.
I don't like it when certain characters get powered armor. Mostly ones who already have super strength.
Here's how I see it: The Wrecker is super-strong and pretty much invulnerable, right? So when I see the Wrecker, I know that the Avengers will be able to take him down, but only through their combined strength.
But a mech-suit, on the other hand? I see something comparatively fragile. Metal, plastic, and hydraulics. Comic books, films, and cartoons have taught me that the heaviest machinery can be defeated by relatively "weak" Avengers, not just Thor and Hulk.
|One tank. One small missile. Now tell me Hawkeye couldn't have shot an explosive arrow into that tank.|
On top of that, the Wrecker's crowbar is an enchanted item akin to Thor's hammer. So when I see him operating something with a big laser gun, I consider that to be a step down for him. It's just like earlier in the season when the Avengers piloted Titan warsuits.
|Unless you blocked out "Thanos Rising" from your memory. I wouldn't hold it against you.|
These armors came with hard-light duplicates of the Avengers' weapons. Since those weapons include a shield made out of indestructible metal and a hammer forged in a dwarf star, the hard-light replicas seem like a step down, don't they?
This is probably why the Avenger at risk of being lasered in the face by the Wrecker's laser cannon is Hawkeye. If the Wrecker's mechanical mitt had grabbed onto Hulk, Thor, or even Captain America, I don't many people would be too worried about their safety.
Hawkeye is saved, to the surprise of no one, but not in the usual way. Falcon whips out his new electro-whatever gun to disable Wrecker's armor, following that up by using his newly-crafted "molecular restraint system" to immobilize the Wrecker on the ground.
|So... I'm not going to outright say that Falcon never uses
these inventions again...|
but I'll be sure to remember them and see if Falcon whips them out when they'd come in handy.
With the leader down, the rest of the Wrecking Crew goes down easy. Soon enough, S.H.I.E.L.D. leads the Wrecking Crew away in restraints while Captain America compliments Falcon's assist.
Captain America: "Outthinking the enemy is the first step to outfighting them."
Iron Man: "Couldn't have done it better myself."
...I think Iron Man's a Skrull.
Iron Man: "Okay, I could've, but still impressed."
Whoops, false alarm.
The only Avenger who doesn't seem to be shilling Falcon to the audience is Hawkeye, which doesn't go unnoticed by Falcon. He asks why Hawkeye seems so upset about the assist, and he gets his answer.
Hawkeye: "I appreciate the save, but anyone with that gun could've done the same thing."
Hey, look, it's the number one criticism of Batman.
Hawkeye: "A real hero has skills."
Hey, look, it's the counter-argument to the aforementioned criticism.
Hawkeye is combining the two arguments to once again address criticisms of Falcon in this show.
Even without modern gadgets and gizmos, Tony Stark is a genius. I mean, the guy built the world's most advanced reactor in a cave with a box of scraps. I may not have liked "Savages," but I will admit that it cemented him as resourceful and creative.
Black Widow is an amazing martial artist, Hawkeye never misses, and Falcon... exists.
As I said when I covered "Nighthawk," Falcon was lightly retooled into a gadgeteer to differentiate him from Tony Stark. And yet, without those same gadgets, what does he bring to the table?
And that's what this episode is going to set out to examine.
Falcon: "My tech is my skill. Think anyone can just put on this suit and be Falcon?"
Funnily enough, that's sort of calls back to a modification they made to Wolverine. Originally, his claws were been part of his gloves, but they didn't like the implication that it was the gloves that made Wolverine super. The argument toward making his claws a part of his skeleton was that "anyone could put on the gloves and become Wolverine."
Hawkeye: "No, not anyone. Hulk's way too heavy. He'd never get airborne."
Later at Avengers Tower, Falcon interrupts one of Hawkeye's training sessions to test out some devices he'd created.
Falcon: "Check it. Never-miss arrows."
The arrows are voice-activated and self-propelled past a certain point, allowing them to hit any target and return. And when I say any target....
Falcon: "Hulk's sandwich."
The arrow zooms out of the room with a swish, followed by....
|Okay, that was funny.|
And he proves this by using an arrow of his own to knock the self-propelled arrow away from a holographic target shortly before the Hulk angrily returns to threaten whoever stole his sandwich, which falls right into his hands.
Hulk: "Never mind."
Next, Falcon shows off a hovering shield that can calculate its own flight path. Of course, its slow hovering speed makes it more of a flying saucer, and less of a high-speed weapon. Perfect for gently nudging enemies! And I think the real dealbreaker would be the fact that it's not indestructible.
Next, Falcon whips out some hard-light holographic fists, much like Hawkeye's holographic bow from "Ghosts of the Past." And I'm relatively sure that much like that bow, it won't be popping up most times it could come in handy.
Hawkeye: "You're trying to mimic everyone else's powers?"
You know, I can see both sides of the argument here.
On the one hand, Falcon should stick to his guns and do what he's good at, filling his niche in the team dynamic. On the other hand... this sort of is his niche. And not only that, but some of these gadgets would actually help Falcon. I mean, imagine if he could deliver a high-speed Hulk smash on an aerial target. I think that might come in handy.
|I mean, Hawkeye said it himself. Hulk could never get airborne.|
Of course, Hawkeye's core argument seems to be based around the idea that hiding behind gadgets in lieu of developing real worlds skills (the skills that Falcon's new gadgets are meant to replace) is a bad idea.
I mean, Hawkeye doesn't just hate technology. If that were the case, not only would he have more of a beef with Iron Man, but he wouldn't be using those gadgets in his quiver, now would he? Just saying, an explosive arrow definitely counts as a gadget.
But I could go on and on. More than I already have, I mean. Falcon has one more gadget to show, in the form of an Asgardian runestone.
Falcon: "I'm trying to recreate Thor's powers."
By fiddling around with a magic rock that you don't know what it does? Great idea.
|So this doesn't count as duplicating Thor's powers?|
So Falcon screws around with what's basically an Asgardian Rubik's sphere until he comes across a configuration that teleports both him and Hawkeye away in a flash of light.
Hawkeye: "I'm betting you didn't just transport us to Jersey."
But it's okay. Falcon knows he can undo their sudden journey to some kind of magical forest. All he has to do is fiddle with the runestone. The problem with that, unfortunately, is that half the runestone got left behind. Whoops.
Suddenly, some kind of horse-riding warrior lady (Jennifer Hale) leaps onto the scene, fighting a couple of dark beasts. Falcon and Hawkeye join in, but one of the creatures absorbs all the energy from Falcon's suit and uses it to grow bigger and stronger. Luckily, Hawkeye spots some convenient precariously-perched rocks on a nearby rock ridge that he shoots to cause a rockslide, defeating the beasts.
Warrior Lady: "You strangers dare come to Vanaheim with electric machines?"
Hawkeye: "Whoa whoa whoa, we didn't dare anything. Genius here accidentally teleported us from Earth to... where'd you say? Vanaheim?"
|"So we're in California?"|
Warrior Lady: "The Shadow Nixes have grown more bold since the Great Light burned out. And I was unable to find more potion to fuel it."
Hawkeye: "Wasn't she speaking English just a second ago?"
So... Hawkeye doesn't understand the word "potion"? Or did "Great Light" go over his head? Between this and not understanding the phrase "Banquet Hall" last time, I've formulated a theory.
In the comics, Hawkeye has found numerous reasons to have to use a hearing aid, most recently in Matt Fraction's run on Hawkeye.
So I choose to believe that Hawkeye not understanding words like "Great Light" or "Banquet Hall" or "Electromagnetic Particle Gun" is due to him forgetting to put his hearing aid in. He can't quite hear what people are saying, and simply assumes that people are using either technobabble or weird words from some other language. Like "Eldhrímnir."
Falcon: "So, you don't have technology, you have...."
Warrior Lady: "Magic."
"But... we've established that magic is just technology we don't understand, right?
Didn't that Iron Man hammer that into our heads last season?"
"Falcon, I think we're on Dr. Strange's turf, now."
Falcon feels pretty useless in a land of magic, so Hawkeye gives him a task.
Hawkeye: "Figure out how to get us out of the Hundred Acre Wood and back to New York with all its glorious streetlights and power sockets."
Falcon: "Not without the rest of the runestone. Someone back at the tower has to fire it up to bring us back."
Or Thor could ask Heimdall for a portal to wherever you two are. Either one.
Soon enough, our heroes arrive at a cliff overlooking... um....
|Some kind of generic Lord of the Rings city.|
This time, Thor wins, and quickly declares a rematch, saying that the winner has to go up against both Captain America and Black Widow at once. Cap politely declines, since he's got an appointment with NYPD's horse trainer to go horseback riding.
Captain America: "Anyone wanna come along?"
Hulk: "Do I look like I ride horses?"
|Yes. Yes you do.|
Iron Man: "Magic isn't real, Thor. I'm not buyin' it."
|"Didn't I hammer that into you guys' heads last season?"|
In the case of the Shadow Nixes, this translates to growing fifty feet tall and blacking out part of the city while Black Widow pries Tony out of his armor. Once free, he tells her to help stop those monsters while he searches for whatever led them to Earth in the first place.
|Seriously, though, that arc reactor should be a magnet for the Shadow Nixes.|
Back in Vanaheim, the Vanaheimians are putting up a fierce struggle, but the Nixes are starting to overwhelm them. Freya jumps her horse over the Nix horde into the city, followed by Hawkeye and Falcon simply hopping from one enemy to another like a couple of Brooklyn plumbers.
|One jump, ahead of the Nixes. One swipe, ahead of the claws.|
Hawkeye: "Who needs a 'Great Light' when you've got all this stuff and me?"
Yep, Hawkeye found the weapons cache. And he starts going to town on the Nixes.
Hawkeye: "Just usin' my skills, Falcon."
Said skills seem to be more than able to pay the bills, impressing even Freya when he launches an arrow to split her thrown spear, taking out two Nixes at once.
Freya: "I've never seen our weapons used that way."
Falcon tries to join in, but finds himself quickly tossed aside by one of the Shadow Nixes.
Hawkeye: "Get these villagers inside! I got this."
Yes, as anyone who's played Skyrim can attest, the last thing an archer needs is a fellow warrior blindly rushing into the fray and getting themselves killed. I mean, seriously, Lydia. I told you to wait outside.
Anyway, Freya takes Falcon inside and meets with Elder Lorak, giving him the bad news: she couldn't find any more of the potion... in the wilderness?
Where exactly was she looking? Did she visit a neighboring town? Is there a natural potion spring in the mountains? I guess it doesn't matter, since she didn't find any.
Falcon asks what exactly the deal is with the Great Light, and Freya explains that it's basically a lighthouse that keeps the Shadow Nixes away. It's powered by an alchemical potion they have the recipe for, but nobody can decipher the ancient language the scroll written in.
|"We've mixed together all the ingredients we could think of. Red Mountain Flower, Vampire Dust, Nirnroot...."|
|I don't know if that's stupid or brilliant, so bear with me as I try to figure it out.|
Molecular diagrams actually do make sense as a recipe for a chemical formula.
NaCl, for example, represents salt. Na is sodium and Cl is chloride. Put them together, and you have sodium chloride. Salt.
But the "ancient language" could be composed of pictograms representing each element, arranged not linearly (as withe the aforementioned NaCl), but arranged in a diagram representing the chemical solution. So if you could figure out what symbol corresponded to what basic element, you could figure out the end result.
But if knowledge of the meaning of the symbols was lost over time, all you'd be left with is a bunch of symbols that could mean anything. If no one wrote it down following an apocalypse, "NaCl" could conceivably become just as meaningless.
If each elemental symbol corresponded to something like, say, the number of protons, then somebody with knowledge of chemistry could easily figure out the formula, while the isolated village could have conceivably lost that knowledge over time.
Holy crap, this plot point is awesome. Has this idea ever been used in anything before? I feel like an idea this simple and cool should have been used in at least one sci-fi story before now. If anybody can name something, go ahead and let me know in the comments.
Anyway, Hawkeye rushes in, leading a tactical retreat as they shut the giant doors on the outer wall. Hawkeye wants to know if the village has any sort of escape tunnels, but Freya knows exactly how futile that is, since the Nixes won't just stop at the village.
Back at Avengers Tower, Tony Stark roams the halls looking for Falcon and Hawkeye, coming across the Nixes' claw prints as the other Avengers keep fighting the Nixes. Since electricity makes them grow bigger, the lights and screens of Times Square is like a feast for them. God help us if they make their way to Tokyo.
Speaking of Tokyo, the two Nixes are now kaiju-sized. Hulk punches one as the other stays oddly still in the background, because....
|I don't know, somebody forgot to animate it moving?|
Hulk grabs onto the Nix's face and delivers a classic Three Stooges injury.
Hulk: "Here's Hulk in your eye!"
|"Quit stealin' my catchphrase, Green Jeans! Or so help me, I'm takin' yer job, come Season 3!"|
|Judging by the damage to the building, it was solid stone with no interior rooms.|
The fight momentarily stops as the Nixes head off into the water toward a power plant, but the Avengers regroup to assess the situation. Thor tells the others that the Shadow Nixes nearly destroyed Vanaheim centuries ago... and I'll go ahead and skip any sort of comments referring to the mythological Aesir-Vanir War, since I've discovered that ignoring discrepancies between this show and real world Norse mythology is just better for my mental wellbeing.
But speaking of Vanaheim, Hawkeye amazes the local soldiers yet again by cutting the ropes around a stack of logs with an arrow, causing them to roll into the Nixes. And also multiply.
|Somewhere around 25 logs....|
|Somewhere around 250.|
Vanaheim Soldier: "Why does your partner not help?"
Hawkeye: "Falcon? Not much he can do without tech. He's probably taking a nap."
But in actuality, Hawkeye has set up shop at the alchemy lab in the town hall, fiddling with some chemical cocktails and testing a couple flashbombs.
Back at the tower, Tony follows the trail back to half of Falcon's runestone, knowing that he'll have to call in Thor on this.
Back with Hawkeye, he unleashes the last of his arsenal, two explosive arrows. But the Shadow Nixes are still in full force, and one even steals his bow. When it looks like's he's done for, Falcon swoops in on cloth wings to drop chemical bombs on the beasts, allowing him to give Hawkeye some Bronze Age equivalents to his usual arsenal. Net Arrows, Bomb Arrows, Tree Sap Arrows, et cetera.
Hawkeye: "You made all this?"
Falcon: "Just using my skills, Hawkeye."
|"I even made you a bow!"|
"Why didn't you just get me a new bow from the armory?"
"...I made you a bow."
Falcon and Hawkeye continue the good fight while Tony meets up with Captain America, currently going all Dark Knight Returns by riding a horse through a blacked-out city. Tony tosses him the runestone and says that the stone seems to have switched them with the Vanaheim Shadow Nixes.
Tony Stark: "Can you Pony Express this thing?"
Captain America: "Snowball's not a pony, he's a stallion."
Yeah, Tony. The lack of a cutie mark should have given it away.
|Is... is Tony really doing the whatever sign? What it this, the 90s?|
Captain America: "Can you reverse it?"
Thor: "Aye. And I clearly need to lock the door to my quarters."
As Thor starts making with the magic, Falcon whips out a little magic potion of his own.
Falcon: "Magic's just technology we don't understand."
And by that, what Falcon really means is that alchemy is just chemistry.
Falcon's half of the runestone glows, allowing him to add a little magic spark to his magic potion.
|Boy, it's a good thing the Runestone was activated just then.|
Hawkeye dips an arrow into the chemical solution and gains his final powerup, the Light Arrows, which he uses to relight the Great Light in the tower.
|If I could make this picture play the item-get sound from Wind Waker, I would do it in a heartbeat.|
The incredibly bright beam of light disintegrates all the Shadow Nixes.
|And probably reveals an invisible treasure chest off the shore of Windfall Island.|
And you know what? Maybe Falcon's right, and all magic is just technology. After all, his chemical compound just pulled the same trick as Gandalf at the Battle of Helm's Deep. The guy truly was a conjurer of cheap tricks. Flaming pinecones, light spells... I've played Level 1 DnD characters who could do the same things.
And so, Vanaheim is saved as the Great Light burns once again.
Elder Lorak: "Let us always remember in myth, legend, and song the Great Falcon, and his trusty sidekick, Hawkeye!"
Before Hawkeye can protest, he and Falcon get zapped back to Earth. But the Nixes seem to have grown too powerful to be transported back to Vanaheim. So Falcon flies up and tells Thor to zap the Great Light potion, which, long story short, he does.
The Nixes disintegrate as power is restored to the city, because... I don't know, Law of Conservation of Energy or something.
Sometime later, Falcon and Hawkeye enjoy a training session together. Falcon says that being tech-less in Vanaheim was a bit of a wakeup call, but Hawkeye admits that Falcon's real strength is in his ability to solve problems.
And with a little gentle ribbing between our heroes, the episode ends.