Hawk and Dove | Episode 3 (55)
Aired: August 21, 2004
Heroes: Wonder Woman, J'onn Jonzz, Hawk and Dove
Supporting: Hephaestus and General Nardoc
Objects: The Annihilator, Justice League Communication Link, and Invisible Jet
Places: Lemnos, Kaznia, Metropolis, and Justice League Unlimited Watchtower
Story By: Ron Zimmerman
Teleplay By: Robert Goodman
Directed By: Joaquim Dos Santos
ReviewReview written by Alex Weitzman
This was the episode where JLU is first put to the test of probably its greatest inherent challenge: can the show introduce and focus on all-new superheroes who don't even have enough clout via popularity to have pre-established expectations/desires from the audience to help the filmmakers? Green Arrow of "Initiation" is well-known and easily defined enough for his adaptation to be less of a hassle. Captain Atom didn't get much attention from a development perspective, but neither did he get much episode focus. And the last couple of episodes have dealt in characters we know.
But now we get Hawk and Dove, members of the DC pantheon that even general-level comic geeks don't know too much about. And since that's this show's - and this episode's - biggest challenge, let's just say first and foremost that the introduction of Don and Hank Hall was the greatest virtue of "Hawk and Dove". The respective casting of Jason Hervey and Fred Savage as the brothers was superb, especially in playing them against their standard Wonder Years types. It's a strong casting gambit by Andrea Romano; by giving these roles to actors so familiar with the opposite characterization, realism is brought to their relatively one-note mindsets. Hervey's sense of peaceful justice and Savage's animal fury are well-defined, probably because every so often, Hawk is light-hearted in his arguments for violence and Dove is intense in his support of pacifism. Their dialogue is where the episode gets almost all of its thematic strength, be they together or apart, because they're both pretty good at making their sides convincing.
However, the novel approach sought with Hawk and Dove robs the rest of the story and its players of some or most of its power. After all, Hawk and Dove can (and do) have this argument any time. Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is denied the amount of time necessary to follow the arc the story sets down for her. The provided situation is, in fact, an accurate one for the way this particular Wonder Woman has ended up, since we have seen how violent and furious she has been in episodes like "Maid of Honor", "Hereafter", and "Starcrossed". Therefore, her realization of a less aggressive approach in "Hawk and Dove" is not a dishonest one; the story simply lacks the juice to believably drive her from one side to the other. There is nothing gradual about her change, as she goes straight from threatening to pound Hephaestus (about the most lecherous and weasely performance I've ever heard from Ed Asner) to deciding not to pound one of the Kasnians. A talk with Dove or a word about anger's ineffectuality from Hephaestus would've sufficed. Also, her relationship with Ares is totally blank thanks to her somehow already knowing who he is and what he's all about; even though Michael York puts great effort into his performance, the character is just sort of generically evil thanks to his lack of reference with Diana.
Here's what I think: of all the episodes we've seen so far, this is the first JLU episode that made me wish it was a two-parter. I know some have already used that one with "For The Man Who Has Everything", but this is the first time where I've felt the episode suffer due to a lack of breathing room for the plot. After all, given the nature of Hawk and Dove, there has to be a lot of fighting so that they can showcase how their inherent political differences translate to comic-book action (which makes Dove the more interesting fighter, I think, since he's not just punching everything). That also took away from the time given for the episode's story-based goals to get proper development. Had there been more time, Ares could've been an unknown factor for Wonder Woman, allowing her development to match the level of Hawk and Dove. The war in Kasnia could've been given further weight, making the final moments more believable and less cartoonish. And Diana could've actually bounced her own problems with aggression off of Hawk and Dove and allowed change to occur because of that, instead of the brothers' eternal conflict merely being a parallel. I'm glad that Hawk and Dove came out so well, but next time, I hope new heroes will be introduced in episodes that don't bite off more than they can chew.