Though he’s been a member of the Avengers since the beginning, Hawkeye hasn’t gotten the same level of admiration as his fellow superheroes. Perhaps that’s because Jeremy Renner is rather weird dude with a mediocre music career and a disastrous defunct app. Perhaps it’s because Hawkeye is simply a dude with a bow and arrow. Either way, that’s about to change as Renner’s superhero gets his own Disney+ series with Hawkeye. With two episodes shown to critics ahead of its release, it’s hard to get a real grasp on Hawkeye – though this has been true of the other Marvel shows on Disney+ – as its initial two episodes are mainly setup, establishing the scenario and characters before revealing the twists and turns that are being teased. Hawkeye gets off to a good enough start that I’m curious to see where it goes even if it hasn’t entirely gripped me as a viewer.
The first episode opens during the climax of The Avengers and the Battle of New York. A young Kate Bishops watches in awe at the heroic exploits of Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Renner). Then tragedy strikes. During the attack, Kate Bishop’s father is killed in the chaos. Over the years, she’ll dedicate herself to learning archery and martial arts. Present day, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) is among her college’s best archers, though a dare that leads to massive destruction on campus leaves her on the outs of her campus. Things keep piling up for Kate from there as her mother Elanor (Vera Farmiga) has just announced her engagement to Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), whose overly eager charm offensive leaves Kate a bit suspicious. When Kate stumbles into a black market auction of superhero gear, she finds herself donning the Ronin costume that Hawkeye wore in Avengers: Endgame when he was laying waste to criminal underground syndicates with extreme prejudice. Merely wearing the costume has put a target on Kate’s head as the gangs of New York want vengeance on Ronin.
Soon, Kate has met her superhero idol in Hawkeye, though he’s not exactly thrilled that he’s been pulled away from his family vacation in New York. As Kate and Hawkeye try to quell the escalating tensions, they find themselves unraveling a web of conspiracy, though the reality of what’s happening behind the curtains is merely hinted at over the first two episodes.
Set during the Christmas season, Hawkeye with its buddy action premise tries to capture the feel of a Shane Black movie, and for the most part I’d say it succeeds. The show, like most of Marvel’s fare, has a deft sense of humor to it. One particularly funny sequence has Hawkeye and his children attending the Broadway musical Rogers, which is like a Hamilton but about Captain America and the exploits of the Avengers. But the show is also curious about the emotional toll that a life of heroism has put Clint Barton through, and he does seem to be suffering from a form of PTSD as well as still grieving the loss of his dear friend Black Widow. With a new mission – to get home in time for Christmas – Clint pushes his problems to the side and soldiers through, though the conclusion of the show’s second episode hints that Hawkeye’s past is going to catch up with him very soon.
While Hawkeye may be titled after its eponymous Avenger, the show is really focused on Kate Bishop and Hailee Steinfeld is absolutely astounding as Hawkeye’s young protégé. The young actress pulls off the balancing act of a character who is simultaneously extremely confident and extremely naïve. I’m curious to see how this character evolves over the remaining four episodes as she begins to understand where she fits into this world of superheroes. Early on, her heroic actions consistently lead to more complications and danger. I’m also curious as to how the show will continue to handle the issue of Kate Bishop’s class, as its established quite early on that she’s born into wealth but seems disinterested in a life of privilege while consistently reaping its benefits.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye are directed by Rhys Thomas, best known for his work on the hilarious show Documentary Now. On that show, Thomas established that he was a filmmaker who could emulate any number of styles, and Hawkeye sees him taking on the action genre. Thomas mostly succeeds, the action is solid and presented clearly for the most part. The comedic sensibilities of Thomas also find their way into Hawkeye, not merely in the dialogue but in the situations and characters. This is especially true in a wild sequence in which Hawkeye must infiltrate a group of live action role players. Is it entirely necessary to the plot? Maybe not. Is it entertaining? Yes, it is.
The Marvel shows on Disney+ are hard to review because the glimpse critics get into the show is fundamentally incomplete. I don’t fault Disney for withholding the rest of the series, but knowing that there’s an array of twists and turns ahead have me intrigued but unable to truly issue a final verdict. Based on what I’ve seen, I’m on board for the rest of Hawkeye but fear its conclusion might be a bit underwhelming, like the finales for both WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But even if the rest of Hawkeye underwhelms, it will have done one thing that fans of the MCU can be grateful for, and that’s the introduction of Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop who really injects a whole new energy into the MCU and is destined to be a fan favorite for years to come. Hawkeye hits the mark in its first two episodes but will it be able to nail a bullseye in its final four episodes? Hawkeye has a reputation for never missing, but there’s a first time for everything.
- Overall Score
The first two episodes of Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye hit the mark with plenty of humor and action, but it remains to be seen if the series starring Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld can hit a bullseye in its final four episodes.