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Hawkeye (1.01-1.02) Review

November 24, 2021 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
HAWKEYE Image Credit: Mary Cybulski/Marvel Studios
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Hawkeye (1.01-1.02) Review  

Author’s Note: This is a spoiler-free review for Hawkeye based on screeners for the first two episodes provided by Disney+.

Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye continues the adventures of the MCU. Now seemingly retired from avenging, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is unsuccessfully trying to enjoy a holiday vacay in New York City with his kids. But not even a laughable musical about the life of Steve Rogers is able to take his mind off the loss of his best friend, Natalya Romanoff (aka Black Widow), during the events of Avengers: Endgame. However, the man known as Hawkeye is drawn back into the fray when a ghost from his past makes its return, drawing in the young aspiring archer Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) into New York’s criminal underworld.

Kate Bishop’s backstory begins at the very start of the Battle of New York back in 2012’s Avengers. At that time, an unwitting bond is formed, making the eventual meeting of Bishop and Barton quite serendipitous. Bishop may not look it, but she’s a hero in the making. She’s green, lacks experience, rough around the edges, and she’s in need of a mentor. Barton isn’t looking for a protege, but he appears to have found one that destiny tailor-made just for him.

The first two episodes of Hawkeye pick up after Endgame. Barton is trying to spend some quality time with his family, but he’s in a funk. Bishop is the affluent daughter and heiress of her mother Eleanor’s (Vera Farmiga) corporate security empire, but it’s not the life she wants. An incident at a black-market auction puts her on a collision course with Clint Barton.

Hawkeye - Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton

Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye in Marvel Studios’ HAWKEYE. Photo by Mary Cybulski. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

For the better part of 10 years, Jeremy Renner has basically been one of the MCU’s most significant weak links. Renner’s characterization as Hawkeye was an unfortunate holdover from the Ultimates. There was a time, believe it or not, when the lugubrious actions of such an amoral superhero team were seen as the cool, hip, postmodern and edgy version of the Avengers that needed to be the basis of a live-action movie. Thankfully, the MCU largely avoided most of the pitfalls of the Marvel Ultimate subline, but sadly, Hawkeye remained intact once it came time to use him for the films.

Renner’s Hawkeye shares little in common with what makes his comic book counterpart such a fun, exciting and cool character. Going back to his earliest days as an Avenger, Hawkeye has always been the team’s rogue. He’s the smart-mouthed, quick-witted, devil-may-care hotshot of the team. Hawkeye should be to the Avengers what Han Solo is to Star Wars. He’s an ex-convict with a heart of gold. His criminal past puts a chip on his shoulder, and for years, Hawkeye stood in the shadow of more prominent heroes, such as Captain America, Iron Man and Thor, despite the fact that he fights alongside them. When Hawkeye tore up his Avengers card and tendered his resignation to the Avengers to take up leadership of the Thunderbolts, that felt like a major moment and turning point for him. It was later undone and Hawkeye was regressed in the comics, but that tends to happen sooner or later.

Giving Hawkeye a family isn’t the worst thing to happen to him, but it would have been better if MCU worked to get him to that point. Either way, it’s been more than a little disheartening to see the MCU jettison all the elements that make Hawkeye so unique. Instead, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark/Iron Man was allowed to usurp Hawkeye’s role and dynamic among the Avengers. That’s not a knock on Downey’s performance, but as a result, Hawkeye’s main trait is that he’s the family man who is a trick shot with a bow and arrow. Family man Hawkeye is boring.

Hawkeye makes it hard to like Clint Barton when he shirks his family responsibilities so he can go off gallivanting with the Tracksuit Mafia. Why Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini) continues to put up with this is a mystery. Just as he was the weak link of past MCU installments, that’s still the case here for Clint Barton.

Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop is really where Hawkeye finds its sense of energy and momentum. This is really her origin story as she’s ushered into her hero’s journey trying to uncover a mystery in which she has a very personal stake. Steinfeld is great here. Kate Bishop is fun, charismatic and bubbly. She’s been training for years in weaponry, archery and martial arts, but she’s still having trouble putting all those elements together. Hawkeye finds its strength in depicting Kate’s flubs and mistakes as she tries to find her way and learn as she goes.

Hawkeye - Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in Marvel Studios’ HAWKEYE. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

The first two hours of Hawkeye largely serve in setting up the key players and getting Kate Bishop and Clint Barton together. Thus far, the bumbling Tracksuit Mafia aren’t all that compelling as villains. They’re essentially the Keystone Cops of the MCU.

However, in terms of the MCU Disney+ miniseries, it would be unfair to judge the whole thing based solely on the first two episodes. WandaVision had a very slow burn with an incredibly rewarding payoff that offered some really deep Marvel Comics-inspired cuts. Loki had some bumps along the way but got much better as it went along. Unfortunately, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier started strong but largely went off the rails in its second half.

The Christmas time in New York setting imparts a fun, unique vibe to the show, especially with the show launching during the holiday season. Also, the adorable Lucky the Pizza Dog is a welcome addition to the MCU.

The introduction of another Marvel mainstay in this series adds some intrigue. Considering this character’s backstory and what the Tracksuit Mafia are after, there’s a definite theory on what Hawkeye is going for here, but the miniseries often prove that theories are rather fruitless in the end. Sometimes it’s just better to enjoy the ride.

Hawkeye - Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton

Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop and Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye in Marvel Studios’ HAWKEYE. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.

Marvel’s Hawkeye debuts exclusively on Disney+ on November 24. The first two episodes will be streaming at launch.

The final score: review Good
The 411
Thus far, Marvel's Hawkeye is off to a bit of a slow, okay start. This rating is a bit of a placeholder for now. While Jeremy Renner isn't really elevating his performance as Clint Barton, Hailee Steinfeld beginning her journey as a hero definitely makes the show worth watching. There's some intrigue with the introduction of a new, notable Marvel character, but how it plays out and its ultimate payoff remain to be seen.