Does Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye have a branding problem? That’s one of the questions posed in Hawkeye, Marvel Studios’ latest Disney Plus offering.
The show follows Clint Barton/ Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) as they team up to unravel a criminal conspiracy. It’s also a race against the clock for Clint to get home to his family in time for Christmas.
Although Hawkeye has his fans, the metacommentary within the series is that he needs a new direction and Kate is just the person to help him. They’re finding the true spirit of Hawkeye instead of the true spirit of Christmas.
A Christmas Story
In the two episodes given to critics, the show does a great job bridging the events of the MCU to Kate’s life so that the story makes sense. The MCU version of Clint is quite different from the version we see in Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comic run, which the show draws heavily from.
Somehow the writers make all of these opposing elements work though, allowing Clint’s family man persona to be a boon to the story rather than a burden. His need to get back to his family in time for Christmas brings in a tried and true Christmas trope and makes the stakes feel more personal.
In addition to his genuine love for his family, there’s a darker undercurrent to his story. His survivor’s guilt haunts him as there are echoes of Natasha everywhere.
Clint also grapples with the legacy he created as Ronin during the Blip, something he thought was firmly put in the past when they brought everyone back in Avengers: Endgame.
The jokes about Clint’s “brand” underscore a more serious narrative about the cost of Clint’s decisions and what’s behind that stoicism Kate makes fun of. But Kate is also there to remind him he’s selling inspiration, or at least that’s what he did for her.
Compared to the other Avengers, Clint hasn’t gotten as much meaningful screentime over the years so it’s important Marvel is finally telling his story. (After all, if Phase 4 is all about processing trauma, Clint deserves a spot).
Hawkeye Meets Hawkeye
Bringing some lightness and humor to the series is Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. Like her comic counterpart, Kate is confident, skilled… and a little bit goofy.
Given her long resume of snarky, melodramatic but loveable characters, Steinfeld is perfectly cast as Kate. Fans of her work in Dickinson and The Edge of Seventeen will see some parallels in the biting humor.
Although Kate isn’t a teenager (she’s 22), she still has some growing up to do. Her mix of naivete and bravado makes her fun to watch, and her sincerity prevents her from being a bit too much.
Kate yearns for more than her insulated bubble of wealth and privilege, and the events of the show force her to face real danger and become the hero she always dreamed of.
Marvel’s Phase 4 has given us endless new character introductions to pick new favorites from, but Kate will quickly win over fans thanks to Steinfeld’s performance.
Renner and Steinfeld have great comedic chemistry, creating a new and unexpected dynamic duo. Clint is protective of Kate and annoyed by her but you can tell also amused and intrigued.
He feels protective of her because of her age, but Kate holds her own in the dynamic. She may be young and a little naive, but she’s also indefatigable and adept.
Throw in Lucky the Pizza Dog (also a pivotal part of the source material), and you’ve got yourself a nice little team. (Let’s hope he fares better than Sparky from WandaVision by the end of the series.)
Fans eager for Kate to break out on her own already (myself included) may reconsider after seeing how much fun these two are together. Without having seen the full season it seems likely we could get one more season of Hawkeye before Steinfeld branches out to Young Avengers or other projects.
It’s a Mystery, Bro
Hawkeye introduces two big mysteries on the first two episodes (my money is on them being related somehow, but reviewers and the audience will have to keep watching to find out).
One involves Kate’s mother Eleanor Bishop, played by Vera Farmiga who expertly balances Eleanor’s sincere worries as a mother with her flippant wealthy attitude and overbearing expectations. Eleanor’s new fiance Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton) raises Kate’s suspicions due to a string of deadly events that seem to connect back to him.
Kate is fiercely protective of her mother but also can’t resist untangling a juicy mystery. She’s more concerned with finding out Jack’s secrets than the mobsters after her.
The second involves the “Tracksuit Mafia” (a wonderful use of the source comics, bro), who are after Ronin who they now think is Kate after she accidentally dons the costume. Behind this group of not-too-bright thugs is boss Echo (Alaqua Cox), who we only get a glimpse of in the first two episodes.
Like its six-episode Marvel predecessors, the show is taking on an awful lot to get through in just six episodes. Thus far Marvel shows have either given us anticlimactic endings when it comes to the “big bad” (The Falcon and the Winter Solider) or punted to a second season (Loki).
Whether Hawkeye can break that pattern is yet to be seen. Either way, the mysteries set up in the first two episodes will keep you hooked.
Although an untraditional Christmas offering, Hawkeye balances the perfect amount of cheer, heart, and action. It’s a holiday gift wrapped in a bow (and arrow) you’ll want to open right away.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye premiere on Disney Plus on November 24, 2021.