Marvel’s Hawkeye: Series Premiere (First Two Episodes) Review
*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*
Fans have been eager to see low-profile Avenger Hawkeye shoot his way into the spotlight. So much so that when he was left out of Infinity War, a fan-made poster that replaced every hero with the iconic Marvel archer captured the hearts of MCU. Now, a decade after his shadowy debut in Thor back in 2011, Hawkeye finally has a MCU story centered on him trying to deal with his post-Endgame pain while also getting roped into a mystery that introduces a new bow bearer.
There’s really nothing like seeing New York City during Christmas with the bright lights elevating the holiday cheer and given that Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is a true family man, it’s the perfect time and place to catch up with him. It’s great that this series instantly understands what makes Hawkeye such a unique character within the Avengers and MCU with how we’re always reminded that he’s Clint. Often, the civilian life of superheroes is eclipsed by their super-powered persona, but that isn’t the case with Clint. His love for being a family-man always comes first and the connections he has with his kids, especially his daughter Lila (Ava Russo), makes him much more human and the way that his time as a superhero has affected him physically and emotionally add news layers to his character.
Clint now suffers from hearing loss and while the quick montage of all the explosions and injuries that likely caused it is hilarious, it’s treated as genuinely as possible. His youngest son Nathaniel (Cade Woodward) learning sign language for his father is incredibly touching and when Clint promises to Lila that he’ll be home for Christmas, you can tell it really means something to him to fulfill that promise. Just within its first two episodes, Hawkeye already delivers a generally unseen side of superheroes and establishes relatable emotional stakes for Clint.
The MCU has done a great job building out its post-Endgame story by showcasing the waves of impact it had on the world, but its even better that we get a more personal impact story with Clint dealing with the loss of Natasha. Clint’s understandably had a tougher time than most since he was almost the one who sacrificed himself instead of Natasha and it’s left him subtly questioning if being a hero means the same thing anymore. I mean, when you see a major life-changing event like The Avengers saving New York City from Loki be turned into a commercialized, heinous musical featuring friends that recently died, being bitter about the whole hero gig is pretty reasonable. Clint is honestly the Scrooge of this series, and it plays a fun and important role in seeing him post-Endgame.
There is no cheer about being a hero anymore for him and he isn’t all that interested in signing autographs or talking with fans. The idea of people fanning out and clamoring for the image of the heroism of the Avengers is actually kind of sickening for Clint. It’s a major driving force for the more anti-hero Hawkeye that we see here as he bends the rules a bit to get things done and he’s even more of a loose cannon than we usually see him. All the pain and anguish that Clint is feeling is only heightened in seeing his old Ronin persona running around New York City with a new archer under the hood. The whole Ronin identity of Hawkeye is still a bit of mystery, and its resurgence here brings Clint face to face with old enemies and introduces him to Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).
Kate Bishop is a huge fan-favorite character from the comics that MCU fans have been waiting to see debut and her appearance so far is just fine. The idea of her being inspired by Clint’s actions during the Chitauri invasion is great with how it makes her the kind of fan that Clint’s trying to distance himself from and there are some fun moments of her being a troublemaker and bringing the beloved Pizza Dog into existence. However, her side of things just isn’t that interesting yet. Kate’s story is definitely in its early stages as she tries to uncover what her mother Eleanor’s (Vera Farmiga) fiancé Jack (Tony Dalton) is hiding and trying to learn a thing or two from Clint, but the moments that cutaway to Kate dealing with her personal issues just feel weak at the moment. Jack’s clearly keeping his sword skills hidden, likely so his Swordsman person can come out, and everything between Kate and her mom is just not compelling. It’s also worth noting that Steinfeld’s performance is a little too familiar to what she’s known for. Steinfeld was and still is the premier choice to portray Kate, but it’s hard not to feel like she brings the same kind of quirky charm she’s brought in her performances from The Edge of Seventeen or Dickinson and it heavily makes Kate feel a little too generic.
Honestly, the entire plot of Hawkeye has really gotten off to a slow start with its generic Tracksuit Mafia villains being kind of bore and certain situations don’t live up to the comedic or action expectations established from the great trailers so far. Some of the visual effects really don’t look that good, especially in the Molotov fight scene, and the action is a little too flashy making it tough to follow. Also, the whole LARPing joke where Clint has to LARP to get his Ronin costume back is super outdated and kind of lame to watch with Clint’s uncaring attitude.
However, there’s definitely a lot to expect on the horizon in terms of potential threats for Clint and Kate to deal with. Based on Black Widow’s post-credit scene, we know that Yelena (Florence Pugh) is likely going to show up at some point and the end of the second episode introduces an interesting new player in the form of Maya Lopez aka Echo (Alaqua Cox), who’s connected to multiple storylines and characters. Clearly, she plays an important role in Clint’s Ronin past and comic fans know that she’s actually the adopted daughter of The Kingpin so its very possible that the highly requested return of Vincent Donofrio could be just around the corner.
Hawkeye does a great job reestablishing its titular Avenger in how Clint’s pain and dour views of being a hero have taken a toll on him and sets up some interesting potential threats, but in its current state, it’s just fine. There’s likely some stronger story material for Kate just down the road and some more ambitious action that’ll live up to the Die Hard vibes many had leading up to the series, but for now, Hawkeye is a solid watch.