I should probably preface this by saying I love Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. There’s something about a very breakable human being a part of a world of super-powered heroes that speaks to me. As a character in the MCU he’s never really had a moment to shine, partly because his main introduction in The Avengers was mostly spent as a brainwashed assassin for Loki which doesn’t leave much time for good characterisation. Avengers: Age of Ultron tried to rectify this by giving him a secret family and across the five films he’s appeared in he’s often been in the background compared to his showier Avenger teammates. Now though with Hawkeye, Clint is the last of the original six Avengers to have a solo outing.
One thing the MCU has done well to this point is showcase his close friendship with Natasha Romanoff (while she’s not around anymore, it’s clear Clint still thinks of her) and how he became a surrogate big brother/father figure to Wanda Maximoff (underrated dynamic in the MCU in my opinion). This lays the groundwork for Clint to now become a mentor and friend to a new addition to the MCU in Kate Bishop.
Perhaps one of the most critically acclaimed and much-loved Hawkeye comic series started after The Avengers was released, hence why some of Clint’s now-famous characterisation wasn’t used to shape the character in the MCU. But now, this comic series by writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja is clearly the inspiration of the Hawkeye Disney+ show. The opening/closing credits are directly inspired by Aja’s artwork and it’s unfortunate that this is the latest superhero project where the comic creators don’t get the level of recognition in the film/TV adaptation that they deserve. Like the comic, Hawkeye features the partnership between Clint and his protégé Kate Bishop, Lucky the Pizza Dog, the tracksuit mafia, and Clint has a hearing aid and is at least partially deaf.
This Clint Barton is (no offence to Jeremy Renner) old and tired. He just wants to have Christmas with his family and put his days as a superhero behind him. However, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) scuppers those plans when she’s caught wearing Clint’s Ronin suit. As Clint’s past starts to catch up with him, he and Kate get tangled up in a criminal conspiracy.
The first episode of the series is more Kate-focused, giving you her backstory, showing who she is as a person and her relationship with her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), while the second episode sees Clint and Kate coming together to solve a problem and is the start of some excellent chemistry between Renner and Steinfeld. They both easily fit into the trope of excitable newbie and jaded hero and the way they bicker and banter is very entertaining.
Steinfeld is an absolute delight as Kate Bishop. She’s funny, impulsive, highly-skilled and a huge Hawkeye fangirl. She totally acts how any young person who grew up in a time of superheroes would; she admires them and is often inspired by them. The fact she’s inspired by Hawkeye, the most breakable and unassuming of the original Avengers, just adds to her charm.
While The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was definitely action-packed, it was also a globetrotting adventure. With Hawkeye things are looking a lot more grounded and I’d be very surprised if the action took place anywhere but New York. Having a low-stakes street-level superhero show in the vein of Daredevil – though obviously not as bloody – is a good way to give these more human but super-skilled heroes space to show their value. The fight sequences are well shot and easy to follow, though some longer takes would be nice, and Steinfeld gets to show off her action credentials in the first episode in a very fun sequence. Using everyday items to fight bad guys will never get old.
Something I wasn’t expecting from Hawkeye was the way in which it’s connected to the MCU. This isn’t about cameos or easter eggs, instead it’s about the events that have led to where the characters are now and how that affects them emotionally. In a post Endgame world, Clint has a lot of guilt and trauma and even Kate who has grown up surrounded by superheroes means the events we’ve seen in previous MCU instalments have shaped her life in some way.
Likewise, though in the MCU we’ve seen everyday people gawk over Tony Stark, Steve Rogers or Thor, to have people know who Hawkeye is and the weird everyday interactions Clint has because of that feels different. He does not have the level of fame, strength or confidence as his teammates so Clint always seems surprised that people know who he is. Then people in turn seem surprised by how normal he is; him saying “Call me Clint” to a fan and giving them a fist bump is a lovely touch.
Hawkeye kind of feels like a step back to basics in terms of the MCU. While there’s four more episodes to go and I could be proved very wrong, I doubt this show will have the potential ramifications the likes of WandaVision and Loki did in terms of progressing plans for Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This isn’t really a bad thing though. A more character-focused, self-contained, crime drama is maybe what the MCU needs after some of the huge stories they’ve been telling in their films and shows this year.
The first two episodes offer a lot of necessary but intriguing setup and, while it’s still engaging thanks to the two leads, with any luck that means the action and adventure will really kick in going forward. There is at least one action sequence in each episode but on the whole they are definitely more character-focused, setting up the new characters and the relationships that are important to them.
Now that Kate and Clint’s dynamic is there, once the plot begins to move forward in earnest, having the two of them at the centre of it all should be a lot of fun. There’s already hints that Kate’s mother’s new fiancé Jack (Tony Dalton) isn’t quite who he seems and as the second episode ends on a bit of a cliff-hanger with a new player coming onto the scene, it looks like Clint and Kate are going to go through a fair few more escapades before they can have a relaxing Christmas.