Review: ‘Hawkeye’ Episodes One and Two

Hailee Steinfield as Kate Bishop in Hawkeye

 

Marvel Studio’s Hawkeye series on Disney+ promises to be a fun Christmas romp, giving us a swansong for an original Avenger and introducing a new hero with a bow-and-arrow in the process.

 

Kevin Feige really wasn’t kidding when he said that Hawkeye was a Christmas show. The series appears to take place during the first real Christmas after the events of Avengers: Endgame, which sets it in either 2023 or 2024. The setting is a snowy New York City with Christmas lights and trees everywhere to evoke that festive feeling, and Clint Barton is on vacation with his three children, taking in the sights and sounds of the city. The series’ opening is adorned with snow flakes, Christmas baubles, and other festive decorations to really set the tone.

 

By the end of the first episode, it becomes clear that the series is going to be a “Will Clint get home for Christmas?” storyline, as he gets dragged into the action the night before his flight home. So far, the series hasn’t really made that a key part of the plot yet, as there’s still a way to go before Christmas Day, plus a lot more of the show’s central mystery to uncover.

 

That part of the story is centered around Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a 22-year old woman from a wealthy family who is a very good archer and skilled at fencing and hand-to-hand combat. Kate also has a tragic backstory that is depicted through a flashback in the opening scene of the first episode (which also explains why she’s so enamoured with Hawkeye). She’s still wealthy and privileged in her early 20s, but manages to feel relatable as well.

 

It would have been easy to make her bratty and hot-headed, but she can be humble and considered even when trying to suppress her anger or excitement. It helps that Kate has the same problem most people in their 20s do; she doesn’t know what she wants to do with her life. Her mother has a path clearly laid out for her, with a career in the family’s successful security company, but Kate’s passions lie elsewhere. While she doesn’t seem to be directly gunning for a superhero life, she seems happiest climbing buildings and firing her bow.

 

Spoilers ahead…

 

The opening episode spends most of its time with her, and even though the series is titled Hawkeye, it definitely feels like this Kate Bishop’s show first and Clint Barton’s second. The story kicks into gear when a party hosted by her mother gets attacked by robbers trying to steal a particular item from a black market auction happening in the wine cellar, and the main mystery begins to reveal itself.

 

Unfortunately, it’s not entirely clear what the mystery is beyond “What is going on?”. The auction was seemingly set up by Kate’s new step-dad Jack Duquesne, played by Tony Dalton (Better Call Saul). Jack is a shady and enigmatic character, who has charmed her mother into agreeing to marry him and seems to know more about the situation than he lets on. You get the sense that the conflict between step-father and step-daughter will form the core of the show, but we have no idea what his goals are, or how the robbers fit into everything. Presumably this will become clearer in the next episode or two.

 

Jeremy Renner in Hawkeye

 

Clint doesn’t get involved in all this until he sees Kate on TV running around New York City in his old Ronin suit from Avengers: Endgame, so he has little to do in the first episode other than hanging out with his kids before getting significantly more involved in episode two. His initial goal is merely to recover his Ronin suit and to speak to whoever is searching for his old persona. He presumably believes that whoever wants Ronin dead is a loose end that he needs to tie up, though the show doesn’t really make that thinking clear.

 

What is clear is that Clint is world-weary at this point. He has officially retired from the superhero life and just wants to live a normal life with his family. He’s not comfortable with fame and still carries a lot of grief around with him. This is a man who’s seen a lot of shit, who went to a very dark place when his family were snapped from existence for five years, and is still grieving the loss of his best friend Natasha Romanoff. He even has to use hearing aid now, following his explosive exploits with the Avengers; he doesn’t want to get involved in any more superheroics, but begrudgingly does so anyway because of that sense of duty that made him an agent of SHIELD and an Avenger. This feels in line with a character who first retired back in 2016, but reluctantly answers the call to fight every time.

 

Clint comes across as more curmudgeonly in Hawkeye, and Jeremy Renner seems comfortable playing that role. In past films, Barton would often quip his way through fights with his dry sense of humor, but now it feels more like a coping mechanism. He just wants to go home, but he’s still here fighting bad guys and uses humor to help him express just how tired he is. He looks like a man at the end of his story now, and it increasingly feels like this will be Renner’s final outing in the MCU.

 

That said, the jokes are still funny. When Clint is forced to take part in a LARPing session in Central Park, he does so reluctantly, and it shows; he easily defeats everyone on the battlefield with minimum effort and a miserable look on his face. His reaction to the Steve Rogers musical in the first episode is very amusing to watch, too.

 

Jeremy Renner in Hawkeye

 

While the first episode of Hawkeye ends cleanly, marking the first meeting of Clint and Kate, the second episode ends in a strange place, with the two of them taken hostage and about to meet the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia — I was eagerly awaiting the scene following the reveal of their boss, but the episode just ends there. It feels abrupt even for a cliffhanger. That was one of the few low points in the first two episodes, which are both a fun romp through New York City at Christmas. It isn’t quite clear what the central mystery of the show is yet, what the villains’ motivations are, or if they even are the true villains of the series (though, if you’ve been following the casting rumors, you might be able to connect a few dots), but these questions should all become clearer over the next week or two.

 

In the meantime, I will certainly enjoy seeing more of Kate Bishop and Clint Barton on the small screen. Hailee Steinfeld is excellent in her new role, incredibly likeable, and balances the different shades of Kate’s personality well. She already feels like a well-rounded character after only two episodes. Clint is clearly still going through some stuff, and I look forward to seeing the show explore that in the coming weeks as he tries to get home in time for Christmas.