Just in time for holiday break, the first two episodes of Hawkeye (2021) are here to bring holiday cheer. Finally debuting on Disney+, the first two episodes look at how Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is handling retirement from superheroing. Meanwhile, the episodes also explore how past actions have affected the present. Of particular note is how Clint’s actions have impacted the life of Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).
The opening sequence takes place in 2012. A young Kate is growing concerned with her parents’ plan to move her out of New York City. It just so happens that the conversation is cut short by Loki and his minions attacking the city. The attack has a major impact on Kate. Her father (Bryan d’Arcy James) is killed, while she is saved by a calculated arrow strike by the aforementioned Hawkeye. As Kate and her mother (Vera Farmiga) run to safety, the show shifts into the opening credits. The opening credits reveal the various training and sports Kate has participated in over the years. Fast-forward to the present day, in which Kate is prepared for the upcoming heroics – well, and certain party tricks that allow an expert markswoman to accidentally destroy important bell towers.
While Kate is being lectured by her mother about how she isn’t as invincible as she thinks, Clint Barton is across town with his kids taking in the city he once helped save. His kids have taken him to see Rogers the Musical, a show that is played for laughs at how bad it is. However, the musical also serves as a reminder of the trauma that Clint has been through (As an aside: If someone at Marvel has not written and filmed the whole musical, then they missed an opportunity). At every turn, a past that Clint seems to want to move on from smacks him in the face–from the fans asking for autographs, to graffiti reminding him that some still side with Thanos. Of all the things that remind him of his past, it is seeing his old alter ego, Ronin, on the news that pulls him away from his family vacation and back into taking on villains.
Throughout the first two episodes, the differences between Clint and Kate could not be more clear. Because Clint is jaded from years of trials, tribulations, and loss, he has developed a tough exterior. He would much rather avoid any connections to the past rather than process his pain. Meanwhile, Kate is ready to jump into the hero’s life feet first while avoiding confronting problems in her personal life. It is a dynamic that allows for Kate to try to pull Clint’s personality out while explaining why he is the “forgotten” Avenger. Perhaps one of the most on-the-nose critiques comes as the two of them run into cosplayers in Times Square. While noticing that the Hawkeye character was less than accurate, Kate points out that a lack of branding has hurt his popularity. The critique applies to both the narrative of the show and trends within pop culture. How many times have we discussed the absurdity of someone with a bow and arrow taking on cosmic forces?
Being set in New York City and taking on such baddies as the Track Suit Mafia, the show hearkens back to other Marvel shows once featured on Netflix. While we are reminded of the larger adventures in which Clint has partaken, the focus thus far in the show is adventures with street-level criminals. Because of this, it would not be surprising to see references to characters such as Daredevil, Luke Cage, or even the Kingpin show up soon in the season.
As interesting as it might be to have some of those characters start coming into the MCU, the focus of the relationship between Clint and Kate needs to stay front and center. The storytelling and characters pull heavily from the Fraction and Aja run on Hawkeye (2012-2015). That series was never about having some sort of crazy cosmic adventure. Instead, it was about the mentor relationship between Clint and Kate. The first two episodes do a solid job of building the beginnings of that relationship. Kate, with her over-exuberance, and Clint, being his surly self, work well and allow for growth from both of them. With a short six-episode season, the payoffs of the series are going to come quick. I, for one, am looking forward to seeing where the characters land in the end.
Mix of Humor and Serious Notes9.0/10
Lucky The Pizza Dog10.0/10
- Starring: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Tony Dalton, Vera Farmiga, Linda Cardellini, Alaqua Cox, Brian d'Arcy James
- Directors: Bert and Bertie, Rhys Thomas
- Producers: Jonathan Igla, Rhys Thomas
- Marvel Studios