What tale is there to tell for a character best summed up with the phrase ‘solid backup’? Whilst fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe clamoured for Black Widow to get her own movie, you’d be hard pressed to hear any hollers for the man behind firing explosive arrows really well. Yet with the current ‘no character left behind’ slate of Disney / Marvel releases, Hawkeye has now dropped from its nest to fluff its plumage.
Clint ‘Hawkeye’ Barton (Jeremy Renner, Tag and Wind River) has probably always had the least to do emotionally within the Avengers, permanently tied to whatever Black Widow was doing or otherwise being a family man.
Hawkeye the series picks up on his rather trite spate as the masked ‘Ronin’ in Avengers: Endgame in which he hunted down and murdered crime bosses post Thanos snap. Clint is forced to put his family Christmas plans on hold when the Ronin outfit resurfaces at a black market auction and brings with it a whole bunch of revenge-seeking baddies.
Yet Hawkeye recognises, as each of the Disney Plus Marvel shows before it has also recognised, that one superhero alone does not an interesting story make. And so the show is a two hander with Barton grumpily complaining about his ruined family plans paired up with the rise of Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) who accidentally ran amok across New York in the Ronin costume and now has the city’s various gangster mobs descending on her.
The pairing is a fun one. Barton, who is now using a hearing aid due the damage done by past fights, simply wants to be left be. Kate, on the other hand, has idolised Barton since she saw him during the 2012 Battle of New York and has dedicated her life to learning archery and martial arts ever since.
Thrown together by circumstance involving an untrustworthy step father for Kate (Tony Dalton) and a murder mystery in high New York society, Steinfeld’s youthful exuberance (as seen in the delightful Bumblebee movie) bounces off of Barton’s weary exterior.
Hawkeye does a good job of carving out its own identity. If WandaVision was The Twilight Zone through witchcraft, Falcon and the Winter Soldier was army dudes Lethal Weapon, and Loki was time travel charm, then Hawkeye is a detective drama wrapped up in a Christmas pass-the-parcel of youth versus experience.
This allows for some lower stakes which synchs up well with Barton trudging along reluctantly to nip a danger in the bud. Such a path takes him down unexpectedly hilarious routes such as being dragged into a LARP battle, or acknowledging that Kate is going to completely ignore his advice.
Renner’s grumpy normal guy act is somewhat of a breath of fresh air after the high concept What If…? explored all manner of parallel universes.
On the flip side, Steinfeld fills the screen with a youthful verve much needed, lest Marvel risk playing out its initial crop of characters to the point of tiresome predictability. Hawkeye represents a down to earth relatability, the importance of which cannot be understated in a universe with space travel, literal gods, and feats beyond the dreams of reality.
Is Hawkeye Worth Watching?
“Thanos Was Right” reads a piece of graffiti in the opening episode. Superheroes don’t always need super villains to fight when the callousness of the rando in the street is dark enough.
It would be disingenuous to say Hawkeye brings things down to a relatable street level, considering Kate Bishop is from an incredibly wealthy and privileged New York family, but by finally lowering the stakes (at least to start with) Hawkeye may be the most engaging series yet. Keep your eye on this one.
Words by Mike Record