Hawkeye arrives on Disney+ on the 24th of November.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year and the arrival of the surprisingly festive romp that is Marvel Studios’ Hawkeye. Fans were surprised to find the trailers offered a much lighter, buddy Christmas comedy considering the typically darker, brooding nature of Matt Fraction’s comic run it’s based upon. Well, the first two episodes deliver on that comical joyfulness, and more as Bishop and Barton collide in the most unexpected of ways.
Hawkeye opens with undoubtedly one of the strongest intros of this entire Disney+ run – how Kate Bishop and her family experienced the events of New York, 2012. The MCU seems to have adopted this approach of re-addressing the epic catastrophes of the MCU at a granular level, first with Monica’s perspective of returning from The Blip, and now through Kate’s memories of the Battle of New York. It’s one of the hidden strengths of these Disney+ shows, allowing them to suture in iconic characters without them feeling forced. Many have often joked about Hawkeye’s level of participation compared to his superpowered colleagues, so this refocusing emphasizes Hawkeye’s impact as a hero at a more grounded level, saving Bishop’s family from afar from a Chitauri warrior.
(L-R): Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) and Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) in Marvel Studios’ HAWKEYE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
This granular world-building continues into the present-day with bathroom scribblings of ‘Thanos was right’ taunting Barton, already immersed in grief and guilt from having to sit through ‘Rogers: The Musical.’ There’s a genuine darkness to sitting through a musical adaptation of near-death moments of your life, whilst indirect reanimations of your dead teammates throw themselves around on stage. Renner brings a surprising emotional weight to Hawkeye that’s unexpected. There’s a palpable weight to the grief he carries from his time as an Avenger and the guilt of the intermittent treatment of his ‘hero status’ that’s glimpsed in this two-episode opener. It’s clear that the show is trying to remind you that Clint Barton was a human man in his mid-40s going up against galactic titans, self-replicating robots and alien invasions.
The folding in of Clint’s hearing impairment due to the umpteenth explosions and impacts he’s dealt with is as hilarious as it is revealing. Clint has often been the more comical member of The Avengers, so it’s nice that Hawkeye is giving him some well-earned respect for holding his own. This focus on Clint allows writers Jonathan Igla and Elisa Climent to explore a psychological ambiguity rarely touched upon – does Clint want to be seen as a hero, or does he want to be left alone? He’s clearly torn over this, partially due to grief and guilt.
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If Jeremy Renner is the mysterious darkness, then Hailee Steinfeld is the shining Christmas light of the show. There’s clearly no one better than Steinfeld to play Kate Bishop – she perfectly embodies the scrappy, chaotic rebel that’s at the heart of Bishop, playing off Clint’s ‘too old for this shit’ mentality. This is the MCU’s Lethal Weapon, their relationship one of the greatest gifts Marvel has given us yet. Steinfeld shoots off quips out of her quill faster than you can count; she is effortlessly charming with a can-do attitude that makes it impossible not to root for her. She’s destined to be a star of the MCU moving forward.
Much of Hawkeye’s first episode is dedicated to Bishop, only using Clint to bring him back into the fold and develop why Kate is such a fan of his. Hawkeye is at its most compelling when it plays with the idea of the ‘superhero’, decentralizing the myth of ‘Hawkeye’ to Bishop, revealing that Clint has no plan, no resources; he’s just a grumpy old dad.
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The only thing the trailer didn’t make obvious is where Hawkeye was going narratively – the show makes this clear quite quickly, as Kate discovers her mum’s new fiancé is involved in some quasi-shady black market dealings. These aren’t just any artefacts – they’re Avengers compound artefacts, pulled from the aftermath of Endgame’s epic battle. Once more, Jonathan Igla demonstrates his clever writing by linking back to the MCUs past organically, moving it forward at this granular level to emphasize the more human focus that Hawkeye is moving in. It certainly feels like Hawkeye is gearing up to become a jam-packed series. Here there are several narrative avenues it opens up in these two episodes alone: the legacy of Hawkeye, the apprenticeship of Kate, the revenge of Yelena, the mysterious McGuffin of a watch recovered from the Avengers compound.
It’s clear that Hawkeye plans to walk the line between a comical Christmas romp and dark exploration of New York’s criminal underworld – the Tracksuit Mafia are certainly nothing to fear, a collective of clowns in cashmere clothing, but who they work for is. Glimpsed in the final moments of episode two, their introduction is brief but remarkably strong. There’s an enveloping malevolent atmosphere captured through the red glow and pulsating music that surrounds them, staring directly into the camera as though aware that you’re watching them. It’s almost like they’re watching you. It’s clear that Hawkeye wants you to fear them, and my god, do you.
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So, where is Hawkeye going? Well, if you start to connect some imaginary dots – the introduction of Echo, the exploration of New York’s criminal underworld, the rumours of a certain lawyer in No Way Home. It wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that Barton and Bishop may be butting heads with the Kingpin soon. He’s canonically closely connected to Echo’s origin, alongside his king-of-the-jungle status of New York’s criminal underbelly. Given that Hawkeye appears to be very close, if not at the same time, as No Way Home, it’s possible we may see a slight narrative overlap too. It’s certainly too much of a coincidence for Marvel to do nothing; after all, their Parliament makes these decisions for a reason.
Hawkeye is one of the biggest and best surprises Marvel has given us; more heart-warming than a cup of hot chocolate. Its return to the street level is a breath of fresh air that allows us to observe how the everyday person has adapted to this chaotic world. It’s hilarious, full of heart and truly does change your whole perspective on who Hawkeye is and what he represents to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Kate Bishop also kicks ass, but hadn’t you figured that out by now?
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