Hawkeye arrives on Disney+ on the 24th of November.
Episode 1 & 2
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 Matt Fraction comic run’s typically darker, brooding nature. 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, the introduction of this character 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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Rather than leading straight back into the action, the latest episode of Hawkeye takes us back to the beginnings of Maya Lopez, A.K.A. Echo, who we glimpsed in the final moments of the last episode. Similar to Hawkeye’s opening, developing Kate, most of episode 3’s introduction is dedicated to understanding the journey Maya has taken to get to where we are now. Hawkeye continues to make developments in deaf and hard-of-hearing representation, as both Maya Lopez and Alaqua Cox share the trait of deafness; what’s especially remarkable is their incorporation of Cox’s amputee status into Echo’s backstory. Throughout the episode, Cox’s prosthetic leg is shown to be an advantage rather than a detriment, much to Clint’s chagrin.
As in the final shot of the last episode, red is a consistent visual hallmark of Maya’s life, from the gentle glow during her father’s demise to the very striking car she drives that paralyzes Clint momentarily. What’s interesting is that Hawkeye appears to be crossing the narrative arc of ‘Ronin Killed My Father’, which was expected, with a twist of their comic book origin where Kingpin ordered his death himself.
(L-R): Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in Marvel Studios’ LOKI, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Mary Cybulski. ©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.
Speaking of that dense, malicious mafia man, he makes his unofficial MCU debut in a pivotal flashback to Maya’s childhood. Here we get a child’s-view glimpse of Maya’s ‘Uncle’ in a suit, with an all-too-familiar chuckle from the one and only Vincent D’Onofrio. I expect he’ll be fitting onto our screens in the fifth episode, but we’ll have to wait and see. It’s also clear that Clint knows who ‘Uncle’ is and that there’s someone above Echo in the Tracksuit Mafia – there’s a shared history between Clint and the Kingpin that is bound to cause some complications.
Speaking of complications, the issue of Ronin continues to plague both Clint and Kate. When Echo asks who supposedly killed Ronin, Clint answers: “Black Widow.” While it’s a convenient answer for the time, it also serves as a tragically-poised metaphor – Natasha did bring Clint back from the brink, effectively snuffing out the darkness of the Ronin from him. However, Echo mentions that just because the Ronin has disappeared doesn’t mean he’s gone forever. It’s been interesting to see how Jonathan Igla has threaded the grief and loss of Black Widow into Clint’s character arc so far, with every episode having some allusion or mention of her, with it clearly weighing heavier and heavier on Clint. We never got the full scope of Clint’s loss in Endgame, as there simply wasn’t time. It’s possible we may see a final scene of him finally being able to mourn.
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There have been understandable critiques of Hawkeye’s action sequences, more nondescript and standard than the typical MCU rough n’ tumble we’ve come to expect. However, the director duo Bert & Bertie turn everything up to an 11, from the mesmerizing trick shots from Clint demonstrating his incredible accuracy to the jaw-dropping spectacle of the car-chase oner. That fantastically bombastic action sequence immediately stands out as one of the more impressive MCU sequences – its chaotic fluidity and clearly complicated blocking shine through and show that Bert & Bertie didn’t come to play. Not to mention that PYM arrow coming out of nowhere?! The showcase of Clint’s varied quill is a brilliantly comical sequence, but finishing it off on such a magnificent stunt is inspired. The fact that this director duo is scheduled to direct episodes 4 & 5 can only mean we’re in for more fast-paced, fun and awesome action.
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We have little story details peppered throughout the episode that keep it moving, although given this is the midpoint of the series, it is a little concerning if Hawkeye can truly tie up all its ends into lovely festive bows. The emphasized suspicion on Jack as the killer of Armand Duquesne does ironically indicate he isn’t entirely responsible. After all, you don’t cast Vera Farmiga and just have her come and go. It’s possible Bishop Security is secretly being bankrolled by the Kingpin, considering Eleanor’s shady bickering with Armand in the first episode. In the comics, Eleanor is revealed to have quite a surprising role in the criminal underworld – and she’s also a vampire. I think we’re certainly heading in one direction, and I doubt Mahershala Ali will be popping up to dust her.
Just as we’re getting to somewhere interesting, ‘Echoes’ does end all too unexpectedly. It feels surprisingly sudden, as though they HAD to end it rather than having a simple ending for this one. This ties into another general critique of the Disney+ shows – they feel closer to chopped-up films rather than television shows in their own right. While Hawkeye has mostly avoided this, this out-of-nowhere ending alongside passing the midpoint does leave concerns as to if Hawkeye can live up to what it’s teased.
Just as episode 3 suddenly left us, we’re immediately back into the fray for episode 4’s opening. Clearly, there was no easy ending, evidently shown by the immediate clear-up for this episode’s intro: all danger is avoided, miscommunications all round. Clint’s introduction to Kate’s family has a slight awkwardness to it – why is a middle-aged man hanging out with your daughter is a valid parent question – but it’s when Clint and Eleanor are alone that we get some gold. Vera Farmiga really turns on the doublespeak here when she tells Clint “being good isn’t always enough to keep you alive” – despite her benevolent attitude, the phrase carries a heavy sinister undertone, which is our first warning sign that if you’re backing Jack as the mastermind, maybe your money’s on the wrong horse.
It’s quickly becoming clear that the Rolex McGuffin is something of key-value – but it’s not on the level of ‘stolen Stark tech’. Laura also knowing of its importance, and assuming it was destroyed, may give us another clue as to its use to the criminal underworld. It’s possible the watch contains some data, or key information that ‘Uncle’ needs in order to advance his empire – or crush anyone in his way. We’ll soon find out, as that stone feels like it’s about to be unturned.
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A popular theory is that the watch in fact hides the true identity of Laura Barton, perhaps delving into a hidden past as a secret agent – it’s clear from this episode Laura has a lot of hidden skills and talents, knowing how to track down information and fluent in German for covert conversations. Could the watch be the revealing of her secret identity, placing her in danger? Clint does say it belongs to someone very close to him who’s been out of the game a long time. Occam’s Razor suggests this may be where Hawkeye leads us.
Once again, Clint is haunted by ‘Thanos was right’, this time in the form of official merchandise; a coffee mug! Since this was in Kate’s aunt’s house, does this mean she’s a Thanos believer too? There are some interesting seeds being sown in regard to Avengers-esque politics, but clearly, Hawkeye isn’t the show to deal with these, but Secret Invasion might. Speaking of hauntings, the sonic repetition of the score during Black Widow’s death scene during Clint opening up really tugs at the heartstrings. There’s a raw tenderness to his thoughts on Natasha, as though he’s desperately trying to heal a wound that simply won’t close. There’s a tragically clever touch from the production design team where It’s a Wonderful Life is playing in the background; Clint truly wishes it was him that had died, rather than Natasha, perhaps fantasizing another world with her and without him.
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Episode 4 is much more focused on character development and nurturing Clint and Kate’s relationship, but gradually we’re pushed into some narrative action. As expected, Yelena Belova finally arrives to kick some Barton butt in a climatic 4-way fight scene between Clint, Kate, Echo and Yelena. Once more Bert & Bertie demonstrate their technical prowess in complicated blocking and fight choreography as everyone gets a chance to give and take some lickings. While the reveal of Yelena’s identity does take a little too long, it’s fun nonetheless; it’s also convenient that Clint DIDN’T see her face, but does he know Yelena? We’ll soon find out.
It seems that every character Hawkeye introduces needs their own intro backstory, and this time it’s Yelena’s. It’s never a bad thing to get more Florence Pugh, and understanding what happened to her during The Blip is interesting – but is it necessary? In some ways, it feels like a rehash of Monica Rambeau’s chaotic return POV post-Blip in the hospital but to a lesser effect. The Blip feels like something we’ll continue to return to over the course of Phase 4, and maybe Phase 5, but I think it’s time for us to move past the immediate post-Blip fallout.
It’s an absolute joy to have Florence fully in the mix for Hawkeye’s remaining episodes, as she’s a shining star in all that she’s in. Yelena is deadly cute with a brilliantly charismatic attitude, playing up her nature as a weapon and walking the line between comical character and terrifying villain comfortably well. The Russian accent is also still going strong, but there is the question of whether this will continue, or if Yelena’s voice will conveniently alter itself a-la Wanda Maximoff as she transitions into a bigger role.
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Hailee and Florence really chew the scenery, leaving big bite holes in the shots – their discussion of “collateral damage” for superheroism raises an intriguing point about becoming a benevolent figure and the Avengers’ participation in events. They may have the power and the resources to prevent things and save the world – but what exactly gives them the right? This is a question also posed by General Ross, and led to the Civil War fallout; clearly still a significant hangnail in the MCU’s future.
Bert & Bertie at this point are showing off with their deadly ballet of action sequences, as Maya and Ronin fully go at one another. This is Hawkeye’s action at its most intense, with two trained killers just fully going for it.
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You can feel the palpable hatred and anger driving Maya, with Clint matching it blow-for-blow as he re-embodies the Ronin once more to give Maya the revenge she’s been seeking, only to take it out from her at the last second. It becomes clear that Maya’s father being killed at the hands of Ronin was somewhat of a misdirect, as we return to Maya’s comic-book origins of the Kingpin ordering her father’s execution, this time Clint being tipped off by someone within the Tracksuit Mafia as to Maya’s father’s location. Looks like someone’s been double-crossed, and now Maya’s out for blood.
Finally, at the very last second, he arrives. Yelena brings the double-whammy of revelations – Eleanor was the one to hire her, and not only that, she’s in cahoots with the big man himself, the Kingpin. Shown only through a grainy phone photo, it’s clear that this final episode is going to explode the criminal underworld of New York right open, setting the stage to continue in Echo. For now, let’s just hope that Hawkeye can hit its last target, wrapping up some of its loose ends into neat Christmas bows.