TV Review: ‘Hawkeye’ — Marvel Hits The Bullseye

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The Avengers’ most understated hero steps forward to launch a new generation of exciting characters, helping to breathe life into the increasingly bland superhero franchise

*Warning: Spoilers ahead for the first season of Hawkeye*

Since Avengers: Endgame, it has felt like Disney and the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) have lost focus. With the loss of key characters and an expansion into TV, it was perhaps inevitable that Marvel releases would fail to impress every time. There have been high points, such as the Spiderman movies, but others such as The Eternals only indicate where Marvel’s aim has been off. The aforementioned foray into television has also seen mixed results. WandaVision was an original concept that became formulaic, Loki tried to be too clever for its own good, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a by-the-book buddy movie. Disney+ released Hawkeye with the Christmas television audience firmly in its sights at the end of 2021. This time, could it be that Marvel has found a show that hits the mark?

Source: Netflix

Hawkeye begins by introducing us to the young Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who we see in her apartment during the Battle of New York. Amidst the chaos and destruction – including the death of her father – the young girl watches Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) battling the Chitauri. Bishop is inspired by his bow skills as she witnesses his role in the battle and Barton, inadvertently, saves her life.

We then cut to the present day, with Barton and his family spending some pre-Christmas time together enjoying the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. They take in a cheesy Avengers musical, which only serves to highlight the lack of glamour surrounding Hawkeye compared to other Avengers. Meanwhile, Bishop is attending a charity gala with her mother (Vera Farmiga) and her mother’s fiance, Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton). Bishop harbours suspicions against Duquesne and follows him to a secret auction that includes memorabilia recovered from the Avengers compound. The Russian ‘Tracksuit Mafia’ attack the auction, trying to recover a watch. Bishop finds Barton’s old Ronin suit and escapes by defeating the mafia members while dressed as Ronin.

These events serve to bring Bishop and Barton together. After seeing a news report of the return of The Ronin, Barton tracks down and rescues Bishop from the Russian mobsters. 

Several plotlines bind Barton and Bishop together for the remainder of the series. Bishop attempts to escape the danger of the Tracksuit Mafia, who have history with the wearer of the Ronin suit, while also trying to uncover the truth behind her mum’s shady fiancé. Barton wants to destroy evidence that could endanger his family, stay ahead of a mysterious assassin, and make it home in time for Christmas. The duo team up in what initially plays out as a detective series, solving clues and finding unusual allies in a group of live-action role-players. Costumes play a key part of the show, with Bishop starting a season long-gag about the need for Hawkeye to have his own recognisable superhero costume.

Setting Hawkeye at Christmas adds a sprinkle of magic to the atmosphere but the real success of the show lies in the chemistry of its main leads. Renner finally gets the airtime that Hawkeye deserves and his sullen, ageing, hearing-aid-wearing hero quips with one-liners that are a PG echo of Bruce Willis’ John McClane in Die Hard. Steinfield’s Bishop is a charming, playful, and act-now-think-later protégé who is the perfect foil for Barton. There is a real joy in seeing the relationship develop as Barton’s respect for Bishop grows while Bishop’s adulation for her hero, Hawkeye, softens to a fondness for the man that Barton is. If the show is a vehicle for Kate Bishop taking on the Hawkeye mantle, there is still plenty of scope for extending their double act.

When it comes to double-acts, the scenes involving Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) and Kate Bishop steal the show. The onscreen chemistry suggests that Marvel may have found their natural successors to Tony Stark and Steve Rogers, amid an MCU of increasingly uninspiring characters. The conversation over macaroni and cheese crackles with hilarious one-liners and their connection is evident as Bishop yells at Belova, “Stop making me like you” in the middle of an intense fight against each other.

Ultimately, the plot of Hawkeye is simple—take down the gangsters, with a few subplots thrown in for good measure. The show treats us to the usual fistfights, a particularly exciting car chase and some fairly stereotypical escape sequences. Some of the slapstick humour involving the Tracksuit Mafia feels more Home Alone than Marvel-esque and the aforementioned Die Hard influence feels ever-present. Yet, the show is a winner because the audience cares about the protagonists. 

The impressive aspect of Hawkeye is that we are taken on a Christmas romp which also serves a wider purpose in the MCU. Additionally, in introducing the character of Kate Bishop and further developing Yelena Belova as a Black Widow replacement, the show introduces other wider plot points which will serve a greater purpose in future Marvel stories. The audience are introduced to a baddie-turned-goodie, Echo (Alaqua Cox), and to criminal mastermind Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), who played the same role in Netflix’s Daredevil. We also get an interesting twist involving Laura Barton’s (Linda Cardellini) apparent involvement with Shield which may open up future storylines.

Alaqua Cox as Echo
Source: Netflix

With Hawkeye, Marvel has hit the bullseye. A show with enough spills and surprises to have come straight from Barton’s sheath of trick arrows, and introducing enough interesting characters to potentially save the MCU from its biggest threat yet – blandness. 


Words by Andrew Butcher 

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