The Marvel Cinematic Universe's grumpiest, most overlooked Avenger is actually off to a fun, light-hearted start in his eponymous series, Hawkeye. The Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) outing is neither as mind-boggling as Wanda-Vision nor is it as intense as Loki, but, with two episodes out, it is already an improvement on the really disappointing The Falcon and the Winter Soldier outing. Here’s why it works:
It doesn’t take itself too seriously
Clint Barton goes LARP-ingMarvel
The first two episodes of the six episode series are a breezy watch with no (apparently) serious stakes and no obligation (as yet) to further the MCU Phase 4 storyline, as has been the case with all the other films and shows that have hit the screens this year. The plotline is fairly simple. Clint Barton (and he insists you call him Clint) really, really wants to spend Christmas with his family, but he has to contend with the world’s most ardent Hawkeye fan, Kate Bishop, throwing a bow and arrow in his plans. Barton’s Ronin avatar comes back to haunt him thanks to Bishop and he has to mop up the mess in time for Christmas, which is not at all what he wants. While it has its serious moments, from him grappling with the loss of his best friend Natasha aka Black Widow, reminders of Thanos and survivor’s guilt, Hawkeye, at its heart is a fun Christmas action caper. Barton LARP-ing is one of the most fun moments of the show.
There is good character chemistry
Clint Barton and his protege Kate BishopMarvel
Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye has been at his best in his MCU outings when playing off Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, the chemistry they had making Natasha’s death in Endgame more visceral as you felt his loss. The chemistry that Renner has with Hailee Steinfeld feels like the ‘beginning of a beautiful friendship’. Or not, if his exasperation with her is any sign. But their adversarial relationship, which is slowly taking on the tones of a mentor-mentee equation (as is the case in the comic books), makes for some of the best moments of the show. Whether it’s when Bishop is chiding Barton for his lack of branding as a superhero or him asking if she was one of the people who called herself “the world’s best archer”, the play-off is fun and never forced. Nor is the subtle hand-holding,with Barton teaching her the right way to clean her wounds and tend to them.
Smart setting-up and quick background-building
Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton in ‘Hawkeye’Marvel
The first two episodes do well to bring us up to speed about the two heroes of the show. And after Eternals dumped 10 superheroes on us and asked us to care about them in two hours, this is a relief. Barton is struggling to cope with the loss of Natasha, the toll that superhero-ing has taken on him, as well as trying desperately to make-up for lost time with his family after the five-year Blip. Bishop (here the show moves away from the comic book origins) sees Hawkeye take out the Chitauri during the Battle of New York as a young girl and, after she loses her father to the same battle, picks up the bow and arrow to become an ace archer. Interestingly, a lot of how she develops the skills that she displays eventually, from combat to fencing to scaling walls, are all shown through the stylised opening credits of the first episode.
Most of the main characters of the show are already in place — Bishop’s shady mother Eleanor (who seems to have connections with the mob) to Jack Duquesne, Eleanor’s even more shady fiance (there are hints at him being the Swordmaster), Echo (and therefore a Kingpin connection) and more.
There are some holes in the plot but we are hoping that they will be plugged as the show moves along.
It is a treat for both MCU and Hawkeye fans
A scene from ‘Rogers: The Musical’Marvel
Set in the week before Christmas two years after the Avengers: Endgame outing, Hawkeye is choc-a-bloc with Easter-eggs from and references to the MCU movies of the past, MCU series and the Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comic-book run which this series is loosely based on.
From the opening titles to the bumbling Tracksuit Mafia and all their bro-ing, Lucky the Pizza Dog, the colour purple, Hawkeye’s hearing loss, Kazi the Clown are all references to the Fraction-Aja Hawkeye comic-book run that started in 2012.
We also get a lot of references to the films in the MCU from the scenes of Hawkeye from the Battle of New York, Natasha in Vormir, the references to “shawarma” in Rogers: The Musical, glimpses of the Stark Tower and more.
Most of the show is also based in a location close to Hell’s Kitchen, a reference to Daredevil, as is the inclusion of Echo which references ties to Kingpin from the Daredevil series.
It is Christmas fun in ‘Die Hard’ style
A cynical man running against the clock to spend time with family at Christmas while trying to fight off bad guys in New York… yep, we could be talking about Die Hard’s John McLane instead of Clint Barton. And with the festive setting, the Christmas-y music, the great action sequences and the light-hearted moments the show has all the signs of being a successful Die Hard version of the MCU. And Barton is getting the moves all right.
With four more episodes dropping weekly, we would like to say, in the words of John McLane, “Welcome to the party, pal!”