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This review contains spoilers for Marvel’s Hawkeye Episodes 1 and 2
Hawkeye Episodes 1 and 2
After more trailers, TV spots, and exclusive clips than you can shake a stick at, the first two episodes of Marvel’s Hawkeye are now streaming on Disney+.
But who asked for it? Hawkeye has steadily maintained his place in the Avengers line-up since 2012’s first team-up movie, and has been dutifully played by the double Oscar-nominated Jeremy Renner over the last decade, but Clint Barton is still a supporting character that the MCU itself has regularly mocked as being surplus to requirements.
Arguably, fewer MCU fans were as hyped for this series as they were for other supporting character Disney+ projects like Loki, but fans of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s spectacular 2012-2015 Hawkeye Marvel Comics run – which thankfully this series borrows from liberally – tentatively got their hopes up.
As one of them, I’m pleased to say the new show is a seasonal treat. The first two installments of Hawkeye balance a mix of set-up and character-building quite deftly thanks to Mad Men writer Jonathan Igla and Documentary Now! director Rhys Thomas.
We catch up with Clint in New York post-Avengers: Endgame while his grief over losing Natasha Romanoff on Vormir bubbles under the surface, barely contained by his family commitments, his joy at being reunited with them, and his intention to give them the best Christmas ever after losing them to The Blip for five years.
Suffering through Rogers: The Musical’s version of the Battle of New York, complete with singing, dancing, and factual inaccuracies (wait, Ant-Man was there during the Time Heist!) Clint almost breaks down seeing a version of Black Widow on stage. Leaving his kids and scuttling off to the bathroom, he sees some “Thanos was right” graffiti – a call-back to our own “Thanos did nothing wrong” nonsense – and takes a moment to ingest the notion.
Renner’s ability to do a lot of character work with a reaction shot means the audience takes a quick hit for his triumphs and losses in the wake of Thanos’ misjudged pursuit. As the episodes progress, Clint struggles to cope with praise and recognition from the public for his service. Deep down, he still feels that he should have been the one to sacrifice his life for the Soul Stone, not Nat, and the survivor’s guilt is slowly killing him. But in this exact moment, we also realize that Rogers: The Musical is so godawful that Clint kinda agrees with the graffiti. This is when I knew Hawkeye was going to be something special.
Clint’s already-shaky Christmas is then utterly ruined when young, self-proclaimed “world’s greatest archer” Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) accidentally throws a spanner in the works. A wealthy 22-year-old over-achiever with superheroic ambitions, Kate lost her dad in the Battle of New York as a child and became fixated on Clint’s part in helping the Avengers win, taking martial arts and archery lessons and absolutely smashing it.
But when she takes too much of an interest in her mother’s new fiancé and follows him to a secret auction for the scoffing uber-rich, she ends up nicking Clint’s old Ronin suit and alerting the Tracksuit Mafia to Ronin’s re-emergence, creating all manner of problems for Clint and herself. He collars her in the suit and sets about rectifying the situation, but Kate is already involved in a deadly mystery: someone has killed her mother’s fiancé’s uncle, Armand III, and she suspects there could be more to it than meets the eye.
Meanwhile, the Tracksuit Mafia is revealed to be under the control of Maya Lopez aka Echo (Alaqua Cox), a deaf athlete and martial artist heavily connected to Daredevil, Kingpin and Moon Knight in the comics. Her right hand man is Kazi (Fra Free) aka The Clown, and it appears that MCU Echo will be portrayed as less of a heroine here than we might have expected – at least at first.
Two episodes in, and many of Hawkeye’s pieces are already on the chessboard. Kate’s mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is deeply suspicious and dexterous, and wears red in present-day scenes (either as a cheeky “red herring” or a nod to her latter-day West Coast Avengers reveal as a vampire), and Kate is clearly in line to be passed the MCU Hawkeye mantle. Steinfeld is predictably great in the role, so it never feels awkward. Along with the style choices that the Hawkeye team have made for her character and the way she’s clearly thrown herself so completely into being Kate Bishop, she’s truly nailing it.
Tantalizingly, Echo’s introduction also signals the integration of Netflix’s Daredevil crew into the MCU, with Spider-Man: No Way Home arriving in a few weeks – I feel like we all know by now that Charlie Cox is destined to make an appearance in it.
There’s also the mysterious watch that the Tracksuit Mafia were out to snag at the auction, found in the debris of Avengers Compound. Echo was clearly desperate to acquire it, but for what purpose? And who did it belong to?
Alongside the the show’s intriguing mysteries were a number of other highlights. Rogers: The Musical was inevitably one of them, but I’m not sure how I feel about these tributes to Captain America’s legacy becoming A Thing in the MCU. What with the Smithsonian’s notable collection in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and the Statue of Liberty holding Steve Rogers’ shield in No Way Home, it’s giving second-hand cringe every time I imagine how embarrassed Steve would be. I also loved Clint’s weary, slow-motion larping, and the call-back to Scott Lang’s selfie rejection from the kids in Avengers: Endgame who were more hyped to see the Hulk.
Overall, I really enjoyed these first couple of episodes. With the MCU introductions of Kate, Lucky the Pizza Dog (the adorable Jolt), Eleanor, Kazi, and Echo, Marvel Studios has created an appealing, Die Hard-esque world for Clint Barton here; full of jingle bells, bows, and bullets. It suits him down to the ground, though we do get the sense that this might be Renner’s swansong as Clint. I wasn’t really expecting to be sad about that, but here we are.
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