Prior to Disney+’s launch, the initial release slate from Marvel Studios seemed to reach every genre and corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There was WandaVision, a series exploring the franchise’s use of magic in an exploration of a character’s response to trauma. Then came The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a globe-trotting adventure where two of Marvel’s most bankable characters look to shut down a rapidly expanding cell of superhuman terrorists. That’s not to forget Loki, a time-traveling crime thriller that laid the foundation of the franchise’s massive multiversal plans.
Then there’s Hawkeye, a series featuring two archers that can’t even summon the Bifrost or fly themselves across New York’s Lower East Side to respond to a robbery in time. It’s a series that pales in scope to its predecessors. It seems as if the show is just the tiniest of specks on the ever-growing whiteboard that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As it turns out, Hawkeye is exactly what the MCU needs.
In the two episodes we reviewed, Hawkeye is quick to set the tone and pace of the show. It’s much slower than the Disney+ shows that have come before it, but it’s a welcome change of pace. It’s also the most intimate we’ve seen Marvel since WandaVision, as it quickly explores Barton’s own traumatic experiences throughout his times with the Avengers, even going the length to throw in some examinations of his own self-worth and value. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is, after all, fully aware he’s “the one with the bow and arrows.” On this front, the look and feel is comparable to some other shows we’ve seen from the Marvel umbrella. Despite Marvel Studios not having a hand in helping develop the DefendersVerse on Netflix, there are some brutal hand-to-hand fights reminiscent of Daredevil. The criminal intrigue Barton and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) work to uncover is a plot thread fans of the DefendersVerse are all too familiar with, and, should certain rumors prove accurate, it’s blatantly obvious where this story is heading.
If you couldn’t tell by the show’s marketing efforts, it’s highly inspired by a similar storyline from the Marvel Comics source material. When we say that, we don’t mean on the same level of Avengers: Age of Ultron or Avengers: Infinity War, where movies simply borrow the names of a well-known comic run. Both the writing and production design are heavily inspired by David Aja and Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series, and that’s not to forget that characterization of Barton and Bishop are exact replications. One might go as far as to say this series is the best adaptation of a comic story we’ve seen so far, right down to Clint’s use of hearing aids.
It’s unfair to say Hawkeye is going to turn Hailee Steinfeld into a superstar because she’s already at that level. What might be fairer, however, is to say just how popular she’s about to become because of her portrayal of Bishop. Her take on one of Marvel’s most popular characters is infectious at every turn, with Steinfeld dominating the screen every time she appears — even if it’s in scenes with the likes of Vera Farmiga and Tony Dalton. The script can only go so far with the quips and playful jabs, but Steinfeld brings exactly what fans would expect to see out of a live-action Kate Bishop. It’s hard to shake the feeling that, years from now, we’ll look back at this casting and see it on the level of Robert Downey’s arrival as Tony Stark. Hailee Steinfeld is Kate Bishop, and she’s going to be your favorite superhero.
The return of street-level Marvel stories is refreshing, and the Christmastime setting of Hawkeye — combined with Marvel’s classic comedy, largely from Bishop and the Tracksuit Mafia bros — helps provide some needed levity in an otherwise dark series. There are some interesting parallels between Clint examining his trauma here and how Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) did so in WandaVision, and it may be the most interesting plot thread to watch for as the series progresses. That said, Steinfeld’s splendid take on Bishop takes over any time she appears on-screen, so fans hoping to see a Clint-heavy show might get a little bummed out. Regardless, the first two episodes of Hawkeye provide an incredible foundation for the show to build on between now and Christmas as the show serves as a dynamite conclusion to Marvel’s first year on Disney+.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Hawkeye debuts with a two-episode premiere on Disney+ on November 24th.