Hawkeye is the fourth live-action Disney+ exclusive from Marvel Studios to land on the streaming platform this year and the penultimate release by the studio before Spider-Man: No Way Home hits cinemas in December. Clint Barton has, to many, long been sidelined in the MCU as a supporting character – an extremely skilled archer and combatant but not a superpowered superhero – his desire to have a peaceful family life practically led him to being overshadowed by his Avengers teammates, and he didn’t seem to mind. Now, Barton’s time in the spotlight has come as he once again juggles trying to move away from his past, lead a normal family man life and deal with moments from his past as they catch up to haunt him.
Starring alongside Jeremy Renner is Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop, his number one fan and new protégée. Steinfeld, at only 24, has already had quite a career, even before her international breakthrough role as goofy Emily Junk in Pitch Perfect 2 back in 2015. Now she’s entering quadruple threat territory with newfound fighting skills added to her acting, singing and dancing talents. These two Hawkeyes make a quirky, yet dynamic duo who are quite polar opposites in terms of personality but share an uncanny skill for archery as well as a drive to make things right again, and must form an unlikely but intriguing team to combat yet another renewed threat to their lives.
Episode 1: Never Meet Your Heroes
From the offset after the flashback to young Kate Bishop witnessing Clint Barton save her life in 2012 during the first Avengers film and seeing an older Kate randomly destroy a clock tower, it is clear why this series has been released now. Set during December in NYC, the streets are lined with snow and the air is filled with Christmas music. Clint and his children are watching Rogers: The Musical, which from the few minutes of it shown, immediately makes everyone at home WANT and NEED this to be a real show! But while Barton is still trying to shy away from the celebrity superhero life, elsewhere in the city, Kate’s home life is taking a hard left when it’s revealed her wealthy socialite of a mother is remarrying and of course Kate is immediately aloof towards and suspicious of him and his typical rich White man of an uncle. Both appear to harbour secrets and an agenda that Kate endeavours to uncover. A black market auction selling ill-gotten artefacts, including many Avengers-related items and Ronin’s costume (Clint’s vigilante alias during the Blip), which when Kate basically steals, dons and fights in leads to a Hawkeye hunt by the “Tracksuit Mafia”.
The first episode predominantly centres on Bishop as she, intentionally or not, becomes a “masked assailant” who the media believe to be Ronin that has returned. Despite being a medal-winning martial artist, she gets through her scrapes with the gang by the skin of her teeth, showing promise and potential but ultimately showing she’s still young and inexperienced in the “real world” of combat and certainly of superheroism. The episode also sets up the show to clearly be a co-led production. While WandaVision also featured Vision, it is Wanda who was that series’ main character by far and of course Loki centred almost always on him (there was also Sylvia, obviously but she was technically just a female him anyway). And in keeping with the character of Clint, whose preference is to not have all eyes on him all the time, he must share the screen with Kate. However, as much of a draw as Steinfeld might be and her character being quite larger than life as well as comical and slightly naive, yet self-confident and determined, Renner as a despairing, grumpy and low-key Barton whose main priority is his family and is still obviously affected by Natasha’s death continues to keep fans with him after all they know he’s been through and know is still to come. Also, can we all collectively go “aww” at the one-eyed dog Kate rescues from the street and takes in?! But who or what is he really? Is he – like Goose the “cat” in Captain Marvel – more than meets the eye (see what I did there? Hehe)? Or is he really just a random stray dog added for adorable effect?
Episode 2: Hide and Seek
Just like everyone else who gets to meet Clint Barton, Kate’s initial starstruck face after he rescues her is crumpled when he turns out to be quite a distant and seemingly emotionless person in real life. Nonetheless, they are roped into helping each other as he tries to figure out why she’s got his infamous Ronin suit and where she got it from, while she knows something’s afoot seeing that the Tracksuit Mafia are now after them both and after Armand III (her mum’s fiancée’s uncle) has been killed.
After Clint manages to track down the suit and get it back after it ended up in the hands of a LARP (live action role-playing) group (though none of them question why he of all people needs it, perhaps assuming as an ex-Avenger he is going to destroy it or something), he instead finds himself confronted again by the Tracksuit Mafia who kidnap him. Thankfully, it’s Kate Bishop to the rescue, but she once again proves she’s far from being a true Hawkeye at the moment, when her clumsy entrance to their lair results in her also being tied up. Now, fans of the MCU already know Yelena, Natasha’s sister, is set to make an appearance in Hawkeye after she is sent on a mission by her boss Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (who also appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) to get revenge on Natasha’s killer – who is supposedly Clint. So while of course people were half-expecting the Tracksuit Mafia’s boss to be her, it is in fact someone else. Because of course, there was no way she was going to be introduced this early, right? However, it does make me wonder whether this other lady is actually connected to Yelena in some way? We’ll soon see…
Episode 3: Echoes
Split into three sections, the third episode doesn’t really reveal much but links the previous and next episodes in nicely. We start off with Maya (a.k.a. Echo)’s backstory – a deaf girl whose father and his associates were murdered by Ronin, sparking her desire for vengeance. There’s a hint that above her is “Uncle” (her adoptive father) who in the comics is Kingpin and it is rumoured if he appears in the show he will be played by Vincent D’Onofrio who portrayed the character in Marvel’s Netflix show Daredevil. If that transpires to be true, it’ll be the first time a Marvel Netflix show will crossover into the MCU and it was surely going to happen at some point… Upon finding Hawkeye and Kate Bishop, they are blithely unaware Clint Barton was in fact Ronin and even at first believe it’s Kate – but Clint assures them it’s neither of them, saying Black Widow killed Ronin. Will they find out the truth? You can only imagine, yes. In the second section of this episode, a fight and chase ensues where Clint and Kate narrowly escape and we get a first glimpse at some of Hawkeye’s “non-regular arrows” with some rather random, crap or explosive properties, which appear to have been invented by Bruce Banner or Iron Man. In a car chase and battle that sometimes rivals those seen on previous MCU films (despite the odd “you can easily tell that’s CGI/green screen” moment), it added a bit more excitement to what is essentially more of a halfway story episode.
In the final section, Clint and Kate bond a bit better and ironically listen to and help each other a bit better when Clint’s hearing aid is broken. They then attempt to break into the Bishop Security system to find out more about the Tracksuit Mafia and Jack as Kate is adamant there is a link between them but at the very end while Kate realises she can’t get into the system, Clint comes face to metal with Jack and Ronin’s infamous sword… As we await episode four next week, one question that lingers from this one is – just how many villains do they want in the show? With only three more episodes left, we’ve already met two (Maya and Jack), are pretty sure Kingpin will also make an appearance and probably more of Ronin’s enemies from his violent past, and we are all awaiting Yelena’s entrance. If one thing the MCU goes a bit too heavy on, it’s the number of villains and they seem to deem necessary to go against their heroes. How will this one work out?
Episode 4: Partners, Am I Right?
Following on from the previous episode, Clint and Kate are saved when Jack and Eleanor recognise who Clint is and basically allow them to get away with private information they found on Eleanor’s laptop. But who does Eleanor ring up to inform of the situation? Is it someone to keep track of Kate so she doesn’t get into trouble or is there a bad motive behind it? Much of the episode revolves around the two Hawkeyes planning what to do next about TSM (the Tracksuit Mafia) and find out more about Jack’s dodgy link to them. It’s not until the second half the episode that it gets exciting as Kate breaks into the apartment where the stolen Rolex watch is (just whose it is still a mystery that I’m sure will be unravelled either in this show or in the future of the MCU). My original guess is that it was Yelena’s rented apartment, especially when Kate discovers whoever it belongs to has done some research on Clint’s family. But no, of course it’s Maya’s. While Maya attacks Kate the intruder, Clint is ambushed on the roof and we already know that is Yelena – the moment many MCU fans have been waiting for. A fourway fight ensues and Kate’s skills and loyalty come into their own as she refuses to leave Clint battling both of them alone and manages to force Maya to retreat. Of course, the fact that she fails or decides to not deliver what could clearly be killing shots at both ladies when she pointed her bow at them says a lot about her compassionate character.
Unfortunately, as soon as Yelena’s mask is taken off and it’s revealed who she is (Clint is all too aware she’s a Black Widow, probably evident by her moves when fighting, but is perhaps unsure who she is exactly), she escapes – or at least Kate allows her to. In his seemingly couldn’t care less but actually caring too much way, Clint orders her to go home, obviously too scared to let anything bad happen to her from now on, just as he assured her mother. Will Kate listen? Of course not, but how will she return to him in the next episode? And what will be Yelena’s next move? My guess is after more fist fighting and then talking with Clint, she may deflect to his side, but we’ll see!
Episode 5: Ronin
As I said about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s hard to believe that by the time you get to the penultimate episode there’s still so much of the story that needs wrapping up. A lot more secrets are revealed in this episode that keep you wondering how much of what you know so far will give you full closure. First of all there’s the revelation that Eleanor could in fact be one of the villains – although this is not entirely surprising considering her cold, forced emotions and reactions and it appears it answers the question from the previous episode about who she was speaking to on the phone. This also potentially shows more truths were hidden from us in the end credits scene of Black Widow or simply conflicts with what actually happened.
Maya’s right hand man Kazi’s role is more prominent again as his true motives are questioned when Clint Barton dons the Ronin suit to fight Maya. He reveals himself to her and warns her to stay away from him and his family, though why he thinks she will listen to him or thought that was a sensible idea is anyone’s guess. Kate Bishop is ambushed by Yelena in her burnt apartment but only to talk about Clint. Yelena’s goofy, chatty personality we saw in Black Widow is still there despite her being there to kill Clint and she almost looks like a completely different person out of her Widow outfit and with her hair down.
In the final episode we can expect the truths about Jack, Eleanor and who really murdered Armand, as well as the next step in Maya, Kazi and the Tracksuit Mafia’s quest to hunt down Ronin. We’ll see whether Yelena manages to complete her assignment or will it end on a festive high for Clint and Kate so he can return to his family and she can, well, who knows…?
Episode 6: So This Is Christmas?
In what is wrapped up like a Christmas present, Hawkeye comes to an end in an explosive way. After the last episode there was a lot of loose ends to tie up, nearly all of which are done so. Things come to a head within the Tracksuit Mafia when Maya announces she quits her mission – although to be honest, it seems a bit strange that she does so readily after her confrontation with Barton. Maybe she really is just still a lost, young girl who felt she had no other choice but to avenge her father’s death despite deep down not really wanting to and knowing it won’t bring him back. Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin is revealed to have worked with Kate Bishop’s dad before his death, hence Eleanor’s arrangements with him that meant she either killed Armand or arranged to have him killed, and set up Jack to take the fall for Sloan, though there is really still no explanation as to why she hired Yelena to kill Clint Barton. It also still leaves us wondering what Valentina Allegra de Fontaine has got to with it all, though I can imagine this will be explored more in Captain America 4.
Despite Hawkeye‘s grittiness being an action series, it’s comical and warm and fuzzy too, making it a perfect accompaniment to watch over Christmas – if Die Hard can be considered a Christmas film because it’s set and revolves around the festive season despite being an action thriller, Hawkeye is definitely a Christmas TV show. In amongst the high-octane action of skyscraper abseiling, massive Christmas tree wrecking, plenty of nifty trick arrows, and the seemingly un-killable Kingpin, it is once again Kate and Yelena’s frenemy banter and battle that make for an exciting and funny watch. And I’m sure Jeremy Renner, just like Clint Barton, wouldn’t mind the fact that he is under threat of being overshadowed by the two of them in the series. Although I’m sure many were still rooting for Jack to be a bad guy and are still wondering exactly who the LARPers are and what they do or what they’re doing in the show, Hawkeye was a satisfying and thrilling watch where, even though it’s set at Christmas so you think surely it’s all got to end well, you are still just never 100% sure. For example, I honestly half-expected Yelena to not give up her quest to kill Barton and end his era with Marvel/The Avengers right before Christmas, and the camera cuts away when Maya shoots Kingpin at the end, so even that is left open for interpretation if we don’t see his dead body.
Even though most of the loose threads are tied up in some way, questions could still be asked and some parts will surely be part of future Marvel shows and films. What next for Kate Bishop? Why was Lucky the dog hardly in it? Did Kingpin really die? Is that the end of Maya’s story? When will Yelena show up again and in what capacity this time? Will Clint retire properly and completely now? And what is the meaning of his wife Laura having a watch with the S.H.I.E.L.D logo on it? But most pressing of all – when is The Avengers musical actually coming out on Broadway???
Hawkeye was a great way to end – if it is – Clint Barton’s tenure as part of the Avengers and set up Kate Bishop to carry on in his stead. As I said before, Hailee Steinfeld certainly has the skills, humour and star quality to be part of a great new team of Young Avengers. The two’s very opposite approach to everything yet eventual camaraderie and even affinity was a fun to watch as such a pairing, especially the generational and age gap, is extremely rare in “buddy” films and TV series.
Clint is finally led to understand why so many people consider him a hero and role model when Kate says his feats are all done despite having no superpowers in what was one of the most touching scenes, alongside Yelena’s heartache and anger when fighting and arguing with him about Natasha’s death. As I’ve also said before, most recently in my review of Spider-Man: No Way Home, Marvel know how to get hearts pumping with adrenaline and eyes watering with emotions like no other studios who produce action films and shows do.