As easy as it is to wax lyrical on the fact that we have yet another Marvel property release in 2021, not to mention the fact that it’s basing itself around a character that never appeared like enough of a stable figure to centre around, the resulting Hawkeye is all the more alarming and engaging because of its, for lack of a better word, lesser stakes.
The character, a bow-and-arrow attired agent of sorts – one of the few MCU characters without any supernatural abilities – has suffered through his share of humorous jabs because he’s so human, and part of the point of Jonathan Igla‘s show is to shine a light on him, to give Jeremy Renner‘s iteration the respect he actually deserves.
In the first two episodes – those that were available to media for review – Renner’s Hawkeye, existing more so as doting father of three Clint Barton, isn’t exactly an anonymous presence in New York City. His role in saving the world countless times means restaurants happily give him free meals, he’s subjected to awkward fan encounters in public bathrooms, and he has to suffer through Broadway productions supposedly based on his Avenger brethren and their heroic outings; there’s a rather amusing musical sequence set to the terribly-lyricised “Rogers: The Musical”, a production about the Avengers saving New York City.
Unlike the ambitious WandaVision or the more fantastical Loki, Hawkeye aims for a grounded approach in its narrative; well, as grounded as a Christmas-set action series about a retired superhero and his eventual 22-year-old expert archer protégé can be. Speaking of which, said protégé, played by the absolute scene-stealer that is Hailee Steinfeld, is a wealthy (though not by choice) mischief maker named Kate Bishop who, as we learn in a clever tie-in to the original Avengers movie from 2012, witnessed Hawkeye’s heroics first hand and was inspired to take up archery in a bid to protect her family.
Our introduction to Kate alludes to both her penchant for causing trouble and the comfort she hones in knowing her mother (Vera Farmiga) will likely pay her way to get out of it. Kate’s not exactly spoilt, but she’s privileged, and though she never necessarily acts like a brat, her lack of tact seems to have stemmed from the fact that the majority of her life has been lived without consequence. In the wrong hands, Kate could have been an insufferable character but Steinfeld, similar to the humanity she injected into the equally frustrating role she played in Edge of Seventeen, is all too aware of how to manoeuvre such a balance.
It’s very evident that Hawkeye‘s intention is to set Kate Bishop up as the next iteration of the character, and Renner’s passing of the torch – at least alluded to in these first few episodes – allows for some rather sweet, down-to-Earth moments between the two. He’s aware of what it takes to be a superhero, whereas Kate is just learning, and her fantasy that every waking moment will be dedicated to gathering supplies or making weapons is shut down in favour of drug store visits for antiseptic ointments and band-aids; you can’t fight crime with an infection.
It’s the little touches that assist the show outside of its action set-pieces – mainly hand-to-hand combat sequences – and its villainous set-up that, in these early stages, feels far too obvious, though an expansion is suggested, which will ultimately only help the show further itself. It’s too early to tell where Hawkeye will land with its narrative, if it will maintain a sense of heightened realism and forego the typical battle-heavy Marvel finale or succumb to expectation. Either way, with the tired and tested Renner bouncing comfortably off the enthusiastic, comedically gifted Steinfeld, the future looks bright for a show I’m sure many had their reservations about.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Hawkeye will premiere its first two episodes on Disney+ on Wednesday, November 24th, 2021. It will continue to release each subsequent episode weekly, before concluding on December 22nd, 2021.