By @HolocronJosh for @Mar_Tesseract
The next Disney+ series in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is here, after what has felt like an extremely long wait. The gap between What If, the animated series that premiered in August and ran for 9 episodes until early October, and Hawkeye proved to be one of the most extended periods of time without an MCU series on the streaming service since Kevin Feige and co. embarked on this journey into television in January with WandaVision.
Given that, the question fans are asking is: is Hawkeye worth it? Does a series about perhaps the most localized and seemingly unimportant Avenger do enough to justify its existence? From the first two episodes, which premiered on Wednesday (just in time for the real start of the holiday season, as it is a Christmas-set show), Hawkeye proves to be yet another competent, enjoyable MCU series, if a little uneven at times, particularly when it comes to the plot.
The first episode sees us introduced to Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, who’s unlikely favorite Avenger is Hawkeye, after the archer saved her from an alien during the Battle of New York. This scene was an interesting and fitting way to bring in Bishop, and to explain why she idolizes Hawkeye so much. No offense to Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton, but Hawkeye and his role within the Avengers has served as comedic relief for years now, so seeing him save a young girl’s life brings a level of seriousness to the character and justifies Bishop’s interest in him.
We’re also introduced to Kate Bishop’s mother and her soon to be stepfather, who gives off evil vibes right from the get go. Better Call Saul fans will be familiar with Tony Dalton, who plays Lalo Salamanca in the prequel series. It will come as no surprise to those familiar with his work that Dalton is a scene stealer, with his charisma as the suspicious Jack Duquesne proving to be the most captivating aspect of the opening two episodes.
Duquesne and his fiancé, Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga), both seem to be up to no good, and this is how the plot really kicks into a gear. At a holiday gathering, Kate wanders into a black market auction that Duquesne attends, at which a Ronin suit is being sold. Fans will remember Ronin as the darker, murderous alter ego of Barton during the five year period in which half the population was erased. More on Ronin, and the suit, later.
Kate gets herself into trouble as she is exposed at the auction, and the villainous and comedic track suit gang get on her tail, particularly after she puts on the Ronin suit. This is where she first encounters Jeremy Renner’s Barton, who just came from a Steve Rogers musical and spending time with his kids. She is startruck to meet him, and Steinfield plays the young admirer well, and also excels at showing why Bishop is worthy of such a big role in the series and (soon), the Hawkeye mantle.
Renner and Steinfeld have serviceable chemistry that strengthens as these episodes go on, although it’s a shame that they’re split up for much of the second episode. Barton is hellbent on fixing this issue on his own, keeping Bishop out of the way, but audiences will be quick to see that they need each other if they are to defeat the enemies coming their way. Their relationship seems to be the backbone of the season, and it’s overall serviceable, although it is a little bit of a standard superhero and young admirer story. Hopefully, an extra layer is added to this dynamic for more overall interest and audience investment in these two leads and their relationship.
The second episode has Barton looking for the Ronin suit, as anyone wearing it is deemed to be in extreme danger. This attempt at a Mcguffin proves to be largely unsuccessful as it opens the show up to plot holes and inconsistencies. If Ronin’s time in New York made him so famous as to warrant TV coverage on his return, it seems unrealistic that no one else has ever made a replica suit, or even a similar looking outfit, in the time since. People in the show are dressed as all members of the original Avengers, and writing on a sink in episode 1 shows that some are in favor of Thanos’ actions in Infinity War. The pessimism of siding with Thanos in particular would realistically suggest that, at the very least, Ronin has a small group of supporters as he kills known monsters and criminals in the underworld, so to say that this is the only suit of his is just too much of a stretch to be enjoyable or believable. Still, the scene in which Barton attends a LARP gathering in order to get the suit back was fun in the moment.
More broadly, Hawkeye suffers from a rather slow start, particularly when it comes to the plot. Much like The Falcon and The Winter Solider, Hawkeye sometimes falls flat, with a meandering plot and a dynamic between the two leads that, while good, isn’t as strong as it could be. Of course, they have plenty of time to change this, and there are signs of improvement as villains are introduced at the end of episode 2 and Barton and Bishop seem to be truly in the thick of it.
Hawkeye is just about a strong enough start for the series, and Hailee Steinfeld’s performance proves why she was the right choice for Kate Bishop. Tony Dalton often steals the show in his villainous role. With a flat and uneven feeling continuing throughout the two episodes, the rest of the season will need to have more intensity and a stronger plot to make this series realize its full potential.