This review is based on the first two episodes of Hawkeye.
Marvel Studios is bent on squeezing two heroes of the same name into all of its Disney+ TV series. WandaVision had two Visions; The Falcon and the Winter Soldier had two Captains America; Loki had two titular characters as the leads and many more variants running across the last few episodes (and let’s not forget that Black Widow also had many Widows running around), and it looks like it’s Clint Barton’s (Jeremy Renner) time to shine, along with Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in Hawkeye.
And while the first two episodes of the six-episode series doesn’t explicitly state that Bishop will take on the mantle of the Avenger’s archer, the series is set up with Bishop as the lead, with Renner as the supporting player.
Just a refresher on who’s who and what’s been happening. In the comics, Bishop adopts the mantle of Hawkeye after Barton’s death (he would eventually be resurrected), and is part of the Young Avengers. Her origins are somewhat tragic in that she is a victim of sexual assault, and trained herself after that with the skills necessary to protect herself, and apparently, become a superhero.
Her origins in the show are somewhat tamer. A New York resident during the Chitauri invasion of the Big Apple in 2012, young Kate Bishop witnesses Hawkeye in action on the rooftop of a nearby building, as he inadvertently saves her life. Call it Bishop’s awakening if you must, because that was the moment she decided that Hawkeye is her favourite Avenger, and after the dust from the invasion has settled, the young girl asks her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) for a bow and arrow.
Although the slight change to her origin makes sense, as it gives a stronger connection to the events that took place in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), fans who are hoping to see a more comic book accurate retelling of her origin might get a little peeved, especially with her costume. Her purple look is based on Barton’s comics costume, as well as sharing elements with fellow superhero Mockingbird, who is his wife in the comics but in the current MCU, Barton has three kids with his civilian wife, Laura (Linda Cardellini).
So audiences end up with Bishop, who’s origin smells of Silver Age comics origins. She’s a rich, privileged, overachiever who’s won many medals for fencing, martial arts and of course, archery. Oh, and she’s always getting into trouble and sticks her nose into the business of the rich and famous, including her own mother’s and her soon to be step-dad, Jack Duquesne’s (Tony Dalton).
We won’t spoil the rest of the premise for you, but suffice to say, Bishop is the focus of the show, with some footage of Barton and his family in New York, before trouble brews and Ronin, Barton’s killer-assassin alter ego from Avengers: Endgame, brings everyone to Manhattan.
When audiences do catch up with Barton, we see him committed to being a good father and making up for the missing five years of The Snap, and possibly maybe even more, due to his time spent as an Avenger and S.H.I.E.L.D agent. And of course, since his identify as Hawkeye is known, he travels to the one place on the planet that would honour and remember him, as the Avenger who saved New York City.
New Yorkers are glorifying him and his friends for saving the world and fans are asking him for photos at every opportunity and worse, he can’t seem to escape the trauma from losing his best friend Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow at Vormir.
So maybe that’s why he is drawn to Bishop and wants to help her get out of her mess, even though she is clearly annoying him with her know-it-all attitude. Thus begins the Barton and Bishop dynamic, where we see the hero take on the reluctant father figure/mentor role to the young and eager understudy.
If it hasn’t become apparent, Hawkeye takes on a similar dynamic like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier where you have one sourpuss and a funny, slightly annoying character as their partner to drive the humour and relatability. Is it a formula that works? Yes. But does it work all the time? Not exactly.
For starters – and we hate to break it to you – Barton isn’t exactly a popular character out of the Avengers. It’s not that he’s not cool, it’s just that he’s not very well known. He is far more reserved than the other MCU heroes, and casual fans of the MCU won’t find him familiar enough to endure his gruff, grumpy dad attitude. In fact, most of his appearances in the MCU have either been ‘loving dad’, ‘Nat’s best friend’ and a pretty great mentor and motivator to Wanda Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron and the first two episodes add nothing new.
Sure, he might’ve turned even more secretive and reclusive after all the trauma he’s had to endure – we see trauma and PTSD take effect on Sebastian Stan’s Bucky too – but maybe the reason why it worked so well for Bucky and not for Barton, is because we actually had one whole movie on Bucky (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) and later on multiple appearances in the Avengers movie to solidify his character traits and establish himself as a rather well-loved character by a group of fans. Barton, unfortunately, didn’t get the same treatment and whilst the series is meant to give fans a closer look into who he is post-Endgame, the first two episodes doesn’t deliver enough Barton content, and misses the mark completely.
Instead, the series put plenty of focus on the Bishop family, with Eleanor’s engagement to Jack (who is teased to be The Swordsman), and with the debut of other Marvel characters like Echo, Barton feels almost pushed to the background – like he has been in many of the MCU films – so if you’re coming into Hawkeye wanting to see more of him, you’re better off reading the comics.
We can’t seem to understand why this is happening to Barton as even the recent Black Widow movie, which was meant to say goodbye to Scarlett Johansson’s Romanoff and introduce Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova as the new Black Widow, was able to keep Romanoff in the spotlight and maintain a healthy amount of Belova’s content so that fans not only have the chance to fall in love with her, but also ensure that her outgoing and bubbling personality doesn’t outshine Romanoff’s more serious and sultry demeanour. Is Clint Barton really a boring piece of drywall? Or is this just poor writing on the team’s part?
There are some pros and cons to this. If you’re heading into this series hoping to get to know Barton a little bit better before he goes into retirement with Cap, then we’d suggest you lower that expectation. If you’ve never cared about Barton, are a big fan of Kate Bishop, and is 100% more concerned if this new phase of MCU will finally introduce the Young Avengers, then Hawkeye is your first puzzle piece.
Steinfeld is great as Bishop. Her Bishop is smart, witty and confident, though she is a tad annoying with the overenthusiasm, but still likeable and enjoyable. Although 22, she acts like a little girl who still requires guidance because she can get a bit over her own head sometimes. Think 50 year old Grogu but personified, and easy on the eyes.
Although there’s very little to critique Steinfeld’s performance as Bishop, Hawkeye assumes that fans are aware of Bishop’s abilities. The opening sequence shows her raking up trophies for fencing, martial arts and plenty more without really explaining or showing how she’s achieved all these skills in the series. Viewers are just constantly reminded that she’s incredibly talented when Eleanor praises her daughter or when we see her try to kick some mafia butt but Bishop being multi-skilled from the get-go with no rhyme or reason is almost way too convenient for our liking. Although minor, this matter of convenience adds on to the little pile of resentment that exists when Hawkeye changed her origin.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye are indeed intriguing, with light action and comedy here and there to keep fans engaged for all forty minutes per episode. And if there’s anything fans already know about a Marvel Disney+ series, is that it may start off a little rough, but it will get better in the middle, and epic towards the end.
There’s no denying that Hawkeye is key to debuting more characters and will be opening bigger chapters in the MCU. From potentially being the start of the Young Avengers to providing the connections to future MCU Disney+ series like Echo, Hawkeye isn’t a series you need to tune in religiously for, but it most definitely should not be missed.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
Hawkeye isn’t a series about Clint Barton at all. It’s leaning towards Kate Bishop so far and while the series doesn’t hit the target, it is an important piece to the bigger puzzle fans know as the wider MCU.
Story - 7/10
Direction - 7/10
Characterisation - 7/10
Geek Satisfaction - 7/10