*Warning: This article contains spoilers for episodes one and two of Hawkeye*
After Chloé Zhao went all out in creating Marvel’s version of a Zack Snyder epic in Eternals, the MCU makes its return to the small screen with a smaller-scale production than Zhao’s film with Hawkeye, the long-anticipated solo outing for Jeremy Renner‘s titular character, which could be its swan song. The first two episodes of the series are now available to stream on Disney+ for this Holiday weekend, and if you’re looking to stay home for entertainment this week, it’s a pretty good time, but nowhere near as good as Eternals.
Of course, Eternals and Hawkeye are not the same, and comparing them is a total apples and oranges situation. But Hawkeye has its fair share of problems that the television side of the MCU has carried out since WandaVision premiered compared to their theatrical films, which doesn’t make it hit the mark (pun intended) as it should be. Part of that comes with Marvel’s desire to create “cinematic television,” where its aesthetic needs to look and feel like one of their feature films. It’s not a bad thing at all, since there needs to be some form of aesthetic continuity with its films and TV series. However, when you don’t have the budget to craft a film-like action sequence and you spend your entire series being obsessed with perfecting a “cinematic look,” it may look terribly unconvincing.
Take the show’s first scene, where we see a Young Kate Bishop (Clara Stack) being saved by Clint Barton (Renner) during the Battle of New York in 2012. An army of Chitauri is about to destroy Kate’s house, but Clint’s trick arrow explodes the ship and saves her in the process. The Chitauri’s look is great and feels cinematic, but the recycled footage from 2012’s Avengers and a (terrible) juxtaposition of Clint’s 2012 body while Kate looks from her destroyed apartment window completely ruins the momentum the scene wants to establish and reminds us all that it isn’t a film (not to mention Vera Farmiga‘s Tommy Wiseau wig).
And throughout the two episodes, none of the action scenes are memorable, which is a shame considering that Hawkeye is the most tactile team member of the Avengers yet. He does not have any flashy superpowers but is great at martial arts and, of course, arrows. The obvious stunt doubles are obvious, and cheap jump-cuts to hide its haphazard stuntwork do not help either, especially when you’re following up the dazzling action sequences of Eternals. Hawkeye is more small-scale, yes, but it’s not an excuse to not craft compelling action sequences. Look at Daredevil, a series that had a lower budget than Hawkeye and yet always pushed the boundaries of practical action and created some of the MCU’s most memorable setpieces yet. Absolutely no excuses for Hawkeye to be as epic as Daredevil, but we’re still early in the series and it may be saving its best setpieces for later.
And while Hawkeye lacks in compelling action and convincing CGI, it more than makes up for it in its character explorations. The Christmas theme isn’t the only thing director Rhys Thomas and writers Jonathan Igla and Elisa Climent borrow from Iron Man 3, but, so far, they are trying to keep Barton away from the bow and arrow as much as possible, and instead explore his emotional vulnerabilities. We’ve only had a glimpse of that in Avengers: Endgame with his turn as Ronin, but the show is looking to touch on more of that as Barton is trying to make up for lost time with his children and heal the wounds of his dark past during the snap. Renner is always terrific as Barton, and his tenure here is no exception. He may look and sound “exhausted”, but that’s the point.
He does not want to be here. He’s just tired of his time as an Avenger and just wants to go home for a nice Christmas. A scene where he needs to “fight” LARPers (Live Action Role Playing Gamers) to obtain the Ronin suit is especially hilarious. Barton just wants the suit, he does not care about the role-playing, but everyone else wants him to bathe himself inside the game. It’s probably the funniest scene of the series yet, as it perfectly shows Barton’s current state of mind.
He is, however, thwarted in a situation he does not want to be. During a black market auction attack from the Tracksuit Mafia, adult Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) wears the Ronin suit and is caught by the media. Barton sees it on the news and must now fix the mess Bishop created before he comes home to spend Christmas with his wife (Linda Cardellini) and family. It’s not great, Barton isn’t happy, but it must be done before Kate gets hurt, or worse, killed. Lo and behold, the Tracksuit Mafia guys find Barton and Bishop, and they must now go into hiding before the situation does get worse. But it has worsened in Bishop’s family, as she suspects that her mother (Farmiga)’s fiancé, Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton) is hiding the fact that he murdered his uncle Armand Duquesne III (Simon Callow) to obtain the Ronin sword he bought during the auction and his inheritance.
Duquesne is a popular character in the comics known as the Swordsman and could have a major role to play in the future of the MCU as both a hero and villain. So far, Tony Dalton plays a devilishly fun character you absolutely love to hate. His mustache really adds to Duquesne’s despicable demeanor. You never know if you can trust him or not, but that mustache doesn’t look trustworthy at all (it’s amazing what good hair and makeup can do to a great actor).
But the real star of the show isn’t Renner, nor Dalton, but Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. The first two episodes have more of an emphasis on Bishop than Barton, with the titular character really being second fiddle instead of Steinfeld. But they have terrific chemistry together, and their banter will only grow further as the series goes along. Steinfeld’s bubbling energy is a great addition to the MCU, and she will surely have a great impact on the franchise following this series. The third episode will solidify their partnership, while the last three will surely deepen both of their character arcs further, as Bishop takes the mantle of Hawkeye and Renner gives his swan song to his time in the MCU.
A tease on Maya Lopez AKA Echo (Alaqua Cox) makes us look forward to the third episode, but an even smaller mention of the “higher-ups” to the Tracksuit Mafia MAY (this is the keyword here, really don’t want to get ahead of ourselves) already hint at Vincent D’Onofrio’s return as Kingpin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will it happen? Some reliable scoopers seem to think so (it’s worth mentioning that The Cosmic Circus, who has corroborated that D’Onofrio will return, exclusively reported that Simon Callow was going to be in the series, and he was), but we won’t really know for sure until it’s in front of our eyes.
Hawkeye’s first two episodes may not be perfect and are nowhere near as good as some of the MCU’s strongest outings this year with Loki, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, but the fun dynamic between Barton and Bishop, fueled by terrific performances from Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, and Tony Dalton makes it an interesting enough buddy comedy, even if the “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” plotline seems too clichéd to be featured in an MCU title. Great teases anticipate future episodes, but we should rather enjoy the show for what it is instead of developing crazy theories that could not happen. For now, enjoy its first two episodes and have a safe and happy Holiday weekend with your loved ones.