I think it’s safe to say that, as both a critic and a fan, I experienced a little burn-out on the MCU this year.
Things started off great with WandaVision, one of my favorite shows of 2021. But The Falcon and The Winter Soldier really felt like a letdown.
After that, I’ve been much less consistent than I’ve been in the past with keeping up with Marvel.
So it makes me very happy to write these words: Hawkeye is great! Well, the first two episodes of Hawkeye are great, anyways. We’ll see how the rest go, but I have faith in this show thanks in no small part to the stand-out performances of Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye/Ronin and Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop.
It’s an odd couple setup that really works. The grizzled old veteran and the bright-eyed, bushy-tailed rookie fighting crime together and getting in various predicaments, often thanks to Kate’s naivete—though don’t get me wrong, she’s a certified badass in her own right. She’s just young and untested outside of tournaments and competition.
I was going to review both the first two episodes as though they were a singular premiere but it’s too much. I’m splitting it into two. Episode 3 lands on December 1st and I’ll be recapping/review it and each subsequent episode weekly here on this blog. Follow me here or on Twitter or Facebook to stay up to date with each review.
Alright, as Li Shang would say, let’s get down to business.
Episode 1: Never Meet Your Heroes
In the first episode the groundwork is laid for what’s to come. We meet Kate Bishop as a young girl who loses her father during the alien attack on New York City which Tony Stark, Captain America, Black Widow, the Hulk and Hawkeye (among others) saved the city from Loki’s diabolical plotting on behalf of Thanos.
Young Kate spots Hawkeye leaping off a building with his bow and arrow moments after he basically saves her from an incoming alien hovercraft attack. It’s a formative moment for her. At her father’s funeral her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) asks her what she needs. “A bow and arrow,” plucky young Kate says.
From there, she apparently learns all sorts of combat techniques, largely as a response to trauma. She wants to be able to protect herself and her loved ones, something she was unable to do with her father (who promised he would always protect her just moments before being killed).
We learn that she got her black belt at 15, has won numerous archery contests and other sporting events, and (later) that she’s a skilled fencer. When she’s confronted with dangerous thugs later on in the episode she skillfully bests them, even when outnumbered, though she pushes her luck by the end of the episode.
Rich, Young & Invincible
Adult Kate is introduced at a fancy private college where she’s made some kind of bet that she can ring the giant bell in some antique bell/clock-tower by shooting it with an arrow. Things go horribly wrong (though I’m really not sure about the physics of this accident) and she ends up destroying the tower.
But it’s almost Christmas so she gets to leave college and head back to NYC where we see her parents’ swanky Manhattan penthouse has been restored. It’s a really nice place, too. The Bishop family is rich.
Her mom asks her to attend a charity ball with her to start making up for the enormous amount of money she’s been forced to replace the clocktower and then in walks Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton who we’ve seen before in Better Call Saul as the ever-ominous Lalo). He and Eleanor are off to the charity together and she asks Kate to go put on a dress and meet her there.
She puts on a black suit instead which, conveniently, lets her blend in with the waitstaff later on.
At the ball she runs into a rich old man named Armond III (Jack’s uncle) played by Simon Callow who she used to know as a child. Armond reveals that Jack and her mother are engaged. He feigns surprise when he learns that Kate doesn’t know. And then he says something very strange. He’s been trying to talk Jack out of the marriage. He doesn’t seem at all fond of Eleanor. When he excuses himself he says “I think you need to have a little talk with that prize of a mother of yours.” Clearly he doesn’t think of her as any such thing.
So she does, and her mom says it’s been fun to get caught up in the romance of it all, and can Kate just be happy for her? But later, Kate sees her and Armond arguing, and while she can only make out a little of what was said, there’s clearly a lot more to this story.
She follows Armond and—using her waiter suit disguise—manages to get down to the wine cellar, where a mysterious gathering is taking place. Turns out it’s a black market auction where the super-wealthy have gathered to bid on things like Triceratops skulls and, more curiously, the sword and suit of Ronin—Clint Barton’s other superhero identity. While Hawkeye generally played by the rules set forth by the Avengers, Ronin was a brutal vigilante who never flinched at killing.
Just as the sword is bid on, a massive explosion blows through the wall of the wine cellar. Kate has been hiding, having blown her cover, and she notices the Ronin suit and scrambles over to grab it as armed gunmen burst into the room, apparently looking for watches (at least, primarily for watches). While Kate gets into the suit, Jack spots the Ronin sword that Armond had just outbid him on and tucks it into his jacket.
Fighting ensues. Kate beats up the gunmen guarding the exit and hurries Armond, Jack and some other one-percenters out. She then turns her attention back to the other thugs and a fun wine-bottle-infused fight scene ensues. She manages to get away when the odds turn against her.
Outside, she spots the thug loading the car. He’d just come across a watch with an “Avenger’s Complex” tag on it, which is apparently the item they were looking for. A mangy dog attacks him (dogs can always tell who the bad guys are) and as he kicks at the mutt, Kate shows up and let’s him have it. She then follows the dog, narrowly saving it from an oncoming car, all of which is caught on camera and displayed on the news.
Which is where Barton/Hawkeye spots her—or at least spots someone wearing his old Ronin suit.
Clint Barton, Family Man
The moment I knew I was going to enjoy this show was the moment I saw Hawkeye’s face as he watched the ‘Rogers’ Broadway musical with his kids. Up on stage, we have a bunch of singing and dancing actors dressed up as the Avengers belting out a show-tune that’s basically a super-cheesy retelling of our heroes saving NYC from The Avengers.
Barton looks exasperated. He looks bored and uncomfortable, but when he sees Black Widow dancing across the stage, he pales and you see him sort of fade away into memory until his daughter snaps him out of it. It’s at this point you realize he’s turned off his hearing aid, drowning out the sound of the musical entirely. He clearly doesn’t want to be here.
“I’ll be right back,” he says, though he doesn’t return. He heads to the bathroom where a very pushy fan stands directly next to him at the urinal (this is only fine if there are no other options, and there’s nobody else in the bathroom) and asks for a selfie.
“This is not the appropriate time,” Barton says, visibly annoyed. As he washes his hand, the guy hovers behind him. “Is now an appropriate time?” he asks. Good thing our grizzled hero has some self-control. It would be hard not to want to knock that stupid grin off that stupid face.
He goes outside and his kids soon join him. “Why are they all singing and dancing about everything?” his youngest asks. It’s a good question! They decide not to go back, though I have to admit I really wish this was a real musical, however cheesy.
Instead they go get Chinese and we get a little glimpse of Clint Barton, family man, enjoying time with his three kids. Their mother is back home enjoying some alone time.
When they get back to the hotel, they see the news report and off Hawkeye goes to track down whoever has his Ronin suit—and stop them from either doing something very stupid or getting themselves killed.
Meanwhile, Kate Gets Into Trouble!
Kate takes the dog back to her (very cool) apartment where she feeds him pizza, earning him his name in the show: The Pizza Dog. He’s adorable. Sternly telling him not to ruin her pad, she heads back out to get some answers.
She makes her way to Armond’s ritzy, palatial home and sneaks inside, noticing that he has monogrammed butterscotch candies with ‘Armond III’ emblazoned on the plastic wrappers. A little vain, but then we’re dealing with uber-wealthy types with outsized egos.
Eventually she comes to a study where she finds the man himself—face down, dead as a doornail, in a pool of blood. It looks like somebody stabbed him in the back. Interesting timing, what with his nephew surreptitiously grabbing the Ronin blade back at the auction. Maybe I’m reading too much into Jack’s character—Better Call Saul has trained me, perhaps, and Tony Dalton is a fantastic villain in that show—but he seems the likely suspect.
Then again, could it have been Eleanor? There was clearly no love lost between them.
She leaves when the maid arrives, sneaking back out into the street—where it turns out she’s been followed by the thugs from the auction. They appear to be an Eastern European gang—maybe the same gang from HBO’s Barry if we’re lucky.
“Come on bro!” they taunt her, “We got you now, bro!”
They attack and she holds her own but she’s clearly outmatched against this many assailants and she dives into a nearby car and locks the doors. It’s scant protection. They punch and kick at the windows, bursting through the glass when, suddenly, a hooded figure appears. Moments later all her attackers are down or fled. Her rescuer drags her from the car, hauls her into a nearby alleyway and raises his fist to strike, telling her to take off the mask before ripping it from her face.
“Come on!” he says, lowering his fist and scowling.
“You’re—you’re Hawkeye!” she exclaims, clearly shocked.
“And who the hell are you?” he says.
Cut to black. Credits roll.
This was a really fun, often funny and always exciting series premiere. I love the mystery and the shadowy politics of the super-rich Kate finds herself on the periphery of. The musical was hilarious but there was just enough of a tinge of sadness to it, allowing Jeremy Renner to really flex his acting chops.
Hailee Steinfeld is also great as Kate Bishop. Last thing I saw her in was Bumblebee which remains my favorite of the Transformers movies. She was great in that, too. Here she’s a little more confident and self-assured and more of a badass, and she does all that very well.
I think the show really comes into its own in Episode 2, however. After all, the dynamic duo has only just met by the very end of Episode 1, and it’s more fun when they’re playing off one another. (Plus the LARPing scene is just hilarious). But more on Episode 2 in my next review which I’m trying to get out by tomorrow. I’m also late on my Wheel Of Time Episode 4 review, which I’ll try to get out by tomorrow as well. (My spoiler-free review of that show is here).
I’m off to see Encanto this afternoon so expect a review of that as well, and I’m taking the kids to see Ghostbusters: Afterlife since my teenager hasn’t seen that yet. Double feature!
I thought the new Ghostbusters was great, especially Grace McKenna’s wonderful performance, and well worth seeing in theaters twice—many critics disagreed, though I think that’s largely politics mucking things up again.