Back in the Saddle Again – Review of Marvel’s “Hawkeye” Episodes 1 & 2

Poster Art for Marvel’s “Hawkeye” Source

After seeing the early trailers for Marvel’s Hawkeye series, I was definitely on-board with spending some time on the project. Jeremy Renner’s portrayal of Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, was given far more prominence in Avengers: Age of Ultron but most especially in Avengers: Endgame. As an ostensibly normal guy whose main skill is unerring accuracy (as well as significant martial arts training, Barton’s been a background character until this point. Thankfully, the first two episodes of the series not only give us more of Barton but also introduces the second Hawkeye, Kate Bishop.

Spoilers ahead, obviously, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episodes.

“Hawkeye, The Saga of Barton and Bishop” Available on Amazon (Associate Link)

Episode One is titled “Never Meet Your Heroes” and throws us smack in the middle of the Chitauri Invasion during the events of The Avengers but from the perspective of 11-year-old Kate Bishop. One thing I will give the Marvel Cinematic Universe credit for over the DC Extended Universe is Marvel Studios is keen on showing the major events of the films from the ground-level perspective. Think about how terrifying it must have been for a child to witness not only a full-blown alien invasion but also that she loses her father in the process as well. Faced with such overwhelming violence, the young Kate Bishop sees Barton fending off Chitauri using just his bow, inspiring her to take up archery and martial arts in the hopes of someday being like the hero she saw that day.

Kate Bishop, portrayed by Hailee Steinfeld. Source

Cut to Kate at college and we see a young woman, portrayed by Haliee Steinfeld, who has grown up in privilege but has a mischievous streak, which results in the destruction of a bell tower. Kate is in that phase in life where youthful exuberance, coupled with the feeling of invincibility, makes for poor decision-making. This isn’t to say that Kate is shown to be any kind of idiot but rather that she is deeply impulsive and her skillset has only exacerbated that trait. With that being said, it’s clear early on that Kate and her mother Eleanor (played by the radiant Vera Farmiga) have a strained relationship but not a cold one. Farmiga portrays Eleanor as a strong woman, one who did not come from money but does not shun the status wealth has given her.

On the other side of the first episode, we see Clint and his kids attending Rogers: The Musical (which is just as gloriously bad and endearing as it sounds). In the traditional Earth 616 comic line (the main continuity for Marvel Comics), Clint Barton is deaf. It’s revealed in this episode that Clint is using a hearing aid after years spent around too many explosions and death-defying actions. Seeing Barton the dad is one of my favorite parts of this version of Hawkeye, mainly because it humanizes the assassin and reminds us that behind the SHIELD agent is a man who just wants to be with his family. Clint and Laura’s relationship has also been one of my favorite parts of the character, and the show reminds us that they are a solid partnership.

“Rogers: The Musical” from “Hawkeye” Episode One “Never Meet Your Heroes”. Source

When an underground black-market auction gets attacked, Kate decides to don Barton’s former Ronin costume, which gets captured on camera when she saves a one-eyed dog (lovingly name Pizza Dog). During the five-year time skip between Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, a despondent and suicidal Barton tore through the criminal underworld as Ronin, making plenty of enemies that now target Kate due to her wearing the costume. The main group shown throughout the first two episodes is the Tracksuit Mafia, which Kate rightly points on the nose. Kate later embroils herself in a murder/mystery when a guest at the black-market auction named Armand III (who also happens to be the uncle of Kate’s potential step-father Jacques Duquesne) winds up dead after the auction from an apparent sword wound. It’s apparent right from the word “go” that Jacques is clearly not a good guy. And given that he stole the Ronin sword from the auction, it’s likely that he was involved in his uncle’s demise.

The second episode, titled “Hide and Seek” picks up where the previous episode left off, with Clint confronting Kate after rescuing her from the Tracksuit Mafia. The goons from the Mafia track Kate back to her place, setting fire to it using Molotov cocktails. In the process of escaping, the pair have to leave the Ronin costume behind, which later gets snatched by a member of the FDNY. The groundwork is laid pretty clear that the story is going to be dealing with the aftermath of Clint’s time as Ronin and how this brings Kate into the fold as the next Hawkeye.

A good storytelling callback to the first episode is Kate’s interactions with Jacques during dinner. It’s been established by this point that Kate knows her way around the martial arts, including fencing. Jacques, or as he’s referred to here Jack, shows that he’s a more than capable swordsman when push comes to shove, disarming Kate when she attacks him after their brief duel ends. When Jack produces a monogram candy that was found at Armand III’s house, it’s clear to Kate that Jack was either present at the house or potentially participated in the death of the elderly Armand. Knowing Marvel’s penchant for twists, I don’t think Jack is the only big bad in the room, particularly given how Eleanor takes Jack’s side over Kate during the exchange. I might be off-base here but I have a feeling Eleanor is more involved than we realize at this point.

The main part of the episode involves Clint getting his Ronin costume back from the FDNY member, who it turns out is a LARPer (or Live Action Role-Player). Watching Clint awkwardly make his way through the LARP, including having to participate in the grand melee being enacted in Central Park was a treat to watch, particularly for me since I know quite a few people that participate in this kind of activity. The firefighter who took the costume manages to convince Clint to engage in a duel with him and let him win in exchange for returning the suit, which is just as hilariously fun as it sounds. Jeremy Renner milks this for all its worth and it’s glorious.

Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) at a LARP in Central Park. Source

Hoping to find out more about who’s behind the Tracksuit Mafia, Clint allows himself to be captured. Before going through with the plan, Clint has a brief conversation with his wife, who he tells everything to. This goes back to what I mentioned above: Clint and Laura are one of the better relationships because there aren’t any secrets between the two of them. Clint tells her what he’s dealing with and Laura does her best to show both concern and support for her husband. Out of all of the relationships shown during the course of the MCU, the only other one that matches this would be the brief moments we saw of Wanda Maximoff and Vision.

After allowing himself to be captured, Clint is being interrogated by the ineptest trio of gangsters committed to television. The Tracksuit Mafia remind me of the Russians Natasha interrogated at the beginning of The Avengers. When Kate attempts a daring rescue, we get to see that despite Kate’s training, she’s still just a kid when it comes to following through on her haphazard plan. The final moments of the episode reveal who I believe is the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia, a young woman who also appears to be deaf that I believe is Echo.

From start to finish, the first two episodes of Hawkeye set up the story well, pairing Clint and Kate in an awkward, Odd Couple-style relationship. Renner continues to shine as the character, particularly in the quiet scenes where it’s clear he’s still dealing with the lost of Natasha after the events of Avengers: Endgame. Steinfeld’s portrayal of the giddiness and goofball fan-girling are endearing rather than annoying, which is always a plus for this type of character. With only four more episodes in the season, I’m interested to see where the story goes from here.

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