Created by: Jonathan Igla
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Tony Dalton, Linda Cardellini
Cinematographer: Eric Steelberg, James Whitaker
Let’s face it, after the pandemic led to a year without a single Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) production, the studio has thrown a lot at us. Each of their new films and shows have been smaller puzzle pieces, setting up a larger post-Endgame direction for the universe. Sure, Black Widow is an exception, but even there, the end credits exist solely to set up the franchise’s future slate.
With parallel universes, multi-universal villains, time travel, CGI dragons and other cosmic shenanigans hitting you ever month, its easy for the fatigue to kick in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hard to stay invested in where this superhero universe is heading, but you can’t deny the need for an occasional palate cleanser. Hawkeye is exactly that. A refreshing, welcome, and much-needed margarita in an unending blockbuster summer.
The first two episodes just dropped on Disney+ Hotstar, and boy are they fun. The tone is unlike the rest of the MCU, the stakes are small and unclear for now, and there are no super cameos (yet). However, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered.
Hawkeye is, at the heart of it, an extended holiday crime caper. Set in New York, its tone and plot walk the line between a Shane Black movie, and what could be a Deadpool holiday special. The plot so far, is straightforward. Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) has been a fan of Hawkeye, the OG Avenger, ever since they all assembled during the Chitauri invasion. Through a series of misfortunes, she lands up with his Ronin costume, gets in trouble with the Tracksuit mafia and must also investigate a murder close to home. Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who is in New York to watch the (sadly) annoying Broadway show Rogers: The Musical with his kids, gets wrapped up in Kate’s life, wanting to sort everything out in a day or two. He really wants to be home from Christmas, and for all this to be over – just like any other middle-aged dad.
When Matt Fraction and David Aja’s legendary Hawkeye run hit in 2012, it reinvented the titular hero. It transplanted Hawkeye from his usual Avengers’ setting into a more realistic, hilarious, and ridiculous New York. If Steve Rogers is a man out of time, Clint Barton was always a man out of his depth. Fraction’s run gets that right, and then some. Therefore, it’s no surprise that his influence as one of the consulting producers is clearly visible in the show, and bodes well for Hawkeye’s journey over the next four episodes.
Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop is charming, strong, and likeable. Some may begrudge Renner his wooden, ‘I don’t want to be here’ performance. But that’s the thing – Hawkeye REALLY does not want to be here. He wants to be home instead. Also, to be fair, that’s exactly how he has played Hawkeye so far. The Tracksuit Mafia crew plays the villainous comedic foil, delivering the anticipated MCU punchlines, while Vera Farmiga’s (Eleanor Bishop) somehow dominates every frame she is in. However, there is one performance we haven’t seen enough of so far, that of Lucky the Pizza Dog. We need more Pizza Dog.
While the first two episodes of Hawkeye may make it seem tonally out of sync from the larger shared universe, they are a fun and breezy watch. As the show unfolds, I’m curious to see how the larger stakes unfold. But, even if they don’t, I am happy to take my Hawkeye as just a Christmas special; as directors Bert and Bertie and Rhys Thomas, and show writers Tanner Bean and Jonathan Igla deck the halls with Bows and Hailee (Fa la la la la, la la la la?).
PS: A reminder that those incredible opening and ending sequences are based on David Aja’s art from the Matt Fraction run.