The TV series Hawkeye came out almost a year ago. I finally reached it on my to-watch list recently. Some thoughts.
What’s in a name?
The first thing you should know about this series is that the protagonist is not Clint Barton, the original Hawkeye, it’s Kate Bishop. Who? Kate Bishop, who makes her first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Clint is the most important secondary character, but he is what the Hollywood Formula calls a ‘dynamic character’. Clint is the guy who’s been there, and guides Kate along the path she has to walk.
Anyway, the story is predominantly about Kate, but it quickly turns out that Clint has a stake too. As a young girl, Kate lost her father during the Chitauri invasion in Avengers. During the battle, Kate saw Hawkeye fight the Chitauri and decided she wanted to be like him. He was a man without powers; not a super soldier or fledgling god, but a mortal man fighting the good fight. Kate spent the next decade mastering the bow like her hero.
Fast forward to now. Kate comes home to her mother in New York for the holidays, even as Clint takes his children for a trip to New York. At a charity event — Kate’s mother is very wealthy — Kate accidentally sneaks into a black market auction in a back room. Criminals attack the auction, and Kate decides to defend the unsuspecting auction-goers. Grabbing one of the auctioned items, a coat belonging to The Ronin, she gets to it. It turns out that puts her straight in the cross-hairs of the gang of criminals looking for the Ronin…
As I wrote above, the story is about Kate Bishop. Kate — played by Hailee Steinfeld — has been scarred by her youth. But where a lot of people would choose to draw in on themselves and their fears from their father dying by Chitauri attack, Kate decided to be a fighter so she can protect herself and her loved ones from it happening again. She has emotional scars, but she’s not afraid. She believes that fighting back is the best defense. Unfortunately, this quickly causes her to get in over her head.
Clint is prematurely old. He’s deaf in one ear from everything that happened. He lost his best friend Natasha Romanoff during Avengers: End Game. He blames himself for her death. People call Hawkeye a hero, but he feels like an old man around whom people die. When he gets dragged into Kate’s problems, his instinct is to protect her by keeping her as far away from himself and danger as possible, and telling her as little as possible.
The dynamic that develops should be clear: Kate does not appreciate Clint pushing her away, and she gets herself in trouble each time she pushes back. And Kate is good at what she does, but she isn’t invincible. She has yet to learn her limits. Clint is not obliged — at first — to teach her. However, Clint’s and Kate’s stubbornness drags them both deeper into trouble.
Then there are some interesting cameos in Hawkeye. I won’t spoil anything, but I was pleasantly surprised with the ultimate villain and the return of a character from the movie Black Widow.
Hawkeye is one of the best Marvel shows I’ve seen. I liked Loki, and Wandavision, but this is the first show that nails good characters without the crutch of over-the-top set pieces. Don’t get me wrong, Loki’s trip to the Void and his battle with the TVA are cool, but it’s all a bit… gimmicky. Similarly, the last episode of Wandavision was a bit of a special effects extravaganza which drowned out the climax.
Hawkeye, like Falcon and the Winter Soldier, tries to make the climax more human. I won’t spoil Hawkeye, but there are no superheroes blasting each other with laser eyes. It’s people with guns and people with arrows and swords. However, where Falcon and the Winter Soldier ultimately couldn’t make me care, Hawkeye could.
In short, if there is one Marvel show to watch, I think it should be this one. Then again, if you love epic battles with laser eyes — which is your prerogative, of course — then you might like this show less. But for me at least, the show manages to hit the right notes, at the right pace, and it doesn’t drop the ball at the end.