Hawkeye – Season 1 Episodes 1 & 2
“Never Meet Your Heroes” and “Hide and Seek”
The Marvel Cinematic universe goes back to one of the original Avengers in Hawkeye; a Christmas set Disney+ TV series where the titular Archer just wants to have a quiet life with his family.
That isn’t all this show is about, far from it but it’s one of the driving motivations for Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton aka Hawkeye. The first episode very much sets up his post Avengers: Endgame life and positions Clint as a man struggling to process all that he has experienced. His introduction into the show is attending an Avengers inspired musical where the events that he lived are saturated with whimsy and told through catchy musical numbers. His attention is drawn to the depiction of Black Widow as it acts as a painful reminder of losing her. It all adds up to being more than he can handle and he ends up leaving halfway through the show.
This is a great way to set up Clint’s difficulties and it also draws attention to the disconnect that exists between how the world perceives the Avengers and the reality of living with those experiences. The MCU has covered this before to varying extents, most notably in Iron Man 3 but there’s a very personal quality to the way Clint reacts to seeing potentially world ending events he was directly involved in adapted into a Broadway musical to entertain the masses.This also sets up big questions that Clint has to ask himself about his affiliation with the Avengers and what being an Avenger actually means. He is directly confronted with a potential responsibility to be a sincere symbol of home in a time where people really need that. This definitely isn’t something Clint is comfortable with as he sees himself as a man with skills who needs to do a particular job so has no desire to be any more than that to anyone else.
Unfortunately for him he doesn’t have any control over that as he makes an impression on people whether he likes it or not. This is shown in various ways such as being asked for a selfie when he’s using the bathroom or a restaurant giving him the food for free as a thank you for saving the city. When in New York Clint is frequently confronted with reminders of his exploits and shown that people are very grateful to him for the part he played. Amusingly Hawkeye is often regarded as “Nobody’s favourite Avenger”. This show acknowledges that and counters it by showing that he is known and appreciated. For the record, this is a character I’ve always enjoyed and Jeremy Renner’s portrayal is something I have always responded positively to.
This show confirms that Hawkeye is definitely the favourite Avenger of at least one person. Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) idolises him because she feels that he saved her life during the Battle of New York. She saw one of his arrows prevent her from being killed and felt connected to him from that point. Shortly after she asks her mother, Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) for a bow and arrow and felt driven to protect her family from that point. Fast forward to Kate as an adult and she is very much an overachiever who masters whatever she applies herself to. There’s the strong suggestion of a search for purpose in the way she tackles different skills before mastering them and moving on. Eleanor comments on the amount of trophies and medals she has earned by competing in various events so there is a long history of her turning her hand to various things. This clearly sets up that she already has skills that will naturally translate to her following in Clint’s footsteps while also pointing out her need for purpose. That need hasn’t yet been answered so it sets up a clear arc for her to follow.
In theory there could be a barrier to relating to Kate because she is an immensely skilled young rich girl who is functionally untouchable because of her wealth. She is introduced in adulthood doing significant damage to an irreplaceable landmark and she faces no consequences for this other than her mother threatening to have a proper discussion about it. Eleanor simply has to throw money at it and the problem goes away. Kate knows this and is clearly aware that she enjoys significant privilege. One reading of her character is that she’s a bored rich kid using her wealth to engage in every activity imaginable while causing trouble knowing that she will never suffer major consequences.
That reading would be unfair because there is so much more to her than that. She is a damaged person unable to process the loss of her father with that loss creating a strained relationship between her and Eleanor. Ultimately she’s stuck and needs to find something in life to call her own. Eleanor has mapped her future out for her through working in the security firm she owns so Kate very much feels a lack of control in her own life. This causes her to act out such as the prank that goes disastrously wrong or living in an apartment she inherited to give her that distance from her mother’s influence. Part of her arc will be forcing herself out of her mother’s shadow. Despite feeling untouchable there’s a lack of entitlement to her which makes it easy to connect with her.
It helps that Hailee Steinfeld is excellent in this role. Kate has plenty of confidence and attitude as well as a clear vulnerability to her. The performance is layered and engaging which makes her instantly likeable. It would have been easy for the character to appear obnoxious given some of the dialogue she has but Hailee Steinfeld’s acting ability takes it in another direction. She fully inhabits this character and presents clear emotional journeys for Kate to take.
Kate doesn’t cross paths with Clint until the final moments of the first episode so they are set up separately before coming together. Once they do a significant portion of the second episode is devoted to developing their dynamic. Kate’s interactions with him are founded on hero worship. She regards him as a celebrity and relishes the fact that she gets to be in his presence despite the threat to her life that comes with it. He doesn’t meet her expectations of him which does create disappointment but she also doesn’t want to break the connection to him. She feels that she owes him a great deal and wants to take advantage of this chance encounter. Contrasting this is Clint’s mind being on getting back to his family as quickly as possible and resenting being stuck in this situation.
One of the most interesting things about the Kate/Clint dynamic hos how Kate approaches interacting with him. She constantly challenges him to live up to her own perception of him and maintains the respect at all times. It’s as if she refuses to believe that he isn’t the man she thinks he is and constantly pushes him towards becoming that for her as well as everyone else. She doesn’t currently understand what motivates him or his own feelings on how she perceives him but there’s time to learn that.
Using the Battle of New York to connect Kate and Clint -even if Clint doesn’t realise it- is a great decision on different levels. For one thing it’s a formative moment in Kate’s life as she loses her father and narrowly escapes death herself thanks to Clint’s intervention. He wasn’t even aware she was there so there was no intent on a personal level where he’s concerned but he was generally working to lessen the loss of life during that event. She views it on a micro level where Clint viewed it on a macro level so there’s a difference in perspective on the event. Aside from that there has been repeated mention of the Battle of New York as being an event that changed the world on a fundamental level. It made the world aware that aliens exist and created an awareness that the Earth is a very small part of a massive universe. It also hammers home the dangers that exist so a lot has changed about how people see themselves in a cosmic context since them.
The impact of that can be seen in these episodes such as the aforementioned musical and the gratitude that Clint experiences when out for dinner. Kate personalises that idea by telling him that he’s her favourite Avenger because he saved her life. He inspires her and gives her hope so she wants Clint to be that for others. It’s not something he has any interest in so this sets up the idea of Kate taking on the Hawkeye mantle and being the inspiration that Clint could never be. Her ability to use a bow and arrow is an obvious setup to her following in his footsteps and the willingness to do so is starting to emerge. The reluctance is coming from Clint who has no desire to be an inspiration to anyone or a mentor to Kate.
Despite his reluctance he still takes on a paternal role when around her. It’s a natural instinct for him as shown by the way he connects to Wanda in earlier appearances so it makes sense for him to take on that role where Kate is concerned. This is nicely shown through him teaching her how to clean her wounds and being constantly concerned about her safety. His mind is on his own family but emotional muscle memory kicks in when he recognises that Kate needs help. His innate goodness is frequently showcased throughout the episode and deepens his character beyond what was depicted in his various movie appearances while drawing on what was known.
There’s a weariness to Clint that comes through clearly in Jeremy Renner’s performance. He feels a great deal of frustration associated with being drawn into a situation and wants to deal with it as quickly as possible so that he can get back to being his family. As mentioned above he’s struggling to deal with the loss of Natasha and wants to live a normal life with his family. Circumstances get in the way of what he wants and his sense of responsibility won’t allow him to ignore the situation in favour of having what he wants.
Part of what this show is about is Clint’s past coming back to haunt him. In Avengers: Endgame he was shown to be in the midst of a violent campaign against the criminal underworld. In that film it as a detail that didn’t impact his role in the film beyond explaining how he had spent the five years following Thanos snapping his fingers but it’s used really well here to establish how influential that campaign was. Ronin -as he was known- became notorious in the criminal underworld with every gang wanting his head. He has a reputation as a mysterious and terrifying figure who cut his way though criminality to dispense his own brand of justice. It’s not something that is detailed so far but the implication is that it was bloody, violent and brutal with Clint showing no remorse as he dispensed lethal justice to every criminal in his path.
At the time he was doing this out of grief. His family were pure and innocent so didn’t deserve to be snapped away by Thanos. As far as Clint was concerned the criminals didn’t deserve to remain so took it upon himself to ensure that they didn’t get to continue. It’s an extreme response to loss but it’s a clear mission statement that now has major consequences for him. The obvious consequence is the Ronin suit emerging from the wreckage of the Avengers compound and being worn by Kate who subsequently becomes a target. It’s a clear indication that a part of his life that he tried to put behind him is coming back to haunt him and it’s something he needs to deal with.
This sets up an arc around Clint reclaiming his humanity. It isn’t explicitly addressed that he has that arc to follow but his weariness conveys that regret and it’s clear this is a loose end he never expected to crop up. The coming episodes will likely address the toll all that killing took on him and there’s a strong sense that he’ll struggle to forgive himself if Kate comes to any harm through association with him and his days as Ronin. It’s a dark page in his personal history and it’s something he clearly feels compelled to put right.
His quest to get the suit back takes on an unexpected turn when a fire fighter takes it to wear during a LARPing -Live Action Role Playing- meet. In order to get close to the suit Clint has to participate which leads to an amusing sequence where he has to use his far superior skills to deal non lethal blows to the LARPers participating in order to wade through to the thing he needs. This leads to him being embroiled into a fake trial by combat so that he can be “killed” as a self esteem boost for the man who currently has the suit. Clint reluctantly agrees and is even more frustrated when he has to continue to participate in order to make it look authentic. It’s an unexpected and delightful extended sequence that lampoons large scale set pieces in a really creative way while keeping everything focused on Clint’s emotional state.
There is more conventional action such as when Kate is confronted by criminals who believe her to be Ronin. Her skill is clear but the choreography is inelegant to indicate that her skills need to be honed in order for her to be able to handle herself better. By contrast Clint’s approach to combat appears effortless indicating his well honed skills. Unsurprisingly the action favours hand to hand combat and it’s very well executed. Kate being skilled with a lot to learn is a great setup for her development.
One drawback to these episodes is the lack of a strong antagonistic presence. This does lessen them slightly though part of the point is that the gang members that Clint deals with at the end of the second episode are borderline incompetent. He calls them out on this with his demands to speak to their boss in a great homage to the scene from The Avengers where Natasha was deliberately captured. Laura (Linda Cardellini) points out that Clint’s plan is one favoured by Natasha and the execution is a great showcase of their close friendship without Natasha being there. The end of the episode shows that there is one in charge which will be picked up in the coming episodes but there’s a lack of strong antagonists to be found in either episode.
Stakes and tension are created in other ways. Clint’s desire for a memorable Christmas with his family creates a ticking clock to propel the narrative. With only a few days until Christmas he has limited time to sort everything out and make it home to enjoy the Christmas activities he looks forward to. The growing frustration goes hand in hand with this ticking clock to create momentum. Clint and Laura’s phone calls punctuate this urgency brilliantly while highlighting Clint’s determination.
Christmas is used well and is important to the background. It’s a joyful veneer that hides darkness lying beneath it. Clint wants it to be about family and happiness but circumstances are warping it into something dark and unpleasant. There are many examples of Christmas being a dark time for some such as Die Hard; something this show draws clear inspiration from. It’s interesting to have Clint’s intense emotional journey contrasted with the expectations he and others have for the Christmas period. He wants it to live up to the cliché for his kids but is aware that the possibility is slipping away.
Further stakes are created through Kate’s observations around the dealings close to her own family. Her mother’s new fiancé, Jack (Tony Dalton) is definitely involved in dodgy dealings, something Kate becomes aware of through an illicit auction that escalates. She is immediately suspicious of Jack because she objects to his relationship with her mother. In her mind it’s a betrayal of her father which indicates that Kate hasn’t ever been able to truly process his death. This leads to her resenting her mother for being able to move on which makes the suspicion initially irrational though she is proven right once she learns more.
The scene where Kate challenges him in an attempt to prove he’s keeping secrets is excellent. Challenging him to a fencing match and tricking him into revealing that his skills are greater than he initially lets on. It doesn’t confirm anything to Eleanor beyond Kate not liking the prospect of Jack being her father in law but it does make it known to Jack that Kate is onto him and won’t drop it until she learns the truth. Other scenes indicate that Jack is in over his head in some ways so he may find it difficult to deal with putting Kate in danger to protect both himself and his associates. He doesn’t present as a major threat but he has danger attached to him which threatens Kate and her family. The beginnings of a larger story are found here and so far it’s all very compelling due to the character connections.
An excellent opening to the series that immediately endears Kate Bishop to the audience while setting up strong arcs for both her and Clint Barton to follow and using the Christmas backdrop to great effect. Kate’s introduction is strong and gets around the potential for her to be dismissed as an entitled rich kid because of the emotional heft that exists. Hailee Steinfeld plays her well with her never reaching the point of being obnoxious. A strong grounding exists around her quest to find purpose in life and her extensive skillset is believably established. Her relationship with her mother is strained and the loss that she continually fails to process is well established. Connecting her to Clint through the Battle of New York was a great decision. On one level it reinforces the idea that those events changed the world fundamentally and on a more personal level it sets Kate on a very particular path with Clint inspiring her in different ways. Her hero worship informs their interactions with her challenging him to be the hero she believes him to be while maintaining that respect she has for him. She can’t recognise that he has no interest in being that for her or anyone else which sets up her movement towards taking on the mantle so that she can be the sincere symbol she believes Hawkeye should be. The weariness to Clint as he deals with a situation he doesn’t want to be involved in comes across well. His first scene where he is unable to make it through a musical based on the Avengers highlights his difficulty processing the events he has experienced and his discomfort with how they have been interpreted by the world around him. He also struggles to deal with being a celebrity in the wake of these events as shown by a restaurant giving him a meal for free out of gratitude. All he wants is to have a normal life and a memorable Christmas with his family but circumstances continually get in the way of that. The resurgence of the Ronin persona when the suit is uncovered brings back a dark page in his personal history and sets up an arc around him reclaiming his humanity after a brutally murderous campaign over years.
The episodes do suffer from a lack of strong antagonists which brings them down slightly though addressing that the criminals involved are incompetent is a nice touch. There are a number of memorable moments for Clint and Kate to navigate such as a LARPing action sequence that works really well and makes for an unconventional set piece. Conventional action exists with an inelegance to the way Kate fights to show that she has considerable skill but needs to hone it. Clint’s contribution to the action is effortless by comparison so it highlights the journey she has to take. Everything about the action loops back to the characters and their emotional states which works brilliantly. Stakes and tension are established in other ways such as the ticking clock created by Clint wanting to return to his family for Christmas and the frustration associated with the situation growing more complicated. Christmas itself is used effectively with the joy of the period acting as a veneer over the darkness that lies beneath. Clint’s emotional journey is contrasted by the expectations he and others have for the Christmas period. Further stakes are created through Kate challenging Jack to be more forthcoming with his skills. It doesn’t confirm anything to Eleanor around what’s really going on but Jack is aware that she’s onto him. There are strong indications that Jack is in over his head but there is dangers attached to him. Ultimately his main role is to be his mother’s new fiancé which challenges Kate to deal with her father’s death. The beginnings of a larger story are found here and so far it’s all very compelling due to the character connections.
- Kate Bishop immediately making a strong impression
- setting her up as a damaged person in need of finding purpose
- her connection to Clint beginning with the Battle of New York
- reinforcing that event as something that changed the world on a fundamental level
- Kate pushing Clint to be the hero and inspiration she sees him as while still respecting him
- Kate challenging Clint to be more of an inspiration to set up her taking on that role in his stead
- the weariness to Clint as he works to have a normal life with his family
- his difficulty dealing with the world’s reaction to events that he lived through and struggles to process
- highlighting his difficult accepting the loss of Natasha
- his growing frustration with being drawn into a difficult situation
- the reappearance of the Ronin suit bringing back a dark page of his personal history
- setting up an arc around him reclaiming his humanity
- the brilliantly executed LARPing sequence
- strong conventional action that front-loads character
- establishing stakes through the ticking clock associated with Clint wanting to be home to spend Christmas with his family
- the joy of Christmas being a veneer over the darkness that lies beneath
- Kate’s challenge to Jack and setting up the difficulties around him
- keeping character on the forefront at all times
- the lack of a strong antagonist in either episode
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