Bringing more of our favourite MCU heroes to the small screen, Hawkeye sees the titular Avenger wrapped up in a web of crime, gangs and assassins when he crosses paths with Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a talented archer and long-time Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) fan, who gets herself into some trouble.
Focusing more on street-level combat and shady underworld figures, without the appearance of multiversal beings and superpowers, this is another breath of fresh air for the MCU – even embracing the Christmas setting – giving us our first festive MCU project to date. The smaller-scale narrative really helps separate it from the wider MCU, giving Hawkeye the attention he deserves and spending plenty of time introducing us to Kate Bishop, someone destined to show up in many more Marvel projects going forward. It was great being able to see Jeremy Renner thrive as the co-lead of a project, as every other time he plays Hawkeye, he’s part of an ensemble and can fall into the background quite often. The narrative delves further into his history as Ronin, his family and where he is at in life – especially following the death of Natasha Romanoff. This has all been a long time coming, so it’s great to be able to finally see Hawkeye at the forefront.
Also at the forefront of this narrative is Kate Bishop, a new hero played by Hailee Steinfeld, who makes an exciting debut. She comes across as a very fun, charismatic and talented individual who certainly has a lot to learn about being a hero. Between her and Hawkeye, their respective narratives are interesting, but it’s their combined journey and the chemistry they share that’s the highlight of every episode. The whole ‘veteran reluctantly taking a trainee under his wing‘ dynamic has been explored time and time again, but with these two strong personalities going back and forth – it’s just as entertaining now than it’s ever been. On top of being entertaining, there’s signs of a strong emotional bond, which helps bring some further depth to their relationship and link them together on this journey. It even allows for some slower moments to remain engaging as you do care about understanding these characters. The emotional element that worked best is seeing how the death of Natasha is still weighing heavily on Hawkeye. It’s a very rewarding through-line – exploring the impact Natasha had on these characters and how she’s still influencing the narrative.
Overall, the season’s narrative is a really good one, but there’s also not much that’s overly exciting. At times there’s quite a bit going on, with plenty of moving parts, and then at other times it feels like it’s moving through a bit of a lull. I get the impression from much of this season that despite how entertaining it is, it’s more focused on setting up characters and narratives for the future, while giving us a little something to follow here. This isn’t a bad thing, but it just means it leaves you wanting a little more substance from its admittedly short 6-episode run. There’s a decent amount of surprises and reveals along the way to keep up some excitement, and the latter 3 episodes are especially packed with multiple character arcs that are balanced pretty well. It’s certainly enjoyable, but some episode chunks feel unfocused or slowing things down that holds the show back a little.
When it comes to the tone, this is a refreshingly fun series from beginning to end that really prioritises the comedic aspects in a lot of moments. Sure, there’s solid emotional beats and great action sequences, but embracing the comedy really ties it into the whole ‘joyful Christmas’ theme. Sure, some of the jokes don’t hit, but the vast majority do – and it’s Hailee Steinfeld who is dishing out the majority of it with her trademark ‘angsty teen’ kind of sarcastic humour. There’s an early LARPing sequence that initially feels out of left-field, but as you progress through the series, it’s very much in line with the comedy through every episode. Also, the action is great. For one, there’s plenty of thrilling close-quarters combat, but we also get a lot more variety with Hawkeye and his bow thanks to the use of trick arrows. The trick arrows bring another layer of excitement to the action and go further than what we’ve seen in the movies. So, in terms of comedy and action it really sticks the landing.
Behind the great chemistry between Hawkeye and Kate are two awesome performances from Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld. Jeremy has a tight grasp on the character and really plays it well this time around. He brings tonnes of emotion to the story and hits those notes really well, letting the pain and humanity of the character shine through his performance. Hailee is the star of the show – she’s so radiant on screen that it’s hard to take your eyes off her. She commits to the role and nails some pretty key emotional scenes, while also convincingly kicking ass time and time again. Of the supporting cast, Vera Farmiga is great – just a class act who knows how to deliver a captivating performance with ease. Then there’s Alaqua Cox, who plays Maya and is a standout antagonist in this overlapping narrative. Being her acting debut, she is fantastic across each and every one of her scenes. The character of Maya is very layered, with a lot to unpack and a huge role in the story – so the fact she brings such a good performance and creates a compelling character in her first acting gig has me excited to see more of her.
In the end, Hawkeye is a fun series full of heart, humour and action that benefits from the dynamic duo of Clint and Kate, played brilliantly by both Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld. The story has its ups and downs, occasionally losing its momentum, but always manages to bring it back with either a great combat sequence or emotionally-impactful character-centric moment. It’s an all-round entertaining series fit for the family, and does quite a bit to try set up a range of narratives within the MCU going forward. For some festive cheer and superhero action, switch on Hawkeye!