NOTE: Full spoilers for this episode of, “Hawkeye” are present in this review
It’s hard to believe that we’re nearing the end of 2021’s cascade of Marvel Studios content made for Disney+. At last though, we’ve made it to this year’s final Marvel Cinematic Universe expansion to come out of Disney’s streaming service, that being another series built around post-Avengers: Endgame fallout, Hawkeye. Part action-thriller series and part Christmas caper, Hawkeye simultaneously gives one of the least appreciated MCU Avengers his proper due in a leading role, while also introducing our latest obvious tease for an MCU incarnation of the Young Avengers. That tease comes by way of Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop, who, despite the title of this series, is more accurately its main character, in contrast to established Hawkeye character, Clint Barton.
Kate is a Hawkeye successor and protegee in Marvel Comics lore, and that passing of the torch seems to be one of the ideas at play in Hawkeye. Unsurprisingly, Kate was indirectly introduced to Clint in the MCU after witnessing the Battle of New York first-hand as a child, during the events of 2012’s The Avengers. After seeing Clint’s fearless actions in repelling the Chitauri invaders, Kate then subsequently dedicated her life to archery, gymnastics and martial arts. Kate’s dedication to mimicking the craft of Hawkeye is also accentuated by Kate’s father having been killed during the Chitauri invasion, leaving Kate in the care of her mother, Eleanor Bishop, who is about to marry a wealthy man, Jack Duquesne in the present day. Jack happens to be a Hawkeye mentor called Swordsman in Marvel Comics lore, though despite Jack appearing to maintain a proficiency for swords in MCU canon, he doesn’t appear to have any connection to Clint in Marvel’s live-action continuity.
Immediately, Kate’s background is placed front-and-center in this debut episode for Hawkeye, culminating with Kate being reprimanded by her college for destroying its clock tower with an arrow on account of a student bet. This is the start of a series of events that eventually puts Kate in the crosshairs of the Tracksuit Mafia, the apparent main antagonists of Hawkeye. The Tracksuit Mafia are definitely a hoot as well, being eccentric mobsters that eventually target the lost treasures of Clint’s Avengers: Endgame-era tenure as the vigilante, Ronin, after the Ronin sword and costume go up for sale at an underground auction, an auction that Kate just so happens to sneak into.
If it feels like Kate’s involvement in Hawkeye’s proper events is pretty contrived, well, it kind of is. Despite Kate idolizing Clint from childhood, this series does seem to strain a bit to get its inciting incident going. There are a lot of coincidences that eventually lead Kate into the orbit of the Tracksuit Mafia, and before that, we have to go through a lot of establishment that’s almost entirely upheld off the back of Hailee Steinfeld’s lovable charm. Steinfeld really is a great leading presence here, and her standout scenes with Vera Farmiga as Kate’s mother, Eleanor Bishop help to elevate what’s otherwise some fairly trite Bishop family drama. These early Bishop family moments represent a lot of waiting before we can get to the good stuff, despite Kate’s comical misfortune eventually coming together for a fantastically action-packed escape from the Tracksuit Mafia’s initial auction attack.
It feels apparent that Hawkeye simultaneously wants to explore the idea of grounding and disillusionment surrounding celebrity status too, and that feels exceptionally apparent with Clint’s subplot in this first episode. Clint’s arc begins with him taking his three children to a hilariously tacky Broadway play, Rogers: The Musical, ostensibly centered around the retired Captain America and his rallying of the Avengers during the Battle of New York. It’s here that we also see the MCU finally addressing something that has defined Hawkeye for decades in Marvel Comics lore; Clint is hard-of-hearing, and must use a hearing aid. This is seemingly a result of Clint’s years of service to S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers in the case of the MCU, and it’s a great way to both bring in a key part of Hawkeye’s character from Marvel Comics lore, while also illustrating just how severely Clint’s many years of action have begun to damage his body and senses.
Like I said, there’s less emphasis on Clint than there is on Kate here, and some may be a little annoyed at that, at first. Kate does endear herself to viewers quickly, but at this point, we don’t actually see her and Clint have a rapport. Instead, we get a welcome chance to see Clint interact with his three children on his own terms, all of whom were previously inconsequential side characters in MCU canon. Clint being humanized as a family man in post-Avengers life here, despite the adoration and expectations of his many fans (many more fans than you would expect!), is something that feels pleasantly heartwarming, particularly when Clint tries to enjoy a normal Christmas with his children, as any regular person would want. This is especially true in post-Blip America, where people’s families (including Clint’s entire family!) can finally come back together and heal after half the world’s population vanished due to Thanos’ snap, five years previous.
It’s perhaps a smart move that Hawkeye would debut its first two episodes simultaneously, because, “Never Meet Your Heroes” is heavily steeped in establishment for both Kate and Clint. When paired with its second episode, the storylines in this first episode feel a lot more satisfying and engaging. Kate is still a likable lead regardless though, and Clint’s more grounded initial arc manages to work very effectively. Kate and Clint do manage to meet each other at the very end of this episode as well, after Clint tracks down Kate in his stolen Ronin costume, and saves her from another Tracksuit Mafia attack. Thus, the MCU’s latest buddy vehicle is kicked off, one that starts on a fun and festive note, effectively teasing a lighter new spin on the MCU’s formerly gritty street-level lore.
- Kate Bishop is a very likable lead heroine
- Clint's heartwarming, bittersweet post-Avengers life
- Highly engaging first battle with the Tracksuit Mafia
- Kate's inciting incident is a little uneven