Just as the cinematic entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have formed their own formula, it seems that the small-scale Disney+ entries have also found theirs. With a highly divisive 2021, Marvel released a set of nine projects, four of them winning mountains of praise and the other five being dismissed with annoyance and disappointment. ‘Hawkeye‘, to me, falls in the latter by solidifying the new plague of a problem that haunts the MCU. With the Avengers now being a thing of the past, Marvel is looking to capture our attention with new, more experimental and more exciting stories and well, the thing is while they are wonderful, they do beg the question, ‘Where have they been all this time?’
spoilers for ‘Hawkeye‘, ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ and certain Marvel shows are featured in this review.
Every project from Phase Four has seemingly retconned the past movies one way or the other. ‘WandaVision’s introduction of witches, ‘Black Widow’ and Yelena’s entire character who was never mentioned before as a crucial part of Natasha’s life. The entire concept of the TVA from ‘Loki‘, the Mandarin and the Ten Rings from ‘Shang-Chi’ and the ‘Eternals‘ as a whole. Where have they been all this time? These are new additions that would have greatly impacted past MCU events yet they never address that. However, perhaps the most annoying of all is ‘Hawkeye’s determination to throw a twist at us every episode resulting in the reveal of the Kingpin. Just like Charlie Cox’s ‘Daredevil‘ was revealed in ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’, the Kingpin makes his return to the scene in ‘Hawkeye’ as the final boss. While it’s fantastic to see these two return seeing how beloved they are, it also means that the entire Netflix storyline is now canon. Will they return in a new season of ‘Daredevil’? Will they be watered down for Disney+? Who knows, however, it’s a bit weird seeing how ‘The Defenders’ are now canon and have never been contacted by anyone. You would think Wong would pay Iron Fist a visit but I guess not. The point is that by the end, ‘Hawkeye‘ has introduced so many ideas and teased so many concepts that it ultimately feels lost.
Hawkeye / Clint Barton has never even been a character I have been interested in and it doesn’t have to do with the fact that he’s played by the insanely problematic Jeremy Renner. Barton was never given the time to feel like an actual character. He was always someone who was defined by the relationships in his life whether it’s his family or his deep connection to Natasha Romanoff. He was never explored outside of that until he became Ronin in ‘Endgame‘. Even then, however, we only got some action sequences, it was never character-driven. His role here is actually the opposite. Surprise, surprise, ‘Hawkeye‘ actually gives Clint Barton an actual character. While his relationship with Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop brings out a lot from him, we don’t just see him react to a situation related to her, the show gets to explore his head. The PTSD from ‘Endgame’ and losing Natasha was something well-executed even if they could’ve hit the nail a bit harder. The discussion of what an Avenger is and what it actually means to be a hero or even a good person was something I never thought the MCU would really delve into because they do portray it in such a fantastical way. Here, however, we see a man tortured by guilt and mistakes who questions his morality. Unfortunately, the show is so clouded by other sub-plots that this plot wasn’t really explored to the level of let’s say Wanda or Loki’s character arcs.
Hailee Steinfeld brings a tangible sense of excitement and enthusiasm that makes the show worth watching. Kate Bishop is undeniably the most enjoyable character here and honestly, I would’ve much preferred an entire show about her over Clint Barton. Most of the time Barton feels disinterested and burdened to be there leaving Bishop to do all the heavy lifting. They have these special scenes together where they discuss what it means to be a hero even if you don’t have super strength or lasers shooting out of your hands and it was nice to see. It’s something I wish the show would’ve explored more of. The same goes for the inclusion of Yelena whose relationship with Natasha being cut so abruptly makes the ‘Black Widow’ movie feel all the more frustrating. I loved the entire scene with Yelena, Kate and the macaroni. It’s probably my favourite scene of the entire show. Unfortunately, I could not say the same for the rest of the show. The Tracksuit Mafia were a fun concept in the beginning but I couldn’t believe they stuck around, I found them to be a hollow, disposable presence in a show that needed time to focus on other things. I found Maya to be an incredibly generic and underwritten character. Kingpin’s inclusion felt awkward with the rest of the show and worst of all, they underutilized Vera Farmiga and gave her an underwritten character who never really got anything to do. Actually, they do give her plenty of stuff, we just never see it.
In the end, ‘Hawkeye‘ repeated ‘Captain America and The Winter Soldier’s problems by putting an abundance of sub-plots in a six-episode series that should’ve focused on its characters instead of setting up ‘Marvel’s Echo’ and the return of the ‘Daredevil‘ world. Renner and Steinfeld’s Clint and Kate have great chemistry even if Bishop/Steinfeld does all the heavy lifting. Florence Pugh’s Yelena struggles to find a respectable amount of screentime to warrant her presence. Overall, it feels like Marvel tried to introduce a lot of ideas instead of making a good show and it results in a messy, uneven and underwritten plot. I feel like Marvel is reaching a point where they have a genuinely insane amount of characters and they’re trying to incorporate them all into this one huge story that in retrospect, the longer it goes, the bigger the plot-holes are going to be.
The First Season of ‘Hawkeye’ is now streaming on Disney+