It’s fitting that the Marvel series Hawkeye would debut on Thanksgiving and come with the theme of being set during Christmas. The previous Marvel series all felt as though there were heavy stakes on the line with key events that will affect the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Now comes a show that doesn’t feel as bound by keeping as many timelines, characters, and dimensions together. It still feels saddled in addressing the MCU and still carries that almost annoying postmodernism for the past pictures. That being said, it’s a simpler story of family, revenge, crime, and fight scenes that don’t rely on a heaping dose of fantastical CGI. Also, there’s LARPing.
Despite having gone through one of the most tragic turns during the events of Avengers: Endgame, the archery hero of Hawkeye, aka Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), seemed to bounce back as the one Avenger who found the most stable life. He has a wife and kids that he loves and spends plenty of time with. Even during the events of Age of Ultron and Endgame, they always seemed to be in the foreground of importance. We first see him in the series taking his kids on a city vacation to enjoy the city during Christmas time. Though he keeps up the fun dad routine, there’s lingering anxiety of the past and his time as the killer Ronin, the role he played when he lost his family, and all hope of them returning after the Thanos snap. It also doesn’t help that there’s an Avengers broadway musical he attends where Black Widow triggers some dark memories.
While Clint grapples with the past, there’s another archer with a tragic past. Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) during the events of 2012’s Avengers and lost her father during the battle of New York. Having been inspired by Hawkeye, she grows up to become both a skilled archer and fighter. To get her fast feet in the door of the vigilante business, she adopts the look of Ronin, becoming a masked warrior of the night. She can sense that her mother is in danger and plans to get to the bottom of a criminal underworld that lurks in the city, secretly selling relics of the past. Of course, a key weapon worth pilfering is the retractable sword once used by Hawkeye. But when Clint finds footage of someone running around pretending to be his more murderous persona, the old archer picks up his bow, cuts his vacation short, and plans to find out what the deal is with Kate.
The first two episodes do a decent job setting up the tale of both Clint and Kate teaming up to bust up a criminal underworld. There’s some great action and enough time to let Steinfeld come into her own as Kate. She occupies so much of the first episodes and shows off just how skilled she is at infiltrating criminal auctions and fighting her way out of tough ordeals. Clint is also given just enough room for development before launching him into a reluctant team-up with an aspiring hero seeking to be the protege of Hawkeye.
The humor also feels fairly subdued for these episodes. Perhaps the most elaborate gag is an Avengers musical but it’s thankfully treated more as background for Clint dealing with past events. It is, however, a bit of fun to listen to his passive commentary about correcting the events of the battle of New York, highlighting how Ant-Man was never there. There is, however, an absurdly charming moment in the second episode where Clint dives face-first into a LARPing event and it doesn’t try too hard to find a laugh with the Marvel hero bounding with a Nerf weapon.
The story moves rather slow for the first few episodes but the tone it establishes is one of the most engrossing since WandaVision. The narrative feels more personal for a story bound less by the societal change and more by internal motivations. It’s a Christmas break of a Marvel series that is off to a solid start present ambitions that are far more meetable and enticing than the bigger goals that feel less delivered in previous Marvel shows.