The low stakes and modest ambitions of Hawkeye make it less continuity-shaping event television than, say, Loki, but it has its share of charm and heart.
This recap of Hawkeye season 1, episode 1, “Never Meet Your Heroes”, Hawkeye season 1, episode 2, “Hide and Seek”, contains spoilers.
Marvel’s recent run of films and TV shows have made it no secret that they’re trying to usher in the next generation of heroes and villains. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier passed Captain America’s shield to Sam Wilson. Loki opened a wormhole right to Kang the Conqueror. The overdue Black Widow introduced Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova as Natasha’s hot spy replacement, and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings gave us not just a new hero but a rebranding of an old organization as well. Hawkeye fits right in with this model. It might ostensibly be a swansong for perennially underused flinty marksman Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), but it’s much more an introduction to his inevitable replacement, the fresh-faced, wisecracking young archer Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).
Hawkeye season 1, episode 1 & 2 recap – “Never Meet Your Heroes” and “Hide and Seek”
It’s only fitting that Clint takes a backseat in his own namesake show. There’s a longstanding joke about his general uselessness. He has no powers, he never got his own solo movie, he sat out a crucial battle for half of galactic life, many felt like Natasha’s sacrifice in Avengers: Endgame should have been his (though perhaps, given subsequent contract disputes, it’s better for Disney that it wasn’t), and his supposedly cool exploits as the murderous swordsman Ronin during the infamous Blip have remained mostly unexamined. Hawkeye seems to be aware of all of this. Clint’s characterization is based around his lingering sense of survivor’s guilt and overall fatigue with superheroism, and the plot is kick-started by the after-effects of his time as Ronin, thanks to Kate donning the suit while interrupting its sale in a black-market auction and getting caught on camera afterward, leading the underworld to fear that the vigilante is back in business.
Kate’s at an auction because her mother, Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), is rich, and she has grown up in the lap of luxury despite having witnessed the Battle of New York in 2012 and lost her father in the process. From the bombed-out side of her swanky apartment, though, she saw Hawkeye doing his thing, and thus took up archery and other martial arts, determined to become a hero in her own right in amongst her responsibilities to Manhattan’s bourgeoisie. The auction is taking place in the basement of a charity gala where Kate learns that her mother is engaged to Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), aka “The Swordsman”, though nobody refers to him as such. The Duquesne family is prominent in Manhattan’s hoity-toity circles, so when Kate later discovers Jack’s uncle, Armand, whom she earlier overheard threatening Eleanor, dead on the floor of his home, it’s obvious that something dangerous and complicated is afoot.
Whatever it is, Clint, who is in New York with his kids to see Rogers: The Musical on Broadway, finds himself involved after seeing Ronin on the news. With his kids sent back home to his wife, Laura (a depressingly underused Linda Cardellini), Clint is forced to reluctantly team up with Kate and suffer a multitude of indignities along the way, including LARPing and being kidnapped by his useless old nemeses, the Tracksuit Mafia. His involvement is silly, and he explicitly can’t be bothered with it, which works surprisingly well given the show’s holiday setting and Clint’s general sense of being done with costumed crimefighting in general. After helping to thwart several alien invasions, he’s not going to get excited about a bunch of dudes in tracksuits with cartoonish Russian accents. This is a guy who just wants to get home to his family in time for Christmas.
But he also feels a sense of responsibility, both to his (albeit brief) time as Ronin and, inevitably, to Kate, who has grown up idolizing him and the life he can’t wait to leave behind. Clint knows intuitively that there’s much more trauma in vigilantism that Kate’s rebellious rich-girl could imagine, and he’s at once trying to spare her from that while also atoning for his own mistakes and proving that his character’s unlikely continued survival all these years has been worth it.
Hawkeye feels as if it has much more in common with Marvel’s Netflix shows, all of which were about street-level superheroics in and around New York, but it doesn’t have the same adults-only tone or indeed the caliber of action choreography. The show’s laidback style can veer towards a complete lack of seriousness at times, which is difficult to invest in throughout the first two episodes, but will hopefully be rectified as Clint and Kate both develop as characters and other elements of the MCU are folded into proceedings. I wouldn’t exact Hawkeye to have the same kind of mythological significance as Loki, for instance, or even to be a character study on the same scale as WandaVision, but there’s every chance it could be a decent and meaningful send-off for a long-time Avenger and a compelling argument in favor of his replacement.