We’re on our last entry. 2021 was a great ride in terms of the first batch of MCU shows on Disney+. Just before Christmas, we were given the appropriately holiday-themed show, Hawkeye. This was the show I was most looking forward to. First of all, the show was supposed to be following the Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye series and while I hadn’t read it, I love David Aja’s work and have always meant to check it out. Secondly, I’ve always felt that, out of the original Avengers, he was always overlooked. I like the character alright and Jeremy Renner is very talented, but the movie version of Clint Barton had trouble picking up steam. I always thought he deserved better.
Given The Shaft
The MCU version had some rotten luck when it came to getting the spotlight. When the first Avengers movie came out, four of the team members had at least one movie to themselves and Black Widow had a major role in Iron Man 2, which allowed fans to get good and excited once that first big team-up film came out. As for Hawkeye, he had a cameo in the first Thor movie which wasn’t much but hey, he was gonna show up in Avengers and we would probably get to know his character, right? Not really. In the first scene of Avengers, he had his mind taken over by Loki and spent most of the movie as an adversary so it was hard to really get to know much about him. The fact that he was the guy shooting arrows alongside gods, super soldiers, and gamma monsters didn’t really help get people interested. A little bit of personality would have gone a long way here. Bad luck would strike again when a scheduling conflict for Renner ensured Hawkeye could not be in the second Captain America film.
He wouldn’t get proper respect until Avengers: Age of Ultron. As flawed as the movie was, it was where his character would get to interact with his teammates, get a sub-plot in the form of his relationship with the Maximoff twins, and actually get a bit of a backstory. This backstory would prove very important to his own series considering we were introduced to his family, which I’ll get into in a bit. After that, he would finally appear in a Captain America movie, Civil War, where he got to kick a little ass but he had to share the spotlight with multiple heroes including Black Panther and Spider-Man who were making their MCU debuts. He would then disappear entirely from Avengers: Infinity War. Avengers: Endgame would make up for it by giving us a peak at his time as Ronin, which added to his character as he turned to vigilantism as a way to cope with his family getting Snapped. So yeah, in the span of about a decade, Hawkeye didn’t have as much to go on as, say, Captain America or Iron Man. Still, Kevin Feige and company saw the potential in his character and gave him his own show. So was it good? Yes, it was. As always, spoilers will follow.
Between this and the Black Widow movie, I feel the Hawkeye series was superior in the “way too late solo Avenger project, but I’m glad it’s here” sense. The show picked up on the best parts of the movie, namely his relationship with his family and his days as Ronin. The best thing about this version of Clint was that he was a family man first and foremost and saving the world was just a job. We got a little bit of that in his famous speech to Scarlet Witch but it was emphasized beautifully here. He was just a retired hero who wanted to give his kids a nice Christmas in New York but fate had other plans. It was also great to see the aftermath of his vigilante actions as well as Black Widow’s death. I liked that it was a great shame of his and was the reason why he didn’t consider himself a hero, but the show never got bogged down with overwrought scenes of Clint pouting in front of the camera. People would constantly thank him for saving the world and he would politely accept it while being visibly embarrassed or perplexed.
Going back to Ronin, I liked that the New York underworld was terrified of him; we got to see how dangerous he would be for mobsters and other low-level threats. Since he was often seen as the weakest Avenger, we got to see just how badass he actually was and why his skills were needed. Clint might not have looked like much fighting a big purple alien with magic rocks but he was no push over. Something else the show rectified was giving him trick arrows. While he used them in the movies, they were mostly just variations of exploding arrows with the odd grappling hook or something here and there. The show let us see a much wider arsenal, including Pym arrows that could shrink or enlarge targets. It made for some very exciting action sequences (just like Falcon & Winter Soldier, there are great fight scenes in this series that easily rival the movies). If this ends up being Jeremy Renner’s last rodeo in the MCU, it did the character justice.
Let’s Talk About Kate Bishop
Kate Bishop, as I mentioned in the past, was a member of Young Avengers which the MCU shows seem to be leading up to. While other members made appearances on the previous shows to one extent or another, Kate was the only to actually be a co-star. She shared the spotlight with Clint, creating a brilliant reluctant mentor/student comradery. Hailee Steinfeld had really nice chemistry with Renner. It was a similar dynamic to the MCU versions of Spider-Man and Iron Man but a bit more dysfunctional. Clint, as mentioned above, did not consider himself a hero and the last thing he needed was some fangirl following him around, creating messes that he had to clean up. Kate, meanwhile, was constantly telling him how awesome he was due in large part because he unknowingly saved her life during the Chitauri Invasion from the first Avengers movie. Kate was highly skilled but also a complete noob, often getting herself and others in trouble as she struggled to figure out how to be a hero. I love these sort of character arcs, so it was fun to see.
The New Hawkeye and Black Widow Team
That wasn’t the only dynamic relationship involving Kate on this show. Her bromance with Yelena Belova, aka the new Black Widow, was so much fun. Wait, what’s the female version of a bromance? Lemme know in the comments. Anyway, despite being enemies for most of their screen time together, the two got along with Kate outright admitting she liked Yelena. The scene where Yelena meets Kate and cooks mac and cheese went from cute to funny and then to serious in such a way, it was almost as if the two women went through a lifetime’s worth of experiences together in the span of about three minutes.
I’m really getting attached to Florence Pugh as Yelena. Even though she was trying to kill Clint, I found her adorable. We needed to see her and Clint reconciling after Natasha’s death. I’ve mentioned in the past that it seems the MCU is setting up a Dark Avengers/Thunderbolts sort of team. Going by the after credit scene in Black Widow, we know Yelena has connections to Val who has also employed John Walker, so I’m guessing they’ll be teammates. Perhaps the Thunderbolts will clash with the Young Avengers, resulting in friction between Kate and Yelena?
There were a lot of great villains, bro!
The Tracksuit Mafia were perfect antagonists. They were hilarious and pretty much canon fodder but just dangerous enough that we could feel the stakes. In spite of their goofy conversations and saying bro after every sentence, they nearly killed Kate in the first episode. Having funny, yet menacing villains is a delicate balance but the show pulled it off. Of course, it helped that their leader was the deadly and ultra-serious Echo, played by newcomer Alaqua Cox. Cox, like the comic character she played, was a deaf Native girl. It’s wonderful that Marvel found someone who could fit the character in real life. Cox is also an amputee, which was added to her character as well. Her fight scenes were very kinetic and intense, no doubt inspiring a lot of people in the audience who might be similarly disabled.
Of course, the big surprise was the return of Kingpin, placing the Netflix shows (or at least Daredevil) squarely in the MCU. In my Netflix Retrospective, I mentioned my concern that we would never see these characters again. With Charlie Cox’s Daredevil showing up in the latest Spider-Man movie and Vincent D’onofrio playing Kingpin on this show, I felt like I got a nice little Christmas present.
Aside from the aforementioned villains, we got Vera Farmiga as Kate Bishops’ obviously corrupt mother, Fra Free as Kazi, and Tony Dalton as Jaques (aka Swordsman). Now, the Swordsman was set up as the big bad but in the last episode, the reveal was that he had been framed. He wasn’t really the big bad, but he still wasn’t a nice guy either since he was perfectly fine attending an underground auction, stealing the Ronin sword, and was a little too comfortable slicing up the Tracksuit Mafi. Still, he helped Kate and Clint at the end so, like his comic counterpart, he can be a hero or a villain depending on his needs. Dalton was very charming in that role so I hope they do more with him next season.
I probably can’t say anything negative about Hawkeye. I loved all the characters, I loved the plot, and I loved the action. It actually rivals Daredevil when it comes to MCU shows. It was so good, I had trouble cramming everything I loved about it in one blog. In fact, I almost forgot to mention Rogers the Musical. I can’t wait for the next season.
That wraps up our year in review, but stay tuned. I’ll be continuing my Netflix Marvel Retrospective in the coming months. Until then.