by Paul Deeter
Purely Kino is reviewing Hawkeye at the midpoint of the season or episode 3. This review won't cover the whole season or any upcoming elements not revealed in the first three episodes. We will return to the show if there's a major development in our review or one that would feel important to the changing landscape of the MCU. Also, spoilers ahead.
The introduction of Clint Barton or Hawkeye as played by Jeremy Renner in Marvel's: The Avengers seemed like an extra goodie to the big lineup, but definitely not up to the par of the skills of the Hulk for example. While originally (and blink-and-you'll miss it) he appeared in Thor (2011), his skill as an archer kept him savvy enough to take on Loki's army, but not important enough to carry much more than a brief scene. His established relationship with Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) would be the major factor into situating him in the narrative of the final two Avengers films. Until Avengers: Infinity Wars came out, he was our wise-crackin' sharp shooter without much of a story outside of a home location where he kept family from work. This would be the major factor that made up for Barton's lack of flair in the battlefield, as a family man we discover him stripped completely of it in Endgame, where he's known as Ronin, and becomes a bit of a bad guy. I'm treading familiar water here (and if not watch the damn movies), but in short Thanos' snap caused the dusting of half the world's population and unluckily every direct member of his family fell into that equation as well. Here is where Clint stands out, a family man whose fight is for those at home more desperately than any protection of a planet or civilization larger than that. Sure Cap and Tony Stark have their significant others, but Clint's farmhouse simplicity makes him a poster child for the ideal American family man.
The importance of his relationship with Natasha is strained in Endgame as well by the life-or-death choice he has to make with her at a place of sacrifice in the film that would need one of their deaths to gain an infinity stone. And after opening the film with the heavy-handed (and well directed) sequence of Clint watching his family literally disappear, its pretty clear who would walk away here. Natasha would see her own film (delayed until 2021) of Black Widow, and get her own time to shine in that origin story. Regardless, in the present: Clint walks away, and when the day is saved so is he and his family. Problem solved? Well not in the MCU. SPOILER CITY!!! In 2021's Black Widow Natasha Romanoff's family is established as various assassins undercover with their own mission keeping them together and drawing them apart. So not by blood but by love, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) plays the part as her sister, and grows attached to her when the events of the film take place (ambiguously before Thanos.) However, flash forward past the "everyone saved the day, yay!' first ending of Black Widow our post-credits sequence reveals Yelena at the grave of her sister. Here is where she is informed by shadowy instigator Valentina (Julia Louise Dreyfus) that her sister's death is Clint's fault. After being delayed a whole year, I feel like this twist aged quite well and gave fans a reason to get excited over the announcement of Hawkeye's own series.
If you've been reading enough of these Marvel articles you probably got the gist of our thoughts on Wandavision and Loki among many other Marvel shows and projects of the year that made a return to the cape so worthwhile. The real surprise for me is that each series not only upped the ante on each one before it, with themes of race and ableism for example, but also just how well they could spar with the power of the films as well. Loki specifically felt like the first of the initial series to purpose its finale into the upcoming events of the multiverse in Marvel. It created a brand new super villain, and a new super arc that was predicted but mostly rumored up until then. After Loki's giant finale set in stone a series of multiverses and the evils and unknowns that come with it, along with the all but spoiled Spiderman: No Way Home film and it's inclusion of the Sinister Six, what does Hawkeye have to make the time feel worthwhile between now and then. The new Spiderman feature has literally broken websites over ticket sales and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is having a huge home-media and Disney+ streaming success. Is anyone eyeing out a series about our family man's struggle.
Well it helps to understand the role Hawkeye has in the new phase of Marvel (phase four.) As has any project post 2012, Hawkeye reflects on the events of the attack on New York by Loki's army of that year, specifically the death of young Hawkeye's (Hailee Steinfeld) father in an accident during the attack. See this show isn't a Barton story, but not un-entirely so. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier show established not Steve Roger's role (postpartum or origin) as Captain America, instead the Falcon's rebirth as the new Cap. This series is intended to also explore the idea of a new fit, and while The Falcon had an impressive take on racial politics and American representation, Hawkeye has a few different things to say with the new face behind the bow and arrow. Clint Barton is basically retired in modern day, watching a cheeky play of the events of the attack on NYC in a meta Avengers Broadway play. His path is inevitably set to cross with young Hawkeye after she's stirred up some trouble for herself and literally rung a bell that can't be unrung. She is in the crosshairs of a group of shadowy mercenaries looking for the "Ronin" that we briefly knew in Endgame. As is a Marvel project, the main villain is looking to avenge someone who was claimed by the Ronin, and the suit of the Ronin keeps the identity of its owner hidden. So since we know Barton's involvement with the suit and his dark side post the Snap in Endgame caused the tragedy that leads to the cause and effect of this show, its a problem to see young Hawkeye find herself in the suit after a string of events in the pilot.
If the first episode's since of charm and scrappy fight scenes aren't clear enough, by episode two, we can tell Hawkeye is trying its best against the shows of Gods and witches. Two episodes in you can't quite tell what direction the mood of the show is going in. We have throw away moments of nice imagery: urinal vandalism that says "Thanos was Right" and a dog sidekick with one eye, but its all pretty pen to paper comic book stuff. The performance by Steinfeld is great, she has the charisma and spunk to carry it with the best of them. She doesn't quite have the moves of Natasha or Wanda per se, but she's tough as hell and fits well into the Ronin outfit along with her work with the bow. By the third episode, I should say that the real star here so far is Renner, who is poignantly dealing with age and potential disability while he tries to juggle family with his past. We establish a female villain with her own interesting condition; Echo (Alqua Cox) is deaf and physically handicapped which is touched upon but sensitively and might make for a deeper connection with Clint over time. The use of ASL along with moments of silence and communication seem to be setting the groundwork for the potential of an overall underlying message of ableism and disability that the other series haven't approached at all. I'm excited that Hawkeye is continuing the trend of setting a message through its narrative, that I think most Marvel movies don't have time to take advantage of. I can think of Black Panther as the last Marvel movie with such thematic tones of race and discrimination as actually taking more time than just being an action film.
I'm a huge fan of the Avengers films and won't deny that, but its nice to slow things down as is proven by each of these series. The time taken to tell a story, balance out some heavier themes and develop characters make television a better format for heroes like these. And while a large screen may be the best way to watch a moment like say: Barton creating a PYM sized arrow to stop a car chase over Manhattan bridge, we're better off earning moments like that through the balanced pacing of a mini series. While we haven't seen any show of Yelena yet, (she is attached to the credits) I'm sure we're in for some more surprises and solid thematic twists. I think the initial two episodes, with their decision not to set a clear eye on the villain or make any points with the purpose of the show, are slight in comparison to all the other series. They're scrappy but cute, like Pizza Dog (yeah that's his name) but by episode three more than ready to prove their worth in a fight. It's not a perfect hit, but its no misfire.
Hit us with your best shot, Hawkeye.