DIRECTOR: Rhys Thomas

CAST: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Brian d’Arcy James, Alaqua Cox, Linda Cardellini, Ava Russo, Ben Sakamoto, Cade Woodward, Aleks Paunovic, Piotr Adamczyk, Simon Callow

RUNNING TIME: 50 mins (Episode 1); 52 mins (Episode 2)

BASICALLY…: Clint Barton must team with young archer Kate Bishop (Steinfeld) to take down enemies and get back to his family for Christmas…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

It’s odd that out of all the Avengers, Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye is the one who always gets the most flack. Sure, he may not have super-soldier strength or be a literal god, but over the course of the MCU he’s proven himself to be more than nifty with a bow and arrow, not to mention the fact that he’s a loving family man with actual stakes every time he joins his superpowered teammates in a fight for the world/universe. Yet, people always pick on him for being the most useless hero as soon as you take away his weapon of choice.

Luckily, the Hawkeye cynicism doesn’t – or at least, it shouldn’t – affect the hero’s very first solo outing in Marvel’s new Disney+ miniseries, simply titled Hawkeye, which sees the heroic archer finally get a chance to hog the spotlight without the support of his fellow Avengers. The first two episodes, debuting simultaneously on the streaming service with new ones added from next week onwards, are a strong start, not only giving Renner’s Clint Barton some much-needed attention, but introducing viewers to a brand-new and instantly lovable young archer who, and let’s not kid ourselves here, is being primed as his eventual replacement.

This new face is Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a young and highly-skilled archer who took up her own bow and arrow after witnessing Barton’s heroic efforts as a child during the 2012 Battle of New York. We meet her in Hawkeye’s first episode – entitled Never Meet Your Heroes – as she’s returning home to New York for the holiday season, where she is dismayed to discover that her wealthy mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is engaged to Errol Flynn-esque playboy Jack (Tony Dalton). During a charity event, Kate uncovers an underground auction circuit which is soon invaded by thieves from a mob ring known as the Tracksuit Mafia (for their casual clothing of choice, naturally), where Kate dons the legendary costume of Ronin – the very moniker that Hawkeye himself adopted when he operated as a vigilante during the Blip period – and consequently gets the Tracksuit Mafia coming after her.

But where is Hawkeye during all of this, you may ask? He’s just in New York spending time with his family, sitting awkwardly through a new Broadway musical based on the Avengers themselves (and what we see of this musical is a hilarious send-up of overdone stage productions and showstopping musical numbers) and getting his kids back home in time for Christmas. Of course, he too is drawn into the main plot when he spots Bishop wearing his old Ronin costume, and the two eventually cross hairs by the second episode, Hide and Seek, where their odd-couple dynamic becomes immediately apparent during their run-ins with the Tracksuit goons, murdered tycoons, passionate LARPers, and a one-eyed dog with an appetite for pizza.

Right away, this feels a lot more low-key than the other Marvel Disney+ shows, which immediately sets itself apart in a good way. So far, there don’t seem to be any plots to take over the world or destroy the multiverse or anything like that; it’s just about a guy, who happens to be an Avenger, wanting to sort this mob stuff out as well as deal with this spunky new wannabe archer hero, so that he can get back home to his family in time for Christmas. The grounded tone works because Clint Barton is a pretty grounded character, who unlike his fellow Avengers actually has someone to go home to after saving the day, so his moral compass is always pointing in the right direction without letting his heroics take over his better judgement. It’s cool to see him here just be a regular person, spending some quality time with his kids and being physically annoyed when duty calls, especially when it requires him to do some ridiculous stuff like infiltrate a LARP gathering in Central Park; hopefully we’ll get more of Annoyed Jeremy Renner throughout this series, because seeing his Hawkeye struggle to keep it together in the midst of all this silly stuff is pretty entertaining to watch.

Despite the title being Hawkeye, though, these first two episodes are much more like The Kate Bishop Show, since the new character takes great precedence in her introduction to the MCU, more than even Hawkeye himself. It’s only a good thing, though, because the character is a lot of fun to be around, with Hailee Steinfeld instantly making you like this character through her charisma and sweet nature; she’s funny, capable enough in a fight, and always trying to do the right thing even when it’s hurting the people closest to her. She and Renner make a good on-screen team, with their banter and chemistry being much more effective and funnier than between the title characters in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, thanks to the sharp writing and formidable direction which incorporates some pleasant New York winter scenery in between the usual Marvel action. These characters work well together that you do want to find out what happens next to them when the second episode reaches its cliffhanger, while the plot itself sets up an interesting murder-mystery that may or may not be too easy to solve (unless it’s all just one big red herring, which given that a major clue turns up this earlier might well be the case).

These two episodes do kick off the series nicely, introducing us to a fun new dynamic of old/new heroes with two characters who you really root for and enjoy watching, with a humbling smaller scale that puts it in a different league than the other Disney+ Marvel shows to debut this year. At the very least, if you were disappointed by Eternals earlier this month, then this should bring things back around to more fun and enjoyable adventures.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Hawkeye: Episodes 1 & 2 are a strong start to Marvel’s newest Disney+ miniseries, introducing a fun new dynamic between haggard old Avenger Clint Barton, played with amusing annoyance by Jeremy Renner, and Hailee Steinfeld’s sparky new hero Kate Bishop who immediately wins you over with her charisma and easy screen presence, both of which are enough to make you curious as to where the story and these characters are headed next.

Hawkeye: Episodes 1 & 2 are now available on Disney+. Episode 3 will be available next week.

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