HAWKEYE makes for decent enough Christmas-action fare in a low-stakes Marvel series.

Retrospective: HAWKEYE is a Fun if Minor Offering From the MCU

Clint Barton, AKA Hawkeye, is one of the MCU’s founding Avengers, and the most grounded member of the superhero project. Last year, he finally received his first solo project and took on a young protégé in the Disney+ series Hawkeye.

Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) is a young woman who became inspired to take up archery after seeing Hawkeye fight in the Battle of New York. When Kate comes back to New York for Christmas, she suspects her mum’s fiancé is up to no good, leading her to an underground auction. Clint also happens to be in New York with his kids for a family trip. Kate’s actions force Clint to confront his past when he had acted as the murderous vigilante Ronin during The Blip.

Hawkeye was the fourth live-action Marvel series made for Disney+, and the most grounded so far. It aimed to be a series that looked at street-level crime instead of multiverse-level threats. Most of the series took place in New York City. This focus on crime, gangsters, and New York made Hawkeye more akin to the Netflix Marvel series like Daredevil or Jessica Jones, but with the MCU treatment. This meant the series had a grittier story yet was filled with jokes.

Hawkeye had an excellent opening. It opened with a prologue where Kate and her mother (Vera Farmiga) survived the Battle for New York and Kate saw Hawkeye in action. It felt cinematic; it felt like the opening to Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice where a major event from a previous movie was shown from a different perspective. The animated title sequence showed Kate training in archery, fencing, and marital arts, which quickly showed she was skilled but lacked experience. She made mistakes and got hit when fighting the Tracksuit Mafia.

Clint had the biggest emotional storyline in the series. He was suffering from the impact of The Blip and the events of Avengers: Endgame. During The Blip, Clint lost his family and he became a bloodthirsty vigilante, whilst in Avengers: Endgame he saw Natasha sacrifice herself so The Avengers could acquire the Soul Stone. All these events have taken a toll on the man because he suffered from trauma and guilt. These events also had ramifications for Clint because there were characters who (rightly or wrongly) wanted revenge.
The series had some terrific moments, but the third episode, “Echoes”, was arguably the strongest. That episode opened with Maya Lopez’s (Alaqua Cox) backstory. This prologue showed Maya’s loving relationship with her father and how she developed her martial arts skills. It was effective storytelling that showed how dangerous Maya was, whilst also evoking sympathy. The episode had the best action sequence in the series. This was the car chase which was the most inventive because of the way it was shot and the implementation of Hawkeye’s signature trick arrows.

Florence Pugh reprised her role as Yelena Belova for the series. She was a great presence and a scene-stealer like she was in Black Widow. She was hired as an assassin and had a personal grudge against Clint since she believed Clint was responsible for Natasha’s death. Whilst she had a serious mission, she was also hilarious and made the Marvel style of humor work.

Hawkeye was generally an entertaining series, but it was not without issue. First and foremost, the story felt overly extended. This was particularly evident during the second episode where the characters took a detour to a LARPing event in Central Park. It felt like the showrunners were trying to justify the six-episode run. The events of the series take place over the course of a few days which made it feel like Hawkeye could have been a film instead

Hawkeye’s action sequences felt the most televisual so far. Most of the fight scenes happened in locations like a hotel wine cellar, a warehouse, and a rooftop. It felt more like an Arrowverse show than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The action was well executed, but it’s a departure from the big set pieces seen in other MCU projects.

Hawkeye was bogged down by the tonal shifts. Characters like Clint and Maya had emotional baggage and they were dealing with their trauma, then Kate and Yelena were cracking jokes constantly. The humor was at times cringey and didn’t fit the crime story.

Hawkeye is a breezy watch. It make for a fun festive series to watch around the holidays, and it showed the ground level of the MCU. However, it was overall inconsequential in the canon of the MCU.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.
HAWKEYE makes for decent enough Christmas-action fare in a low-stakes Marvel series.Retrospective: HAWKEYE is a Fun if Minor Offering From the MCU