Hawkeye Review: Not Every Superhero Needs a TV Show

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Article by Ren Topping, Section Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

For the fifth and final time in 2021, Marvel released the final episode for one of their Disney+ TV series. This time, Hawkeye, the bow-wielding sharpshooter portrayed by Jeremy Renner takes center stage; he’s the last of the original six Avengers to receive a dedicated movie or TV show. Although, that’s where the problems start for Hawkeye’s titular show: it’s less about Hawkeye and more about newcomer Kate Bishop, a skilled archer and martial artist played by Hailee Steinfeld. 

Taking place around Christmas time in New York City, the six-episode series launches into action when Kate stumbles upon a black market auction taking place beneath a charity gala. Curiously, Kate’s mother’s boyfriend, Jack, and his wealthy uncle, Armand, are in attendance. The bidding is soon interrupted by a Russian gang looking for a watch. Caught in the crossfire, Kate dons the suit of Ronin, a lethal vigilante who hunted down criminal organizations after the events of Avengers: Infinity War and an alias of Clint Barton (Hawkeye), which was being sold at the auction. 

Dressed in the black and yellow suit, Kate fights her way out of the basement and goes to investigate Armand’s home. She finds Armand dead in his living room and to make matters worse the Russian mob has returned to get their revenge. Clint arrives on the scene to help Kate make her escape and the two meet for the first time. He only wants to reclaim his suit and get back to his family in time for Christmas, but Kate convinces him to help her investigate the death of Armand and figure out what the Russians wanted with the watch. (Unfortunately, the motivation for the watch theft is never really explained).

While it’s not necessarily a bad thing that the plot is centered around Kate—Hailee Steinfield is charming as the aspiring hero and the mentor-apprentice dynamic between her and Clint is fun—it isn’t really as advertised by the title of the series. Hawkeye attempts to tie in Clint’s struggle with the death of his friend Natasha (Black Widow) and his dark past as the Ronin, but ultimately, these plotlines feel sidelined. 

The show does fairly well with the former, offering a poignant moment in the final episode between Clint and Natasha’s sister, who is also still coming to terms with Natasha’s death. Yet exploration of the latter plotline doesn’t go far beyond one of the antagonist’s vendettas against Ronin. It’s a shame Ronin’s vigilante justice isn’t more directly confronted by Clint because the ethical questions it would present could greatly deepen the show’s criminal conspiracy plot. 

Another issue that plagues Hawkeye is that the antagonists are often cartoonish and appear to pose no discernable threat to the protagonists. There are no stakes. It’s as if Hawkeye brought his world-savior armor to a street-level threat. There is no better example of this than the portrayal of Kingpin, the man played up to be the “big-boss“ of the series. 

Played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Kingpin has previously appeared on the screen in Marvel’s Daredevil (2015-2018) on Netflix. There, he was a terrifying crime lord willing to do anything to anyone in order to take control of New York City. He had extensive influence over the NYPD, FBI, the corrections system, and the judicial system, and it took Daredevil three seasons to take him down. It’s disrespectful, then, for Marvel to bring back the same actor only for him to be defeated in combat by Kate and then shot (presumably killed) by another character in a single episode—all the while wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a fedora. 

Hawkeye doesn’t need to bring the TV-MA violence in order to achieve stakes, it just needs to take its villains seriously. Perhaps removing the mid-fight banter would help. Even Spider-Man doesn’t talk as much.

Like a Hallmark Christmas movie, Hawkeye is fun enough while it lasts and occasionally touching, but it doesn’t do enough for a character who has the background for an interesting story. At least it is a sufficient enough passing of the torch to explain why Hailee Steinfield appears instead of Jeremy Renner. 

Rating: 1.5/5