Timing…as they say…is everything. And whether we want to admit it or not, sometimes people just have the worst timing…and then scramble to make up for it. Earlier this year we had that with the Black Widow movie. Which was fine…but 10 years too late. And now, we have Hawkeye, a show about the least-used Avenger in many ways, and one has to wonder if they could make it worth the long wait for this definitive spotlight. As this Hawkeye Season 1 Review will show, the answer is…kind of?
I honestly have a hard time trying to define my feelings about Hawkeye Season 1. Not because it was bad per se, but rather that it was a VERY slow burn, and then when the flame came…it wasn’t engrossing or consuming in ways that other Marvel shows (both on Disney+ and on Netflix) have done in the past. I’ll start at the top and work through it all, ok?
Episode 1, one could argue, was the strongest because it had the most straightforward of plots. Kate Bishop is a girl who lost her father in the Battle of New York, and was inspired by Hawkeye fighting the Chutari invasion with nothing but a bow and arrow. As the intro sequence beautifully showed, this led to her going on a path to make sure she could protect her mom, and herself, from any danger. Leaving her fearless, and reckless. You know, the classic young hero story.
Fast forward to the present day, and Kate is living her life with reckless abandon and wondering if her mom’s new fiance is all he appears to be. This leads to a black market auction where Ronin’s sword and gear are being sold off. An attack by the (and yes, they are from the comics) Tracksuit Mafia leads Kate to taking the Ronin outfit to protect herself from being seen, and unintentionally sets a lot of things into motion because the Tracksuits HATE Ronin, and think that she’s the one that hurt them big time during the 5 years of the blip. Oops.
But what about Hawkeye? He’s in New York with his kids trying to be a dad to them (as they were all blipped if you recall) and wanting to just be Clint Barton…when he sees footage of Kate in Ronin gear. Knowing what that dark side of his past meant, he goes after Kate, is shocked to see who she really is, and then goes on a mission to bury the past, save Kate, and ensure things don’t get too big.
Naturally, nothing goes to plan, and that’s both good…and bad in terms of the quality of the show.
Don’t get me wrong, I was invested after episode 1 and wanted to see how Clint and Kate would work together. And the dynamic between Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld is honestly great. It reminded me a lot of Nick Fury and Carol Danvers in Captain Marvel in regards to the “odd couple” and one not sure what to make of the other. If the focus was just on this pairing and certain other elements, the show would’ve probably rated as high as Loki or Falcon and the Winter Soldier in my book (WandaVision was fine but the ending fell flat and What If…? was…complicated…).
However, at times, especially in the last few episodes, they overplayed their hand and put too many irons into the fire.
Case in point. Seeing the backstory of Kate and how the Battle of New York changed her? Cool. Seeing Echo (Maya Lopez) and how Ronin affected her life? Totally makes sense. But then doing that for Yelena (Black Widow II)? Was that really necessary? And then throwing Kingpin into the whole mix? Yeah, way too much going on.
In fact, it felt like the show didn’t know what it wanted its main event to be at times. At first, it was Tracksuit Mafia, then it was Echo, then it was Yelena, and then Kingpin, back to Yelena while also doing Kingpin and then suddenly Echo was a good (enough) person and so on and so forth. The focus was all over the place and it was hard to keep track and give certain characters their due.
Clint (thankfully) came off the best. I loved how seeing “Rogers The Musical” (Can we admit that people in general in the MCU just DON’T get Steve Rogers? Seriously, you think he would’ve wanted that?) triggered him in various ways, as well as the “Thanos Was Right” stuff that was all over the place.
Here is a man who just wants to be with his family for Christmas and honor the loss of his friend in Black Widow, and yet life just keeps throwing curve balls to prevent that. It was heartbreaking (in the good way) to see him make that promise to his kids to be home for Christmas and then day after day he had to deal with the fact that he might not be able to live up to that promise.
Add to that, his feelings about Natasha, as well as what he did as Ronin, really made the character come to life in a way that the Avengers films (and yes, I include Civil War in that blanket statement) only lightly touched upon.
And when it came to protecting Kate Bishop, especially from herself, he never came off as overbearing or forced. He more than anyone knew the consequences of the hero line of work. So of course he would want Kate to be safe while they dealt with everything.
Kate Bishop meanwhile came off mostly fine. Hailee Steinfeld definitely brought a confidence and eagerness to Kate that definitely made her stand out in a good way. And how she played off of Hawkeye was great for the most part.
However, they did overplay her at times, including making her seem reckless to a fault, and refusing to acknowledge, or even respect at times, the man whom literally inspired her…and has WAY more experience than she did. Was it funny the first few times? Sure, but when she was doing it near the end…? It was a bit too much.
Speaking of a bit too much…Yelena. One of my main criticisms of the MCU was the portrayal of Natasha Romanov. She was used as eye candy, a love interest for Hulk, and was WAY too comedic at times, even for an MCU character. Her sister’s arrival in Hawkeye was foretold by the end credits of Black Widow (more on that in a bit) and yet here…she wouldn’t stop talking! Or listen!
Seriously, that scene in Kate Bishop’s apartment was the worst. She wouldn’t shut up about mac ‘n cheese, she kept saying “Kate Bishop” as a weird intimidation tactic, and then she spouted nonsense about Clint that was directly contradictory to her own growth in Black Widow, as well as Natasha’s growth as a whole!
“We’re defined by our actions” she said to Kate to condemn Clint…and yet…Natasha knew better than anyone that mistakes of the past have to be eternally worked off. “Red on my ledger”, remember? And that leads to another key problem…
…contradictions. Ones both big, small, and important. Let’s start with Yelena.
At the end of Black Widow, Yelena was approached by none other than Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine. Aka evil Nick Fury, and it was she who told Yelena that Clint was responsible for Natasha’s death (for a reason we weren’t told…).
And yet, here in Hawkeye, they made it very clear that Yelena was hired by Kate’s mother to kill Clint. Ok…? First off, huh? Yelena should’ve been in “kill mode” from the moment that Contessa told her the “truth”. So why Kate’s mom had to be a part of it is weird to say the least.
Second, in episode 5, Yelena randomly decides to go find out who hired her. Why should that matter to Yelena? She believed wholeheartedly that Clint was guilty of killing her sister, who cares who employed her if that goal of killing him was met?
Third (and this is one that I have had since the Black Widow movie just to be clear), why in the world would Yelena believe Contessa (or Kate’s mother should it have been brought up by her) that Clint killed Natasha? How would they even know he was there when she died? If Yelena sought out Clint to find out the truth behind her sister’s death? Sure, that’s totally reasonable. But to go and rush into trying to kill him because you THINK he killed her? And then not believe him when he was telling the truth, and it would’ve been obvious to someone as well-trained as Yelena that he was telling the truth? Yeah…no.
Oh, and the very thought that Yelena would be even hurt by Kate Bishop in their fight? Really? Really…?
Another big contradiction (and waste of character) is that of Kingpin, Wilson Fisk (we don’t…say…his name…).
This (on top of Charlie Cox being in Spider-Man No Way Home) was a huge thing for the fans of the Netflix Daredevil series. Of which, I am a huge fan. But, not unlike the Charlie Cox cameo…this one didn’t hold weight. In fact, it felt more like a “See? They do exist in the MCU!” kind of thing, especially by the end.
Why? Because Hawkeye clearly knew about Wilson Fisk beforehand, and yet didn’t try and stop him, nor did the Avengers do so. Second, despite him being WILSON FISK!!!…he was taken down in no time flat by Kate Bishop and Echo…and is now assumed dead. He’s likely not, but still.
Don’t get me wrong, Vicent D’onofrio slipped right back into that role like it was nothing, and I loved it. But then…he was done, so dang easily. Why bring him back just to throw him away?
As for Echo, while she did have some great moments, including how she used her deafness to her advantage, her rush from being the head of Tracksuit Mafia to being willing to kill her former allies was a bit too quick. What’s more, the betrayal that cost her father’s life wasn’t explained beyond “it happened’. Why did he do it? What was the goal in doing it? I honestly don’t know.
Adding to that was the mystery of the watch. In episode 1, the Tracksuit Mafia were determined to get it, and we later learn that it belonged to Clint’s wife Laura…who was apparently the MCU Mockingbird. Further proving Agents of Shield wasn’t MCU canon despite them saying it was, oh well.
But…why did they need that watch? Clint said it was tied to her identity and that it would “blow her cover” but they never said how, or how the Tracksuit Mafia knew about the watch and its importance and why they wanted to get to Laura when it was Ronin who hurt their operation. Plus, Echo had it at her apartment out in the open. So…why risk everything to get it and then leave it where anyone could break in and get it? I don’t know.
There were other issues too, including some very sad use of MCU-style humor, LARPing (not knocking LARP, just how it was shown here), the whole character of Jacques “Jack” Duquesne, and more.
More positives? The action scenes for the most part were top-notch, and the use of the trick arrows was great, especially in the final episode and a great car chase scene. Add to that, there were many nods to the comics, especially the Fraction/Aja run that the series heavily took from. Including Hawkeye needing a hearing aid, Lucky the dog, and so on.
I know this Hawkeye Season 1 Review was full of a lot of negatives, and I didn’t want it to be that way. But much like I said at the beginning, I honestly didn’t know how I felt about this season after I was done watching it. There were parts that were great, and I loved seeing Hawkeye at least partly getting his due. And Kate Bishop was a fun addition to the MCU, no doubt. But at times the episodes were a slog to get through, and the contradictions, inconsistencies and just head-scratching dialogue and moments (especially at the end) just held this from being a…bullseye.
Hawkeye Season 1 Review
Hawkeye Season 1 did some things right, including showing a different side of Clint Barton and bringing Kate Bishop into the MCU in style. Sadly, it didn’t take as much care with other elements of the show.