Between insurrections, vaccines, the freeing of Britney Spears, and mishaps in the Suez Canal (to name only a few events), 2021 has undoubtedly been a busy year. And for Marvel fans, it’s been nothing if not eventful. Starting with WandaVision, which starred Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany, Marvel Studios has released eight projects in the past ten months. And now, the perfect one to wrap up the year is here: Hawkeye.
Hawkeye, also known as Clint Barton, is one of the often-forgotten founding members of the Avengers. And since his best friend and equally neglected hero, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow, got her solo film this year in July, it’s about time Hawkeye got the spotlight as well. The series is a six-part holiday adventure following Clint Barton, played by Jeremy Renner, and Kate Bishop, played by Hailee Steinfeld, a 22-year-old archer, and Hawkeye’s biggest fan, as they unravel a criminal conspiracy against the clock–trying to make it home for Christmas.
Following its two-episode premiere, Hawkeye has already made an impression. It is refreshingly down to earth, giving viewers a unique look into the humanity of its heroes. Jeremy Renner, previously criminally underutilized, displays captivating complexity and subtlety as the show’s titular character, working through grief, love, frustration, and plain exhaustion. The focus on him as a father, as someone disillusioned with his superhero gig, as well as the plot’s relatively realistic stakes, by Marvel standards, anyway, make this a much-needed break from the “global destruction” storylines and CGI-fests that Marvel fans have grown accustomed to. Authenticity is at the core of this series, and its effectiveness shows.
Hailee Steinfeld has already proven to be uncharacteristically but undeniably endearing. Shedding her usual influencer-like glam, she takes on the persona of the frustrated but eager and determined Kate Bishop. She eases well into the role of headstrong, too-curious-for-her-own-good Kate, and Renner compliments this perfectly as her disgruntled and disillusioned idol, who she can’t help but be disappointed by (the pilot episode is perfectly titled “Never Meet Your Heroes”). Nevertheless, Barton shows his caring and personable side, encouraging awestruck fans to just “call [him] Clint” and helping Kate patch herself up after a rough fight with some Russian mobsters.
Renner has been playing the role of Hawkeye for ten years, so his familiarity with the genre is noticeable. However, putting him in centerstage as the lead character highlights his abilities like never before. On the other hand, Steinfeld, and the story, are still finding their footing but it’s safe to say they’ve hit the ground running. Renner and Steinfeld have brilliant chemistry and make the perfect mentor-mentee duo. We also can’t forget the show’s instant stealer-of-hearts, a one-eyed golden retriever called Lucky, played by canine athlete and actress Jolt. While serving as Bishop’s “save the cat”, or dog, in this case, moment, he brings another layer of warmth and comedy to the story and is undoubtedly adorable.
There is something to be said as well for the important representation this series is bringing forth. Clint Barton is hard of hearing, as his years as an Avenger have taken its toll on his hearing. He wears hearing aids and communicates in American Sign Language with his family. And now, audiences have been introduced to Maya Lopez, also known as Echo, a deaf indigenous woman (who has yet to reveal herself as friend or foe), played by Alaqua Cox, a deaf actress of the Mohawk/Menominee peoples (who is also an amputee). Following Eternals (Chloé Zhao, 2021), Barton and Lopez will be the second and third deaf characters to enter the Marvel Cinematic Universe–all important steps for disabled representation in the MCU and in Hollywood as a whole.
Hawkeye is an unexpected triumph, bringing in a character who has long lived in the shadows of super soldiers and demigods while introducing us to new characters who will become the franchise’s future. There have been moments both hilariously absurd and beautifully authentic and emotional. Director Rhys Thomas has found the sweet spot between heart and humor, and that is what truly helps Hawkeye stand out from the crowd. The promised return of Black Widow’s Yelena Belova, played by showstopper Florence Pugh, as well as the whispers of surprises to come, including rumors of Vincent D’Onofrio’s return as the infamous Kingpin, are reason enough to keep up with Marvel Studios’ latest, but the heart, hilarity, and holiday spirit are sure to keep audiences wanting to stay and eagerly waiting for more. Whatever comes next for Marvel and its characters, Hawkeye is a clear bullseye.