Film Reviews

“Hawkeye” Episodes 1 and 2: A grounded adaptation of the Avengers archer

The first two episodes of the long overdue Hawkeye series have landed at Disney Plus just in time for the holidays. As a longtime MCU Hawkeye lover, I’m excited that one of the most intriguing, yet underdeveloped and underused, Avengers is finally getting his time in the spotlight. Along with fan favorite successor Kate Bishop and the most adorable avenging dog. Furthermore, the show is taking definitive cues from David Aja and Matt Fraction’s landmark 2012 Hawkeye comic series. There could not be a more stacked setup for a MCU Hawkeye series. And so far, the first third of the show’s six-episode run delivers a grounded setup. Albeit with some pacing issues, for what promises to be a funny and grounded MCU romp.

The series begins through the eyes of Kate Bishop, the extremely wealthy daughter of a security company owner. On an otherwise ordinary day in 2012, a sudden series of explosions rocks the Bishop penthouse. Terrified, young Kate sees aliens streaking through the streets, blue lasers flashing through the air. The Chitauri have arrived. Through a smoking hole in the penthouse wall, Kate spots a lone archer on a roof; sniping speeders as he leaps to safety. For Avengers geeks like me, it’s a frankly awesome alternative perspective of an iconic scene. It’s also formative for Kate who, after the attack kills her father, tells her mother that she “needs a bow and arrow.”

Ten years later, Kate is a brash and bold champion archer who often doesn’t use all of her braincells to think through her actions. A shady man courting her wealthy mom? Possible black market transactions involving Avengers relics, swords, and other weaponry? Kate doesn’t think; she dives straight in, and unsurprisingly finds herself dragged deeper into the city’s criminal underworld than she bargained for. Meanwhile, Clint Barton is trying to finally enjoy an ordinary Christmas vacation with his three kids in New York City. Experiencing holiday classics like the giant Rockefeller Christmas tree, dinner in Chinatown, and Rogers: The Musical, featuring himself and the other five Avengers prancing across the stage while singing a peppy Battle of New York themed tune.

The majority of the first two episodes focus on Kate and her reactions to her complicated family situation. Though she is perceptive and physically gifted, her inexplicable and ill-thought-out decision making provide a basis for her character development throughout the rest of the show. Meanwhile, Clint gruffly tries to keep her alive as he cleans up the mess she accidentally started; in time to return to his kids by Christmas. It’ll definitely be interesting to see how the relationship between these two snarky smack talkers deepens throughout the series.

As a non-superpowered, bow-wielding assassin; Barton’s always had potential for a more streetwise and grounded adaptation that the MCU hadn’t tapped into yet.

The series finally gives us a taste of how Clint Barton operates in a less superhero focused setting, as he trades his his signature suit for a hoodie, the Avengers base for a hotel room and canvas backpack. Some of the episodes’ most compelling moments, too, are when Barton deals with the fallout— physical and mental— from his violent past. Unwanted reminders of Natasha Romanoff. His secret, bloody history as Ronin, mentioned in Endgame, are intelligently expanded on here. A hearing aid due to accumulated hearing damage throughout his fighting career. Having to leave his kids behind— again— in order to, well, “work”. These moments are short and fleeting. Perhaps even too fleeting. But they are powerful links to his existing character arc that also situate the show firmly within previous MCU instalments.

In that vein, it’s impossible to talk about grounded and slice-of-life Hawkeye without Aja and Fraction’s comic. They executed the concept to perfection in 22 tightly paced, sharply written volumes. Similar vibes aside, there’s no doubt that the comic series heavily inspires the show: from the stylized opening credits which directly borrow Aja’s art style, to the introduction of Pizza Dog, to the Tracksuit Mafia that hounds both Hawkeyes. Even the promotional material directly references the iconic covers Aja created. It follows that this is a natural comic to adapt as basis for a TV series— that is, if David Aja were actually being paid for his work. Series fans pointed out how neither Fraction nor Aja’s name appeared in the opening credits, despite the significant contributions their comic made to the series— a phenomenon all too disappointingly common in the comics industry.

Nor does the show always execute its concept particularly well. The show’s plotting and character writing is often not tight. To be fair, Hawkeye the comic could draw from Clint and Kate’s established working relationship. Thus there would be no need to extensively reintroduce both characters at the beginning. Hawkeye the show, however, has to start from scratch. The drawn out pacing, particularly with regard to Kate’s shady family business, definitely doesn’t help. The show also strives to capture the drily funny tone of Fraction’s writing; part of these pacing issues can also be attributed to some chunky and at times unwieldy comedy scenes, which have dubious humorous value and little plot impact.

Overall, Hawkeye is off to a promising start; the episode 2 cliffhanger promises to kick the show into high gear. Hopefully, more action and plot development will fix the series’ pacing issues. After all, the series promises to have a lot in store for its remaining four episodes. Fiery trick shots and bow action (after all, only two arrows have been loosed in non-flashback scenes so far). The tantalizing tease of Alaqua Cox as Echo at the end of episode 2, and the return of Florence Pugh as Black Widow Yelena Belova. It only remains to be seen whether Kate can solve her family mysteries, whether the duo can defeat the Tracksuit Mafia— and whether Clint will make it home for Christmas.

Have you seen Hawkeye, and enjoyed the adventures of Clint, Kate, and Pizza Dog so far? Sound off in the comments or send us your thoughts on Facebook or Twitter!

About the author

Julia Tong