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Hawkeye's First 2 Episodes Hit the Bullseye of Character Development

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The poster for Hawkeye.Image: Marvel Studios

When I found tears in my eyes five minutes into the first episode of Hawkeye, I took that as a good sign. Marvel Studios' latest show is finally on Disney+, with the first two episodes now streaming. It explores how Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is processing life in a post Avengers: Endgame world while also showing how his heroism has impacted a young, wealthy New York girl named Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld).

The first two episodes gave us an easy, breezy, canvas for those two radically different personalities and viewpoints to evolve. And while the story, at least at the start, isn't ultra compelling, the potential to see how those two characters are going to change each other very much is. Those aforementioned, and slightly embarrassing, tears came in the show's first scene. We quickly realize that Kate Bishop was in New York City when Loki and the Chitauri attacked in 2012, as seen in the original Avengers film, and that it shattered her life completely. She lost her father (Brian d'Arcy James) and could have lost her own life had it not been from a single arrow shot by an Avenger named Hawkeye. The way the episode used a very recognizable moment from the finale of that film, and gave it a whole new meaning by putting Kate on the opposite end of it, really hit me in the heart. You instantly understand why she's going to pick up a bow and arrow and have such adoration for Hawkeye. He literally saved her life. Plus, I found it moving to see that the events of the MCU, even as far back as Phase 1, are still having repercussions in new and unexpected ways.

You also had to appreciate how the opening credits helped forward the story by showing Kate going through all kinds of training, like fencing, martial arts, and of course archery. So when we meet her in the present-day, now played by Steinfeld, we already have an idea who she is: a girl who has aspired to be a superhero her whole life, even if she's currently using those skills for college-age pranks which result in the destruction of a priceless clock tower.

Thankfully for Kate, her mom Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) is very rich. So when Kate goes home for Christmas, Mom is mad, but can handle it. She also explains that Kate's wealth and youth give her a confidence that probably isn't a good thing. Eleanor says that Kate might think she's invincible, but she's not. It's a moment that instantly alerts the audience to Kate's insane privilege, and really differentiates her from most of the other heroes in the MCU. She might be on the Hawkeye show, but she's more Tony Stark than Clint Barton.

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Save the clock tower!Image: Marvel Studios

Speaking of Clint, he's also in New York for Christmas, taking in a Broadway show with this three, now much older it seems, kids. They're seeing Rogers the Musical, which is really funny and hilarious to us, the audience, but not so much to Clint. The sight of Natasha Romanoff, even in musical theater form, still triggers trauma in him. Even in the bathroom at the show, Clint continues to deal with the weight of his life. From a fan asking for a selfie at the urinal to graffiti saying "Thanos was right," you can tell that he's not even close to healed from everything. Even the good things, like a restaurant comping his dinner as a thank you, don't sit right with him. Moments like these early in Hawkeye work to show us Clint in a whole new vulnerable, way.

Kate, on the other hand, has her own problems. At a super swanky party where she's dressed in a suit instead of the dress her mom asked her to wear, she finds out that her mom is engaged to a man named Jack Duquesne (Better Call Saul's Tony Dalton) who has a proclivity for swords—a nod to his comic book character's identity as Jacques Duquesne, the Swordsman, which we'll get to later. He's also got a contentious relationship with his uncle Armond (Simon Callow), who himself has some odd, equally contentious feelings about Eleanor. All of it is very weird, so Kate decides to investigate and comes upon a black market auction in the wine cellar where you can buy stuff like a Triceratops skull... or the retractable sword of Ronin, aka Hawkeye's vengeful persona during the Blip. Apparently Ronin/Hawkeye's sword was recovered out of the rubble left during the Avengers' final battle with Thanos, and now both Armond and Jack want it. Armond wins with a bid just under a half million dollars but before he can collect, a gang crashes the auction looking for a watch. In the chaos, Jack steals the sword and slips away, while Kate finds Ronin's outfit, puts it on, and kicks a bunch of ass.

Unfortunately, Hawkeye's Ronin persona has lots and lots of enemies all across the world, especially in New York. So once Ronin is spotted by some of the New York underworld, it's open season. Kate, who is inside the suit, doesn't know this though. She just thought it was a cool costume. She uses it to sneak into Armond's place to hopefully find out more about his dealings with Jack and her mom. However, Kate finds more than just some of Armond's oddly monogrammed butterscotch. She finds Armond's dead body, stabbed by a sword. Very quickly Kate realizes being Ronin is probably not a good thing. Thankfully, as more and more bad guys come out of the woodwork to find her, she's saved by, you guessed it, Clint Barton. Her hero. And that cliffhanger of our two leads finally meeting goes right into the second episode.

Will you sign my bow?Image: Marvel Studios

Episode two picks up right there, with Clint desperate to get his Ronin outfit back and put that whole part of his life behind him. Before he can get it though, the Track Suit Mafia finds Kate, thinking she's the Ronin of the past, and attempts to kill her. She and Clint escape but leave the suit behind, which is the point where Clint realizes that "a little girl in a ninja costume stole my Christmas." He's now going to have to get the suit back, and make sure all the criminals aren't after this girl. He's also going to have to get the sword too, but that hasn't come up in the story yet (but it has to, right?).

One of the biggest problems with Hawkeye is that the motivation for basically what's going to be the force of the whole show isn't immediately obvious. It took me a few minutes to figure out why Clint feels like he has to put his kids on a plane and spend this time with Kate. Really, it's not until the end of episode two that you realize just how big a deal it is for Clint's Ronin stuff to be out in the world again and how it's going to force him to deal with demons he has been avoiding. That there's this young girl in the middle of it only complicates things further. That she idolizes him and wants to learn adds another layer—and that he has promised his family he'll do all this in less than a week to be home for Christmas is just the icing on the cake. It also doesn't help that, after going back to Kate's now burned-down apartment, the Ronin outfit is gone. Clint realizes it was taken by a first responder who is also a live action role player, which leads him to go to a LARPing event in Central Park. The scene was, frankly, a little over the top and ridiculous, but seeing an Avenger walking in slow motion through all these knights and ninjas and witches was just too funny. He also wins a friend in Grills (Clayton English), who took the Ronin outfit and gives it back under the condition he be allowed to "kill" an Avenger.

There was also a really telling moment in the episode when Clint and Kate (who for a large part of this episode is dressed like David S. Pumpkins) are walking through Times Square. A few people dressed as Avengers are there, but there's no Hawkeye, so Kate attempts to explain to Clint why he's not as popular as some of his fellow Avengers. She says the fact he's so mysterious can only take him so far, and the fact he doesn't display his emotions hurts his brand. Clint says he doesn't want to have a brand but Kate explains that part of the job of being an Avenger is to inspire, and Clint's lack of overt sincerity is simply not as inspirational as the others. It'll be interesting to see how this conversation about Hawkeye's mystique fits into everything that'll happen in the next few episodes. Our guess is, by the end, Hawkeye is gonna be wearing that heart on his sleeve like Kate suggests.

Subway time.Image: Marvel Studios

As Clint is LARPing, Kate is getting to know her soon-to-be stepdad, Jack. She's long ago decided she doesn't trust him and proves he's hiding something when the two decide to do some fencing, as you do in the middle of a plush Manhattan penthouse. Kate is so good at fencing, though, that she knows Jack is letting her win and holding back. It's a fact he finally admits to, which makes sense; as we mentioned earlier, in the comics, Jack Duquesne is a performer-turned-criminal called the Swordsman. Duquesne even trained a young Clint Barton, though we don't know if that'll be part of his background in Hawkeye, or whether the Swordsman will be part of his future on the show, just yet. In fact, we don't know much about his motivations at all, just that he's being shady about them.

We also find out Jack has one of Armond's butterscotch treats—and that, coupled with his swordsmanship, leads Kate to believe he had something to do with Armond's murder... a murder, she learns, the authorities think the Ronin was involved with. Kate leaves and wants to tell Clint about her findings only to discover that he's been captured. However, he's actually allowed himself to be captured by the Track Suit Mafia to hopefully smooth things out about Ronin. He's making progress until wannabe Avenger Kate drops in on him to save him. Now they're both captured and the episode ends with the introduction of the leader of the Track Suit Mafia, Maya Lopez, played by Alaqua Cox. In the comics, Maya Lopez is the character Echo, who has connections not just to Ronin but Kingpin and others. She also has a new Marvel Disney+ show of her own coming out. So that's exciting!

At end of these first two episodes of Hawkeye, a few things stand out. It was great to see how Kate and Clint present different viewpoints on super heroism. Clint has gone through a lot of pain because of it and even the good rewards don't seem worth it to him. Kate conversely just sees that glitz and glamor of it and wants a piece for herself, circumstances be dammed. It's also interesting and overdue, even just a movie or two removed, that Clint is actually suffering the consequences for his time as the murderous Ronin. That whole chapter of his life is something Endgame barely touched upon ,and it's very welcome to get some insight into his psychological trauma. Plus, the way Clint's wife Laura (Linda Cardellini) is so comfortable by this point with his exploits, and even helps him out, is a nice juxtaposition with the zany stuff going on as well. As for the story about Jack and some murder and stuff? Eh. I could take it or leave it at this point. But if we get to see the extremes of Kate's wide-eyed excitement and Clint's cynical professionalism begin to come together in both characters? Well, that could make for some really exciting stuff.

New episodes of Hawkeye debut Wednesdays on Disney+.

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