Hawkeye Premiere Takes Notes From Matt Fraction’s Comic Run

In Marvel’s Hawkeye, the everyday family man of the Avenger’s team is finally given his own story as he teams up with eager fan and archer protegee Kate Bishop to stop an underground criminal organization in New York City.

Recap

Episode One: “Never Meet Your Heroes”

The first episode opens in 2012 New York as a young Kate Bishop (Clara Stack) eavesdrops on her parents’ argument through the vent ducts of her family’s Manhattan penthouse. Upon realizing that his daughter is listening, Kate’s father, Derek (Brian d’Arcy James), sits down to talk to Kate. After their heartfelt conversation, Kate goes downstairs to grab food with her mother just as the Chitauri attack begins. The battle for New York is framed through the windows of the apartment as Kate runs from room to room, searching for her parents, until she comes across a gaping hole in the side of the building. From that vantage, Kate watches as an approaching Chitauri is struck down with an exploding arrow, and the archer—Clint Barton—dives off a building in his famous Avengers stunt.

We then cut to a funeral for Kate’s dad, who is presumably dead following the events in New York and the explosion in their building. Kate’s mom, Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), tells Kate that she will be there for her daughter and whatever she needs, to which Kate responds, “I need a bow and arrow.” The opening credits roll, showing silhouettes throughout Kate’s life: podiums, gymnastics, fencing, archery, and martial arts competition appear on the screen in artwork reminiscent of David Aja’s covers for the 2012 Hawkeye run.

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

We return to New York in the present. It’s Christmas time, and a now-older Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) scales the side of a building on a dare to ring a clocktower bell using her archery skills. She shoots and misses, but tries again—this time successful, and accidentally causing the destruction of the tower as the bell begins to ring violently.

Meanwhile, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) sits in the audience of Rogers: The Musical, which depicts the Battle of New York in a dazzling Broadway number. As the song shifts to narrate over a dancing Black Widow, the audio goes silent. Clint’s daughter (Ava Russo) leans over to ask if he is alright, and she realizes that he has turned off his hearing aids for the show. Clint leaves the show early and is approached by his daughter, who recognizes that he is still processing the death of Natasha. We learn that Clint is on vacation in the city with his children, and has promised that they will all soon be heading home to spend Christmas together.

We return to Kate, who has stopped by her family’s apartment. Eleanor scolds her for destroying the clock/bell tower, but announces that Kate can make it up to her if she joins Eleanor at the night’s charity auction. As Kate notes the number of decorative swords that have appeared in the apartment, Eleanor introduces Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton).  We follow Kate—now in a sweet tuxedo—to the charity auction, where she meets Armand (III) Duquesne (Simon Callow), wealthy socialite and uncle to Jack. He breaks the news about Eleanor’s engagement to Jack and is critical of both her and their relationship. Following the conversation, Kate confronts her mother, then leaves the party to get some fresh air. On the street, she meets the “pizza dog.”

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Kate re-enters the party and overhears Eleanor arguing with Armand, who suggests that her money isn’t honest. Kate pretends to be a server to follow Armand down into the cellar, where a shady illegal auction is underway. Jack joins the auction and bids on a retractable sword that belonged to the vigilante Ronin. Armand notes that Jack doesn’t have the money for the sword, but Jack replies that he will inherit it someday. Armand wins the sword, and the auctioneer announces that Ronin’s suit is up next.

Before the bidding can begin, an explosion rocks the side of the cellar. Jack grabs the sword as men in tracksuits jump through the hole in the wall, shouting about a watch. Kate takes the opportunity to steal the suit, which she immediately dons in order to fight off the men using her martial arts skills and the wine bottles from the cellar. Outside, one of the men finds the watch, but is attacked by the one-eyed pizza dog. Kate chases after the dog and saves it from oncoming traffic. Back in the hotel, Clint sees a news clip of Ronin spotted on the street.

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Kate leaves her apartment to sneak into Armand’s home, still dressed as Ronin. There, she finds him dead from a sword wound on the floor of his living room, and notes that he has a bowl of monogrammed butterscotch candy. The housekeeper comes in and Kate flees the scene, only to be confronted once again by the tracksuit men from before. Kate takes shelter in a car as another figure jumps in to fight off the gang. The figure is revealed to be Clint, who drags Kate off into an alley and unmasks her.

 

Episode Two: “Hide and Seek”

Upon realizing she’s “just a kid,” Clint asks where she got the suit and proceeds to escort Kate to safety. Kate is ecstatic to meet her hero, and eager to learn (“Are you assessing threats?”) as they walk back to her apartment. There, Kate hands the suit back to Clint, and asks him to sign her bow. Just as Clint asks if anyone has seen Kate in the outfit, the Tracksuit Mafia appear on the street below Kate’s apartment and begin to throw molotov cocktails through the windows, setting the place on fire. Eager to help, Kate shoots the fire extinguisher, which then shoots across the room and out the window, disrupting the Tracksuit Mafia’s assault.

Clint and Kate abandon the blazing apartment and head straight for a pharmacy for “Avengers supplies.” They head to the apartment of Kate’s aunt Moira, who is in Florida for the winter. Clint leaves Kate there and returns to her apartment. He grabs a jacket from the firetruck in order to sneak back in, but does not find the Ronin suit. Returning the jacket, he notices an ‘NYC Larper’ sticker on the window.

Clint returns to Kate and teaches her how to properly cinch her wounds. He discovers that the larping fireman (Clayton English) has posted about his new suit online, but before he can investigate, Clint heads back to the hotel to see his children off to the airport. There is a heartfelt goodbye, and Clint’s youngest son Nate (Cade Woodward) signs “I love you” to his father. Meanwhile, Kate sees news announcing Armand’s death.

Kate and Clint set off together through Times Square. They have a conversation about Clint’s hearing, and Kate asks him how and when he lost it. A montage of his fights over the years flashes across the screen. They come across a group of performers dressed as the Avengers, with a notable lack of Hawkeye. Kate explains that Clint’s problems are all about branding; that people don’t want the “cynical, cool” thing anymore, they want sincerity. She reminds him that a brand doesn’t have to sell toys or costumes—it can sell inspiration.

Kate heads in to work at her mother’s security firm, where she finds Jack with Eleanor in her office. After an awkward conversation in which Jack tries to insert himself as Kate’s stepfather, Eleanor invites them both to dinner together. Later, Kate receives a phone call from a detective who asks about where she was the previous night following the fire in her apartment.

Clint heads to the NYC Larper gathering in Central Park, where he asks to speak with the man in the Ronin suit. The organizer informs him that he won’t be able to speak with him until after the session ends at midnight. Desperate to get the suit, Clint agrees to join the role play as a viking. He fights and dodges his way through the larping crowd until he gets to the man in the Ronin suit, and explains that he needs to take it back. The man proposes a deal: if Clint lets the man “kill” him in a staged trial by combat, he will return the suit. Clint enters the ‘arena’ for his trial by combat. After some lackluster role playing, Clint is defeated. The man introduces himself as Grills, and returns the suit. Clint places the suit in a locker and phones his wife, Laura, disclosing his plans to get captured by the Tracksuit Mafia.

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Kate attends dinner with her mother and Jack. She and Jack have a pointed and tense conversation that leads to a fencing match in the apartment foyer. Convinced that Jack is hiding something, Kate tricks him into revealing a higher level of fencing skill. As Jack changes out of his fencing attire, Kate and Eleanor argue. Jack returns and offers Kate a butterscotch, which is monogrammed with Armand’s name.

Clint successfully gets himself caught by the Tracksuit Mafia, and is brought to a strange storage warehouse filled with playground equipment. After leaving her mother’s apartment, Kate tries to call Clint from a cab, to no response. She then logs into the Bishop’s Security app and is able to track down Clint’s location. Clint discovers that the Tracksuit Mafia isn’t looking for him; they are in search of Kate Bishop. In a failed rescue attempt, Kate falls through the skylight, and they both are tied up as they wait for the boss to arrive.

The scene cuts to Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), standing around a thumping bass in a red-lit room. One of the Tracksuit members enters and announces that they have both Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. At first it appears that she does not understand, and so the man begins to sign out the sentence with his hands before being dismissed from the room.

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

 

Commentary

As an avid fan of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s 2012-2015 run of Hawkeye, I was cautiously optimistic when I heard that a Disney+ series was underway. When I heard that Matt Fraction would be brought on as a Consulting Producer, and saw that Hailee Steinfeld had been cast as Kate Bishop, I actually let myself get excited for the show. However, as other Marvel shows have been released throughout this past year, I have been disappointed by each story’s failure to deliver on its own setup. That being said, Hawkeye is off to a strong start with its first two episodes, and has left me excited for more.

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Like many of Marvel’s TV series, the first episode served as an introduction to the series premise, characters, and little else. One of my standing complaints with the TV series that have been released so far (and, let’s face it, some MCU movies) is inconsistent or clunky dialogue, and the opening scenes of the first episode are no exception. That being said, I think the first half of this episode does a fantastic job setting up Kate Bishop’s character: smart, driven, cocky, and sometimes entitled, she is a refreshingly flawed and spunky figure to contrast Clint’s cold stoicism. The TV series so far have done a good job showcasing the consequences of the large-scale events like the Blip, and I enjoyed seeing the battle for New York shown in a similar manner. I’m also intrigued by our focus on Kate’s mother, Eleanor, and the writing choice to have her father killed. In the comics, the roles are reversed: Kate’s mother dies tragically, and her father is behind their amassed criminal fortune and has a strained, complicated relationship with Kate.

And honestly, I loved this introduction to Kate. She is a character who I like the more I see of her, and I found her earnest attempts at superheroism to be incredibly endearing. Everything from her quips at Clint to her lackluster drawing of the Tracksuit Mafia’s faces gave balance to her entitled, rich girl backstory. Likewise, her relationship with Eleanor is intriguing, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that character evolves.

The second episode seemed to find its footing and built strongly on the setup of the first. The dialogue between Clint and Kate was sharp, and it did a good job introducing new characters and potential villains without leaving the viewer feeling overwhelmed. The fight scenes—which have fallen flat in previous Marvel TV series—were solid throughout, which gets at one reason I am optimistic for the rest of this series: unlike some of the bigger stories that had been attempted through FWS and Loki, Hawkeye seems to be more appropriately scoped for a TV miniseries. Like the Matt Fraction comic run, the stakes of these fights are relatively small compared to the world-ending, multiverse-causing destruction seen in other MCU stories. This, I think, is where Marvel allows themselves to shine through their characters. I can only hope that we can continue to get these smaller stories through the future of the MCU.

This is also our first shot of Clint’s hearing aids in the MCU, and while I’m excited that we are finally seeing this arc for Clint (who is canonically deaf in various comic adaptations), it feels like too little, too late. The MCU took a long time to figure out what they wanted to do with Hawkeye’s character. At first he was introduced as a cameo in Thor, and then brainwashed as one of Loki’s pawns in the original Avengers film, where they made a point to highlight his relationship with Natasha Rominoff. Following the success of the 2012 run of Hawkeye, it was clear that the writers wanted to shift the MCU version towards the quippy everyman of the comics. In Age of Ultron, we got a funnier Clint, and we learned about his secret family—a decision that I had mixed feelings about at the time, but has since grown on me. I have enjoyed seeing Renner’s Clint Barton in more comedic settings throughout the first two episodes of Hawkeye, and found particular enjoyment in seeing his deadpan, “I’m too old for this” reactions to Kate, the larpers, and the Tracksuit Mafia.

Hawkeye, episodes 1 and 2

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

That being said, I have been continuously disappointed by the MCU’s treatment of Black Widow’s sacrifice. So far, Hawkeye is no exception. Beyond the scene on Broadway, we get very little insight into how Clint has handled the loss of his best friend. This is indicative of the MCU’s tendency to “tell” rather than “show” us the friendship between the two ex-assassins. Natasha’s sacrifice and fight with Clint in Endgame would have been far more powerful, even heartbreaking, if we had been given more insight into just how strong their friendship was. The standalone mourning scenes here and at the lake in Endgame come off as rushed lip service to the death of one of the original six Avengers. Following the end-credits scene in Black Widow, it was apparent that Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) would be taking revenge on Clint Barton for his role in Natasha’s death. Although she has yet to make an appearance, I’m curious to see how the show balances that alongside its current plot threads.

Overall, I remain cautiously optimistic about the direction of the show. Given the starting point for Clint’s character, I think the writers have done a good job balancing elements from a beloved comic run into a believable scenario for the MCU as we know it. Fingers crossed that Hawkeye doesn’t miss.

 

Asides

  • I’ll say this up front: I’m a sucker for all things Christmas, and grew up just outside of New York. The music throughout these episodes—variations of Carol of the Bells and We Wish You a Merry Christmas—and the aesthetics of the city in the winter time were a fun, heartwarming backdrop for the latest Marvel TV story.
  • Kate used a cellphone while wearing the Ronin suit, implying that the gloves have touchscreen capabilities. The suit also survived the fire in her apartment. Whoever designed it is definitely giving Edna Mode a run for her money.
  • Jack offering Kate a butterscotch with his dead uncle’s name on it felt a little bit clumsy; either he is trying to intentionally goad her, or he is far less capable than I thought.
  • Now for some comic callbacks: there are many, many references strewn throughout the first two episodes of Hawkeye, and thankfully many are woven through as actual plot points rather than standalone easter eggs. Eleanor’s fiancé, Jack Duquesne, is clearly a take on the Swordsman, a skilled acrobat who in the comics was responsible for training Clint Barton. One of the Tracksuit Mafia members is unmasked and introduced as Kazi (full name Kazimierz Kazimierczak), a terrifying comic villain who assists the Tracksuit Mafia with hunting down Clint Barton. Grills, the larper who steals the Ronin suit, shares a name with one of Clint’s heartwarming neighbors from the comics. Other moments, such as the auction, the encounters with the pizza dog, the slow motion sound of Kate’s heartbeat just before she shoots, and the overuse of “bro” by the Tracksuit Mafia are all fun moments for anyone who has read Matt Fraction’s work. Additionally, the art in both the opening and end credits seem to be a callback to David Aja’s fantastic cover art.

Annika Rollock is a forever student and sometimes-writer working on her PhD in aerospace engineering. She enjoys comics, cycling, cephalopods, and coffee. Stop by her Twitter for space content and the occasional meme!

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