With “Die Hard” vibes, Jeremy Renner’s dour Clint Barton finds himself a reluctant mentor as his Ronin past comes back to haunt him — and maybe get Steinfeld’s over-eager Kate Bishop killed!
Once again, another MCU series on Disney+ brings a whole new vibe and energy. This one feels like a classic holiday-themed action film in all the best ways. It even has Christmas Day as a deadline of sorts, as Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton has six days to get home in time to spend it with his family.
In some ways, “Hawkeye” reminds us of the quintessential not-a-Christmas movie (or is it?), “Die Hard,” with Renner’s reluctant Clint a perfect superhero variation on Bruce Willis’ reluctant hero, John McClane.
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That layer of humor over the street-level violence and sinister espionage-level drama is replicated here to perfection. Like McClane, Clint is the reluctant hero here, who’d rather be spending time with his family, only his conscience won’t let him ignore what’s going on, especially if it puts other lives in danger.
Only “Hawkeye” has a secret weapon that even John McClane didn’t have. They’ve got a Kate Bishop.
In these first two episodes, even though Renner is the familiar Avenger face that even people on the street are recognizing, no star shines brighter than Hailee Steinfeld, making her glorious debut into the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Hawkeye — the other one.
Well, she’s not Hawkeye yet, and that’s the problem. Instead, she’s a young, over-eager fangirl who tends to act impulsively before thinking things through. The first big action sequence we get with her sees her shoot an arrow to ring a bell in a clock tower — that proceeds to collapse in on itself.
The final big moment we have with her is one of the most brilliantly executed and hilarious “rescue” scenes we’ve ever seen. Renner’s deadpan face sold it even better than its utter ridiculousness could alone.
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At the center of the whole piece is the Ronin costume, and Clint’s apparent residual guilt over Black Widow choosing to sacrifice herself to save the universe when he was the one who spent those years during the Blip running around in that costume doing things best not remembered (for the record, this is about all the MCU knowledge you need to enjoy this series — you’re welcome!).
Kate Bishop is a 22-year-old Bruce Wayne, in some ways. From a wealthy family, she too was forged in tragedy, with her father dying (or at least vanishing) during the first attack on New York that brought the Avengers back together.
She spent the years from childhood to young adulthood honing her body and mind with various martial arts, archery and other skills. She didn’t necessarily have Bruce’s brooding vision of saving the city and fighting crime as a giant bat, but there was a drive to at least keep her mother safe, as voiced by her younger self.
That became a lot more complicated when we learned that her time studying kept her out of the family picture long enough for a new man to step into her mother’s life. And future stepfathers always raise red flags on shows like this, with James proving absolutely no exception. Instead, Kate quickly found herself infiltrating a seedy underworld that he certainly appears to be a part of.
Meddling as only super-confident and impulsive young people who don’t think through the consequences of their actions, Kate winds her way beneath a benefit even to find an auction of stolen goods taking place below. It is here that she sees her stepfather, a certain Ronin sword and costume and our introduction to the “big bad” of the season, so far, the hilariously named Tracksuit Mafia.
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As with most Christmas-themed action romps, we’re not supposed to take any of this too seriously. Now, serious is what Clint does best, and mourning Natasha only takes that a step further, so luckily, we have Kate around to serve as a great counter to Clint’s grim and grit. In that regard, he’s definitely more the Bruce Wayne.
What happens next is a case of mistaken identity, as Kate puts on the Ronin suit after an explosion brings the Mafia into the auction room. They were there for a watch, but instead found someone who was apparently a mortal enemy for them.
Hey, Clint did some stuff while half the people were gone. He had history and enemies, and by putting on that suit, Kate made herself a target. And by being a complete amateur at all of this, she didn’t consider things like her name being on the door for her apartment.
Honestly, the interactions between Clint and Kate, even as reluctant allies, is the beating heart of this series. Fans have already fallen in love with their dynamic, almost as much as they’ve fallen for the stray dog Kate somehow managed to pick up and adopt along the way.
All of this is happening because with the suit resurfacing, Clint feels responsible for what happened next. He feels responsible now for Kate because it was his suit that led to her being targeted, so now his conscience says he has to say to ensure she’s safe, the suit is recovered and all is quiet — in time to make it home for the holidays!
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His efforts saw him tracking the suit to a LARPing event, where he actually had to sign up and participate, as its members are all (or mostly) law enforcement or first responders, so good luck not getting all kinds of arrested.
Here we were expecting a challenge, but instead we got a very sweet and earnest exchange from the man who swiped the suit just to have a cool look here. It was all so wholesome, fitting in perfectly with the tone of the whole series, and we kind of hope Grills somehow comes back into the story later.
While Clint was tracking down his suit, Kate was doing some detective work of her own, in her usual sloppy, eager way. In this regard, she started to expose that there’s more to her future stepdad, Jack, than meets the eye. For one, he’s a much batter fencer than he let on. For another — well, she’s way too obvious about this stuff.
And that brings us full circle to her daring rescue, which we’re still giggling over. The next step in Clint’s plan was a move pulled from Natasha’s playbook, “Catch and Release.” That meant he allowed himself to get captured by the Tracksuit Mafia. He’s trying to get them off of Kate’s trail, but that didn’t work out at all when she just dropped in unannounced.
Kate’s family fortune comes from her mother owning a security company. It is hinted that Jack might be marrying into that either for her money, her company’s resources and technology, or maybe all of it. But Kate clearly has access to that tech. So when one of the Mafia answers his phone, she uses her resources to track the signal.
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We kind of love how stupid the Mafia henchmen are, pushing Clint to tell them who the guy in the Ronin suit, insisting that Kate Bishop is the “guy” in the suit. He just keeps talking and they just keep not getting it.
But as soon as he announces he has no idea who Kate Bishop is, in a moment of perfect comedic timing, she crashes through the roof and lands in a heap at his feet. You could almost hear Princess Leia saying, “This is some rescue!”
And that energy is what makes this such a great premise for a limited series, as well as a great introduction for Steinfeld into the MCU. She’s got that quick wit, with her own sardonic twist, that makes up most MCU heroes, but she also has an earnest positivity that’s rare.
Already she and Clint are developing an adorable father-daughter dynamic, with him grumping over her affectionately, fixing her wound dressing at one point, like she’s an unruly teenager, and her both adoring him and trying to help him get a clue.
One scene in the premiere features the pair walking by a group of costumed Avengers taking photos on the streets with people, only their Hawkeye is actually Katniss Everdeen from “The Hunger Games.”
Kate explains to Clint that he has an image problem. He needs to stop being so introspective and broody (i.e. grumpy) and wear his heart on his sleeve. In other words, he needs to be a Christmas movie.
Well, Kate may not be able to make his heart grow three times by the end of this series, but she’s certainly able to serve as both reminder and inspiration (she says that’s what he represents to the everyman, as he’s a superhero without powers) that there is a way to enjoy being a hero. It’s not all obligations and guilt.
She’s got five days left to bring the spirit of Christmas to him, uncover what’s going on in her family and make sure Clint makes it home to his in time for the holiday. It’s the perfect Christmas movie … TV series.
New episodes of “Hawkeye” drop every Wednesday on Disney+.