“Hawkeye” 1×1 Review: Never Meet Your Heroes
With Hawkeye, all six original six Avengers have their own solo property. This one is a pretty huge deal, signaling (we assume) the exit of Clint Barton Hawkeye (who’s been wanting to stay home with his family for a while) and the entrance of Kate Bishop Hawkeye. What happens in Hawkeye will echo throughout the Avengers going forward.
We all knew that Hawkeye would serve as Kate Bishop’s introduction into the MCU. Somehow I didn’t expect the first episode to be so Kate-heavy, though. Almost the entirety of “Never Meet Your Heroes” is told from Kate’s perspective, with a few scenes cut in to establish that Clint Barton is in New York City spending Dad Time with his kids.
As it plays out, that seems like the most natural path for the show to take. It gives us a solid introduction to Kate and her personality. We start with the roots of Kate’s obsession with marksmanship, which in this version comes during the Chitauri attack on New York. A young Kate sees Hawkeye do some awesome trick shots while fighting Chitauri. Soon after she discovers that her father has died in the attack. The combination solidifies an idea in her mind: she needs to become strong enough to protect those she loves.
And she wants a bow.
In case you haven’t heard this yet, the showrunners have already said that Hawkeye borrows heavily from the 2012 Matt Fraction/David Aja comics run. Favorite characters like Lucky the one-eyed dog and the Tracksuit Mafia make early appearances, and we can already see a little bantery vibe developing between Clint and Kate. It’s not the same vibe, of course. This Kate and this Clint are in very different places than their Fraction counterparts. There is still an instant sort of connection, however unwilling it is on Clint’s part.
I really like this incarnation of Kate. I think Hailee Steinfeld brings the right vibe to the role. She seems a lot like the Fraction version with a little extra spin to nudge her more towards the MCU vibe. She’s a fun blend of geeky playfulness and casual competence- except when her recklessness gets her into trouble. When it does she uses improvisation and misdirection to carry her through the inevitable aftermath of her impulsive nature. Comic Kate is reckless as well, so this fits.
There are so many small storytelling touches that help us establish Kate as a character. The opening scene, where she ruins a clock tower to win a bet, is an obvious one, although I think most are more subtle. For example, she goes to the charity auction as she promises her mother but wears a stylish black suit instead of the suggested dress. She breaks off from a major conflict to rescue a dog she’s met twice. It’s that kind of thing that humanizes Kate and gives us some understanding of her right up front.
Despite the heavy Kate presence, Clint Barton isn’t absent in the premiere episode by any means. He’s still more MCU!Clint than Matt Fraction!Clint. That is, he’s a tired but always game hero with a strong sense of responsibility and an unorthodox way of working. He switches from aggressive to protective the moment he sees that it’s Kate in the Ronin costume- a kid, not a previously-unknown enemy.
Fraction!Clint was a wonderful disaster of a dude with absolutely none of his life together, who would be frequently airlifted from rooftop barbecues with his neighbors to go do superhero stuff. That’s a lot of fun. It doesn’t fit with MCU Hawkeye, though, so I understand the need to stay true to the established character.
The creators did manage to shift some of Clint’s escapades into the Fraction realm, though. I foresee a lot of Clint whump and some truly ridiculous situations in our future.
We get to see some Barton Family Time during “Never Meet Your Heroes”, which I love because he had an epically terrible time during the Blip. How unlucky do you have to be to lose your entire family to the Snap? Then lose your best friend trying to bring them back? Clint needs a happy ending, and I’m hype for this show to give him that.
Cool note here: as we saw during Age of Ultron the Bartons are a veteran superhero family. They know what Clint does is important, so they don’t whine or groan when he has to duck out of something to do Hero Stuff. They give a resigned nod and head out to safety. I hate when heroes have to argue with their families over heroics. It would make zero sense in a world where Clint regularly saves the world.
You know what else I like? Clint Barton finally has his Fraction-canon hearing loss. We see him wearing the hearing aid, and he signs with his youngest son. There just aren’t many heroes with disabilities in the MCU, so seeing one kick butt and take names is a fantastic direction for the universe to take. Do I wish they’d introduced it a little earlier in the movies? Yes… but hey, better late than never.
The story arc building in “Never Meet Your Heroes” is interesting. We know the Tracksuit Mafia is after a Stark Industries watch that was going to be for sale. That’s definitely worth remembering, given all the awesome stuff they passed over to find it. We also know that Kate’s mom is engaged to what is patently a Bad Guy, though we don’t know how bad yet. There’s not a ton of focus on that yet, though. This first episode dedicates most of its runtime to introducing the major players and giving them some space to establish motives and personalities.
That’s a really smart idea even in a six-episode series. Yes, it does take up space, but these aren’t superpowered characters. These are the “normal guys”, if you can call someone who’s trained to the point of keeping up with superheroes “normal”. Their stories naturally rely more on inter-character interactions than supercharged combat. Giving everyone- bad guys and good- that early room for expansion raises the emotional stakes.
A few quick notes here:
- PIZZA DOG! No Hawkeye series could be complete without this pupper. I hope they do take Lucky out with them at least on accident a time or two. He is a Good Boy who deserves to get his adventure in as well (and he seems pretty competent so far).
- How incredible is it that we can visually tag a bad guy through a specific choice of mustache? Everyone figured out Jack was going to be a villain the second he walked on screen. I love dramatic costuming.
- Clint has history with the Tracksuit Mafia, according to his conversation with Laura. So why did they act like they haven’t seen him? Was he just exceptionally sneaky?
- Clint using Nat’s interrogation technique with a Hawkeye twist makes me happy.
- I can watch Clint Barton be fully 100% done with everyone’s crap all day.
- Kate is cut off from her rather substantial money. A little simplified… but then, if she had her credit cards she’d be really easy for bad guys to trace. It’s probably for the best.
Two episodes dropped on Disney+ today: “Never Meet Your Heroes” and “Hide and Seek”. That should be enough to keep you occupied through Thanksgiving if you have to hide from questionable relatives. Just make sure your phone is charged, because even though there’s just 6 episodes in this series they are LONG ones. Both pass the 40-minute mark.
This gives me some comfort; I’d be so bummed with a short run if the episodes were also short. Kate and Clint deserve to have some buddy archer time before Clint gets his happy ending retirement (please, please, please cut this man a break, Marvel, this universe is so freaking hard on parents).
New episodes drop Wednesdays until they’re all gone. Check back with us next week, and in the meantime feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!
Khai is a writer, anthropologist, and games enthusiast. She is co-editor (alongside Alex DeCampi) of and contributor to “True War Stories”, a comic anthology published by Z2 Comics. When she’s not writing or creating games, Khai likes to run more tabletop RPGs than one person should reasonably juggle.
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