By Sean Cabot
When “Hawkeye” first dropped I was really enjoying it. The inspiration it took from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s character-defining run and the pitch of a Christmas-themed Marvel series was incredibly promising.
But while it never lost its thunder, it also didn’t strike quite the way I hoped it would. Which is surprising for a show that is, by most accounts, conventionally decent.
In that respect, it’s more confusing than anything else.
“Hawkeye” follows the titular Avenger Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), an expert bowman who is taking his children on a sightseeing trip in New York. However, when he finds that someone is using the “Ronin” suit he previously wore during “Avengers: Endgame,” he is forced to send his family back home while he finds out who’s inside it.
The “someone” using it happens to be Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) a young heiress who idolizes Hawkeye and came upon the suit by chance. Clint is begrudgingly forced to join up with Kate when Maya Lopez (Alqana Cox) – a gang leader with a grudge against him, begins pursuing both of them.
And if he has time, make it home for Christmas.
All in all, I very much enjoyed the sort of “Jingle All the Way” plus superheroes part of the story. “Hawkeye” is actually quite funny, with great gags such as a Broadway reenactment of the first “Avengers” movie with music by “Hairspray’s” Marc Shaiman.
But the show’s characters are where things begin to get mixed. Clint and Kate make for a .ne
contrasting duo, with good chemistry and plenty to do in the story without one overshadowing the other.
The show also integrates an oft-neglected piece of comic lore – Clint Barton’s deafness. This not only results in a great episode where Clint is left without his hearing aid, but also establishes a narrative connection with Maya, who is also deaf.
The problem is that these themes are never utilized to their fullest. Characters develop, but in ways that feel rather stock and conventional, resulting in a show that’s just painfully average.
While Maya is set to star in her own Disney+ series called “Echo,” her alias in the comics, she feels a bit undercooked. In fact, “undercooked” describes a lot of the show.
Even a surprise return from one of the most acclaimed Marvel performances ever feels remarkably mishandled.
Part of this is almost certainly due to the six-episode limit most Disney+ Marvel shows are beholden to. Several deleted scenes that would have vastly improved the show were recently revealed to have hit the cutting room floor.
All I can say is that as a She-Hulk fan I’m very glad that her upcoming series is getting 10 episodes.
That’s not to say the show can’t be a lot of fun. There’s some great action and Easter eggs to be found.
My personal favorite reference is Kate’s stepfather-to-be Jacques Duquesne sharing a name with Swordsman, a D-list Avenger in the comics. But fun though that is, it can’t make up for a lack of substance.
And in the end, despite all the blood it shares with Fraction and Aja’s work, it can’t help but feel like a lesser version of it. I love the tracksuit mafia and trick arrows as much as any Hawkeye fan, but the cynical edge of Fraction’s writing and Aja’s distinctive art can’t be outdone by something so tonally similar to every other Marvel product.
Even Kate herself feels watered down, despite Steinfeld being as strong an actress as she’s ever been.
That the show is surprisingly ambiguous about granting her the position of Hawkeye II is probably its worst failing.
If you’re looking for a better family-superhero-comedy type experience set in winter, I’d recommend sticking to “Shazam!” You wouldn’t be going wrong with “Hawkeye,” but even the most hardcore Marvel fan has better choices.
Not quite a bullseye