Hawkeye wrapped up yesterday, and it ended as it began—fun, light, not super invested in the larger lore of the MCU. Sure, we have a new Hawkeye in Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), and Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) is off to reinvent herself as something more like a hero, and Vincent D’Onofrio made his return as Wilson Fisk, but compared to all the multiverse stuff kicked off in Wandavision and Loki, Hawkeye feels incredibly low stakes. And that’s GREAT. That’s the show’s strength. Over six episodes, Hawkeye offers some good-to-very-good action scenes, but the best parts of the show are just Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) hanging out with Kate Bishop, decorating Christmas trees and making trick arrows. They build a believable rapport as mentor and mentee, and by the end of the season, it really does feel like Clint has imparted all the wisdom he has to Kate, who can now step up and take on the Hawkeye mantle and let Clint retire for real.
In the last two episodes, we also get some excellent scenes between Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh, MVP) and Kate, who also have a GREAT vibe together. They only share two scenes, but they are incredibly memorable, and while Pugh explodes off the screen as the chaotic and charismatic Yelena, Steinfeld holds her own, and I would not mind seeing more of Kate and Yelena somewhere down the line in the MCU. As chaotic as Yelena is, Kate is a massive disaster, and their energy, whether fighting or reluctantly forming a mutual affection, is the kind of chemistry-driven, interpersonal interaction that made the MCU into what it is. The allure of the grand Marvel experiment has never been about the worldbuilding or the plots, it’s about bringing these beloved characters to live action and replicating the “superhero clubhouse” aspect of the comics, in which the Avengers are, for the most part, friends who genuinely care for one another. They’re not a soap opera (X-Men) or a family constantly squabbling (Fantastic Four), they’re a team, they’re people who choose to work together…because they like it.
And that’s the vibe Hawkeye captures so well. Despite himself, Clint comes to care for and genuinely like Kate. He shifts from just wanting to clean up his Ronin mess and go home, to wanting to help Kate in a difficult situation. She becomes his partner, much the way Natasha Romanoff once was. And though Kate and Yelena don’t work together this time, you can feel the mutual respect and like that forms between them, and I won’t be shocked to see that pairing again down the road. Hawkeye succeeds not because of fight scenes or filling in backstory, like Laura Barton being a SHIELD agent (where else would he have met her?), it succeeds because we buy that Clint and Kate truly become a partnership, because we believe that Yelena is so devastated by her grief over losing Natasha, she just wants to hurt as she hurts. Hawkeye succeeds because over six episodes, we come to care about these characters and enjoy watching them together, even if it is a relatively low stakes adventure for an Avenger.
What is slightly less successful is the setup for Maya Lopez’s turn from mob lieutenant to…something else. Honestly, Maya could have used a little more time to develop that change of heart. Clint makes a good point about how they’re both weapons and have been used for ill in the world, but what establishes Maya as intimidating at first is her relentlessness. Clint gives her one decent speech and she changes her whole worldview? It just feels like she needed a little more than that, and I know she also puts together that Fisk and Kazi (Fra Fee) set up Ronin to kill her father, but STILL. Maya feels shortchanged by the end, like the writers couldn’t quite balance all the characters’ needs in just six episodes.
I appreciate Hawkeye running a tight ship—no one needs ten hours of Clint Barton, and I LIKE this character—but they don’t quite accomplish everything with Maya, the way they do with Clint, Kate, and Yelena. It’s no wonder Alaqua Cox is getting her own show, she’s very good as Maya, and she deserves more than she got here. But, on the whole, Hawkeye is a hella entertaining, pleasantly low stakes adventure to balance out all the world-ending sh-t everyone else is always getting up to. Marvel will keep doing their grand plan stuff, but I hope they leave room for more “street level” adventures that don’t have to carry the weight of universe expansion. It’s fun to just hang out with these characters without the world constantly collapsing.
All episodes of Hawkeye are now streaming on Disney+.