Hawkeye 1×01, “Never Meet Your Heroes,” is an excellent introduction to Kate Bishop and a reintroduction to Clint Barton with the perfect backdrop of the holiday season. The series premiere is an absolute romp that lets Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld‘s mentor-mentee chemistry shine.
This dynamic duo is already one to remember in this expansive new phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Hawkeye‘s slower pacing paves the way for character-driven narratives that hopefully won’t fall away before the season finale. The pacing of the Disney+ shows has never been their strong suit, but this episode gives me hope, albeit cynically dwindling, that this show can be the one to defy expectations.
In that sense and more, this series branches away from the familiar touchstones established by the previous Marvel Studios series on Disney+. That celebratory move makes Hawkeye a standout amongst its predecessors.
Its street-level conflict comes with significant personal stakes proving that every grand mission doesn’t have to be a world-trotting escapade. Sometimes the best stories can come from the urgency that the six days leading up to Christmas bring.
Framing Kate’s Origin Story
We have all been waiting with bated breath for Hailee Steinfeld to join the MCU as the iconic character Kate Bishop. Of course, we already know she’ll eventually take up the mantle of Hawkeye. Now, I am sure there is no one more fit for the job than Steinfeld.
Hawkeye characterizes Bishop perfectly, and Steinfeld brings her to life immaculately.
Kate’s reckless nature, charm, and sarcastic wit are never overbearing or unrelatable because of Steinfeld’s performance. Instead, Kate feels like a real young adult who grew up during the golden age of Marvel heroes. That’s identifiable for so many fans, and it allows us to see ourselves reflected on the show.
It isn’t easy to refrain from too many bow and arrow puns, but Steinfeld’s casting is a bullseye.
Her origin story “Never Meet Your Hero” differs from the one in the comics, which isn’t unusual. Nevertheless, Hawkeye sells this new version with such grounded sincerity that I have no choice but to love it.
Hawkeye‘s decision to launch the show with an experience personal to Kate should ease any skeptic’s minds that this show is solely about Clint Barton. This narrative choice makes Kate Bishop our eyes into this chapter of the MCU. Steinfeld’s Bishop is the focus of “Never Meet Your Heroes,” as she should be!
Like WandaVision does with most of the movies Elizabeth Olsen‘s Wanda Maximoff appears in, Hawkeye excels at giving The Avengers greater context. Moreover, that context lends itself to vital parts of Kate’s character — like her fierce protection of her mother and her life in Manhattan.
It’s an essential framing device that introduces us to Kate Bishop and shows us why someone would idolize Clint Barton’s Hawkeye. Because let’s be honest; the movies don’t do the most incredible job convincing us of his magnetic persona beyond his undeniable heroism.
Clint Barton and Rogers: The Musical
Clint’s most pointed and introspective moment of the Hawkeye series premiere comes during Rogers: The Musical. However shocking that may sound, this show layers so much into such a short period that it makes us want to believe Hawkeye‘s pacing won’t get stinted down the road.
This musical is as bizarre and fun as the trailers make it looks. It is unfortunate that Chris Evans’ tenure in the MCU ended before taking Steve Rogers to stage. Regardless, it is a joy to see Adam Pascal join the MCU as one of Rogers: The Musical‘s principal characters.
That seems like something Kevin Feige took directly off of my manifestation board.
Regardless, this musical takes something that could remain a silly glimpse at the Avengers’ past and transforms it into commentary on what it means to be a superhero, a look at Clint’s trauma and survivor’s remorse, and a glimpse at what this show can tackle in its remaining episodes.
It’s honestly spectacular that something with such levity can serve as a platform for such weighty topics. Nevertheless, that’s Hawkeye‘s tone, and it works so well.
In minutes, this musical paints the Battle of New York with such broad strokes that it becomes something far less traumatic than it was. Understandably, this treatment of such a traumatic part of Clint’s past would trigger some level of PTSD — something Lila is acutely aware of as she sits beside her father.
Not to forget, Clint’s survivor’s remorse is so intense that he turns off his hearing aid during the verse that speaks to Natasha’s fictionalized experiences. Seeing Clint’s perspective so intimately makes Florence Pugh‘s return to the MCU as Yelena Belova all the more dramatic.
They’re two people grieving, and maybe that will connect them rather than tear them apart. After all, there’s no denying Yelena would win that fight. Although Clint may have more experience in his lifetime, Yelena Belova is on another level.
The Ronin of It All
There is no good way to explain the Ronin of it all. Thankfully, the show never excuses it. That chapter of Clint’s life is dark and irredeemable, as seen in Avengers: Infinity War. One of my main pushbacks to “Never Meet Your Heroes” is its handling of Ronin because there is a bit of revisionist history at play.
Infinity War positions Clint’s time as Ronin as a direct response to his entire family disappearing in the Blip. It never gives us enough context to believe there are any real motives for his actions. Instead, it comes across as a senseless act of violence, as if Clint is the only person grieving after The Snap.
It’s jarring to hear auctioneers describe Ronin with such respect. Of course, his choice of words could be a tactic to sell the objects at hand, yet it’s more than that, considering what we learn about the Tracksuit Mafia.
Hawkeye is the perfect time and place for Clint’s past to catch up with him. It’s only odd that this version of the past is starkly different from the one I remember. Nevertheless, it’s important Clint shows substantial though reserved remorse for his time as Ronin, hence why he ran from it until now.
That’s why the cliffhanger of “Never Meet Your Heroes” is striking. All it is Kate and Clint meeting for the first time, but the circumstances of their first encounter make it expertly loaded with the kind of drama that will drive the rest of this series.
Kate has idolized Clint as Hawkeye for her entire life. Clint’s discomfort that comes with that recognition is palpable throughout the episode. That feeling multiplies to an unflinching degree when he meets Kate in the Ronin suit. Suddenly, he must confront all of his fears and stressors in the form of a young girl who sees him as her hero.
That brief scene leans into the episode’s themes without any impending threat beyond the tension between Kate, Clint, and his past. There doesn’t need to be a typical Big Bad for Hawkeye to hit the bullseye in this premiere.
Ultimately, that’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Other Moments That Don’t Miss:
- Every single scene with Lucky is pure perfection.
- Vera Farmiga. That’s all.
- The opening credits look like a panel from Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye run.
- Kate saying “This is bad”
- Rogers: The Musical adding Ant-Man to the Battle of New York
- The “Thanos was right” meme making it to the show
- LINDA CARDELLINI
- Kate wearing a tux instead of a red dress
- Kate saving Lucky instead of Clint
- Jack walking around with Ronin’s sword IN HIS COAT
- The score
What did you think of the Hawkeye series premiere? Let us know in the comments below!
New episodes of Hawkeye stream Wednesdays, exclusively on Disney+!