What can I say, I like to swim against the current when I discuss mainstream entertainment. I know some of you might roll your eyes upon first glance at the title of this piece, but please…hear me out!
Disney+ concluded their run of Marvel shows this year with the sixth and final episode of Hawkeye last Wednesday. Against all odds, and with a significantly reduced number of viewers compared to WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and even What If?, the series focusing on the legacy of Clint Barton is actually the BEST show Marvel produced this year (my personal opinion, but I think a few critics agree with me). Sure, that WandaVision finale last winter was awesome, but Hawkeye was able to give us something that most episodes and Marvel movies desperately lack recently: low-stake intrigue and heart.
Officially, this can be considered as a Christmas TV show alongside now recognized holiday classics like Die Hard in the list of unconventional must-see in December. The show successfully merges action, humor and Christmas vibes in a very good and thoughtful way, without getting lost into the absurdities of the Multiverse or aliens from other worlds that are now synonymous with the MCU. Think of this as a cool mash-up of the first Godfather movie, Home Alone and classic Marvel action. Very nice cocktail mix if you ask me!
This Christmas, the best gifts come with a bow and arrows, I would agree with that statement in the trailer.
The show does not place Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) front and center at the very start, but focuses on a young girl from a rich family in New York City named Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld, very likable). At a young age, Kate was in New York during the battle of 2012 when the Avengers fought Loki and the Chitauri army. Having lost her father in the attack, she was saved from the Chitauri by an arrow that was shot by Hawkeye. Inspired by her new hero, she will devote herself to archery and train to become a great athlete and fighter. Ten years later, having cumulated trophies to make mommy (Vera Farmiga) proud, Kate gets herself into trouble when she crashes the wrong black market auction at a Christmas party, where there is significant interest for pieces of equipment and weapons that belonged to a certain ‘Ronin‘.
On his side, Clint is in the city with his kids enjoying the holidays. After fighting crime alongside the Avengers for so many years, he is retired…and in need of a hearing aid due to his many years in combat situations (referred to many times during the show). The only thing he wants is to go back home to his country house in order to build gingerbread houses and have a Christmas movie marathon with his family. When he sees a young girl (yeah, that one) dressed as Ronin on the news, which was his alter ego during the Blip when he lost all his family after Thanos’s snap, he needs to step back into action to save his reputation. Indeed, as Ronin, Clint fought criminals and members of the Track Suits Mob the hard way, by killing and murdering everything in his path. Let’s just say there are a few mafiosos out there looking for cold vengeance…
And so, much to Clint’s disapproval, Kate and him will meet and join forces in order to clear their names and get rid of the mob members threatening their Christmas.
The four Cs – Christmas, Chemistry, Consistent Simplicity & Catharsis
CHRISTMAS – First of all, let’s talk about Christmas for a minute, which is almost a secondary character in the story. What plays in favor of Hawkeye compared to the previous installments of other Marvel shows is that it landed at the right place at the right time (kinda like that good episode of WandaVision that took place at Halloween with the Avengers dressed as their comic book selves). After bombastic entries where the Multiverse is taking a hold on all major character arcs (looking at you Loki and Spider-Man: No Way Home), this one chose to remain on the ground, in New York, where Avengers are not worried about enemy forces coming back to Earth again and are rather focused on celebrating the Holidays and fight normal criminals in the streets. Clint and Kate will give it their all to make the criminally infested NYC feel like home on a snowy Christmas. All in all, this show has a good dose of heart and warmth for this particular reason, and it is most welcomed.
CHEMISTRY – At the center of the show, we have the dynamic duo of Kate Bishop and Clint Barton. Thank god they are at the very center, because their chemistry is literally pure magic. It is commonly known that Hailee Steinfeld is one of the best actresses of her generation, and we notice it even here. Perfectly talented as both comic relief and drama queen, she chews the scenery easily in most scenes, stealing the show from Jeremy Renner. Although it is not mentioned literally, we know that the MCU is currently in its fourth phase, introducing new characters to form a second group of Avengers for phase 5, which means that Kate will have to step in as the new Hawkeye. Clint knows this, but is not making it easy for her, as he spends most of the series runtimes grumpy and angry at her. He makes an excellent mentor! Kate brings energy and optimism to the Hawkeye legacy, which was something that was missing from his personal arc.
CONSISTENT SIMPLICITY – Marvel being Marvel, producer and big boss Kevin Feige included a few surprises and much-expected cameos in here. However, the show knows which realistic and absurd boundaries it can and cannot break, so it rightfully chooses to keep this a street fight between Hawkeye and her mentee and mafia members and corrupt corporate moguls. To my delight, the whole story remained simple from beginning to end, so we could at last not scratch our head trying to figure out the Multiverse. Marvel had to give us some much-needed low-stake thrills and we finally have some here. Always with a good dose of humor and cultural winks (you will learn to love the dumb Track Suit members saying ‘Bro’ every 2 seconds and referring to Wes Anderson movies), the show can switch tones easily. It also kept the number of primary and secondary characters minimal, allowing us to be fully invested in them. Good news as well for the young girls who imagine themselves as an Avenger or a Katniss Everdeen, Kate Bishop shows us that we can be one if we dedicate ourselves to the rights sports and hobbies at a young age. In short, compelling narrative choices all around!
CATHARSIS – Finally, there’s a lot of reference to catharsis and redemption in here. How can a person redeem him or herself after making horrible choices that impacted the lives of others? Of course, this is something we will explore with Clint, as he needs to settle his scores after his murderous run as Ronin, but other characters as well (saying more would be spoilers haha, but take a closer look at Kate’s entourage). This is an important lesson for Kate, who comes from a consequence-free and rich class, silver spoon in her mouth. Being a hero for the normal taxpayer and your loved ones means making hard decisions to keep them safe, and this is something Kate will also learn the hard way, as Clint did. More will be said about the tragic death of Black Widow and how Hawkeye was able to pardon himself for what happened.
One more thing, the season finale of Hawkeye is also one of the strongest in the MCU. It introduces the characters in exciting action mode and concluded individual arcs perfectly. Special stand out from Alaqua Cox for her portrayal of Track Suits leader Maya, who is deaf and needs to refer to sign language during the whole run.
All in all, if you had little love for the character of Hawkeye after his run with Avengers, this is definitely the show that redeems him, both as a ‘father figure’ character and his legacy as a hero. Contrary to the Black Widow movie that made the mistake to portray Natasha Romanov after her demise and failed to make us understand something deeper about her, Hawkeye makes us believe that Clint can also inspire people by making the life of a hero not beyond reach. Through Kate’s arc as a young athlete, it is by punctual training and hard work, both physically and mentally, that you can prove yourself worthy to become a hero, not necessarily with a ton of money or superpowers (sorry Thor and Iron Man).
Make Hawkeye your family binge this holiday season, it is a lot of fun and quite surprising!