Created by Jonathan Igla
Based on Marvel Comics
Starring Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Zahn McClarnon, Alaqua Cox
“Now is the winter of our discontent/Made glorious summer by this sun of York.” ~ William Shakespeare
One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s gifts to the world is its innate ability to connect characters and events, befitting the cinematic canvas. As Phase Four winds up, Marvel Studios is working overtime to deliver a set of limited-run television series for the Disney+ streaming service. I’ve only just begun to watch “WandaVision,” which fans tell me of that series, and the properties, in general, is the ‘one series to watch.’ Still, I’ve avoided the earlier series altogether until this point.
I was gifted with the opportunity to review the latest limited series, “Hawkeye,” with its first two episodes making their debut on November 24th, running for eight episodes. Carrying on the character of “Hawkeye,” a master archer and former Avenger, Jeremy Renner returns to the titular role. Hailee Steinfeld inhabits Kate Bishop, a college-aged student who attracts the wrong sort of attention that Clint Barton would rather avoid.
The first episode, directed by Rhys Thomas and written by series creator Jonathan Igla, sets up the backstory for Kate Bishop as she attracts unwanted attention, drawing Barton in. Despite the seriousness of the episode’s opening, Renner conveys a lightheartedness through the character; he wants to be with his family and can’t believe that he’s being drawn into another conflict, one with which he has a connected past. On the other hand, Bishop feels isolated and would rather not spend time with her family, creating havoc for her mother, Eleanor, played by Vera Farmiga. Thomas and Igla create an aristocracy behind the characters and blend it well enough with Barton’s wanting to stay out of the limelight. This episode does poke fun at itself in a rather unique and corny way. We’re left with several plot threads, but the overall feeling of the first episode is that there are more questions than answers, and an uncomfortable look of wealth doesn’t necessarily pair well with the way Kate is portrayed.
The second episode, also directed by Thomas and written by Elisa Climent, continues to poke fun at the franchise, not necessarily at its expense but is aimed at the fans. I’d almost used the phrase “fan service,” but I feel that the MCU is fan service of the highest order. The second episode does take itself a bit more seriously, as new storylines are laid out. Both Kate and Clint are on the lamb, avoiding questions they’d instead not answer. An air of Japanese influence comes into play that made for exciting television; it’s not enough to overcome the sluggishness with which the series starts, feathered by the lightheartedness. We quickly learn how adept Kate is, and Clint feels just a bit like a fish out of water.
I admit that I am . . . . drawn . . . . into “Hawkeye.” If anything, the events seem to be worth checking out; however, I am not steeped in Marvel lore, and this should help to give a foundation for future cinematic adventures. The series is shot in scope, which seems counterintuitive to Disney’s push for the MCU features’ IMAX Enhanced program on the streaming service.
The pacing of the first two episodes made them fly by, but the elements within the stories themselves haven’t quite gelled.
Now, you might be asking why the Shakespeare/John Steinbeck reference earlier. If you didn’t ask, that’s okay. The quote serves the more prominent themes that the series, I believe, will eventually explore over the remaining six episodes, the third of which is scheduled to land on Disney+ on December 1st. The production value of “Hawkeye” is some of the best I’ve seen in quite a while, yet it seems lost within its boundaries. Eight hours to bring the story threads unspooled in the first two episodes of “Hawkeye” should be enough time to breathe; indeed, better use of time than the two and half hours used in “Eternals.”
“Hawkeye,” with its engaging characters and potential, however inconsistent and lackluster they might have been in these first two episodes, has my attention. Damnit.
TV-14, Marvel Studios, Disney+