It’s fine for a show to take its time in its early episodes but there’s a difference between setting the table (which “WandaVision” arguably did for a month before really serving the meal) and getting off to a slow start and “Hawkeye” is more like the latter. Renner is often a bit flat as Hawkeye, but he’s actually not bad here—he just hasn’t been given much to do. The Marvel Comics versions of Hawkeye often allowed for a more cynical, wise-cracking character—someone who was not only the best athlete in the room but one of the smartest guys too—and it’s like the MCU has drained him of some of that “Wolverine-esque” charisma. He has a couple of scenes here, mostly with his kids and later with Kate, that hint that he could become a more charming lead, but only time will tell.
With the possible exception of the scene-stealing, one-eyed dog Lucky (who fans of the Fraction/Aja comic will remember fondly and be happy to see here), the show definitely belongs to Steinfeld. It seems like the Disney+ shows are being used to segue between character phases of the MCU. The action of “WandaVision” will undeniably influence multiple characters; “Falcon and the Winter Soldier” was really about handing Cap’s shield down to a new holder; “Loki” ended with the reveal of a villain that will certainly be seen again. But “Hawkeye” made me wonder how much these “transitions” are going to hold up on their own. Steinfeld could play Kate Bishop in a half-dozen more MCU projects and become a fan favorite, but that potential doesn’t make this introduction rich enough on its own.
I wanted a “Hawkeye” that translated the wit and creativity of the Fraction/Aja series into something that stood on its own instead of just echoing a better work on the page while previewing likely better works on the big screen. This series lacks the zip and polish that Kate Bishop and Clint Barton deserve (although, admittedly, that could come in the back four), pushing all the good stuff maybe not even to later this season but in later projects. In terms that the title character would understand, the arrow here doesn’t just miss the bullseye, it feels like it’s shooting at the wrong target altogether.
Two episodes screened for review.
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