Hawkeye team on staging Rogers: The Musical and introducing Kate Bishop's story
Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of Hawkeye.
Hawkeye does not begin with its titular superhero. Instead, the opening scene of the latest live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe show on Disney+ begins with a flashback. We see a very familiar sight (the Chitauri invasion of New York City that formed the climax of The Avengers) but from an unfamiliar perspective: That of a young Kate Bishop.
As we move years forward into the present, viewers see how the adult Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) has been shaped by experiencing the Battle of New York as a child. It's clearly an event that the city as a whole is still dealing with, because we then see a dramatic reenactment of it on Broadway. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), in town for Christmas with the kids, is forced to sit through a song-and-dance number about the Chitauri battle as part of Rogers: The Musical. All of this helps give viewers a taste of what it's like to live in the MCU as, well, an ordinary human. How do you process all of this superhero stuff going on around you?
"We get to remind the audience of this big civilian moment in the MCU with our opening and obviously connect to it through one of our characters," says executive producer Rhys Thomas, who directed the first two episodes. "There's something also kind of true about the way that, a decade or so on, those moments can become something else in popular consciousness. They can weirdly maybe become a source of celebration and re-energizing. That was our approach to the musical: It has this joyous 'save our city' energy to it, celebrating those real people. We made the two main singers regular citizens, not necessarily our superheroes. To me, it was a nice nod to the humanity of the MCU, because that's more of Clint's and Kate's stock than the other side."
Even so, Thomas admits he felt a little nervous about bringing Rogers: The Musical to life.
"The initial idea was literally based on me just trying to think of, what's the last place that Clint would want to be?" Thomas says. "I immediately saw this image of Jeremy Renner's face sitting in the dark watching a musical based on some events that he'd actually lived through, and it felt really funny to me. But then you realize like, hang on, I'm going to make an MCU musical inside the MCU? Suddenly you're like, 'Oh crap.' I did try backtracking, like, 'It's okay, we don't have to do this!' But [Marvel Studios boss] Kevin [Feige] was fully on board at that point, so off we went."
One other interesting thing about the opening flashback to the Battle of New York is that it slightly adjusts Kate's backstory. In the pages of Marvel comics, Kate's mother died when she was young, and as an adult she has to work through her relationship with her widowed father. The show twists that around. Here, it's Kate's father (Brian d'Arcy James) who dies in the Chitauri chaos, and in the present Kate is wrestling with her mother (Vera Farmiga).
"I loved getting to figure this one out with Vera. She is absolutely incredible," Steinfeld tells EW. "This is a relationship that's rather complicated, and we worked very hard to try and figure out how we can make sense of the first time you see them together when Kate's older. She's at a point in her life where she's really coming into her own. She's been dealing with the loss of her father for some time now. She and her mom have two very different ideas of what Kate's future looks like and what they want it to be. There's a deep-rooted love there and an ultimate understanding, but also a lot of complicated mother-daughter situations and conversations that we see play out."
The first two episodes of Hawkeye are streaming now on Disney+. Stay tuned for more coverage of the show on EW.com.