Video courtesy of Disney+

Hark the herald angels sing, "Glory to the Marvel Cinematic Universe's newest hero, Kate Bishop!"

After years of waiting, Kate Bishop, Marvel Comics' other Hawkeye, finally makes her live-action debut on Disney+'s Hawkeye. Kate has been a fan-favorite character arguably since she was introduced in 2005's Young Avengers, but at the very least since her co-leading role with Clint Barton in Matt Fraction and David Aja's critically-acclaimed Hawkeye comics run. So, there was a lot riding on the House of Ideas' latest television project. Thankfully, it doesn't disappoint when it comes to Kate, played by a magnetic and hilarious Hailee Steinfeld. Sure, the show is nominally about both Kate and Jeremy Renner's Clint, the MCU's original Hawkeye, but don't be fooled. This is very much Steinfeld's show and Renner is just along for the ride, at least based on the first two episodes. The show smartly centers most of the action around Kate and the least interesting Avenger basically gets roped into the plot against his will.  

Beyond Steinfeld's turn as Kate, I was impressed by how low-key and unassuming the show is. Set in the days leading up to Christmas in New York City, Hawkeye isn't concerned with large scale problems like the splintering of the Sacred Timeline or the messy fallout of the Blip. It's about a highly skilled young woman and her idol getting pulled into complicated conflict with a gang — specifically the bro-loving Tracksuit Mafia, one of the many parts of Fraction/Aja's run that the show adapts. In many ways, Hawkeye feels like what the Marvel-Netflix shows were supposed to be: Action-packed small-scale, city-level stories that contrasted with the movies' bombastic crises but were still meaningfully connected to the greater universe. In many ways, Hawkeye does Marvel-Netflix better than Marvel-Netflix did in these opening installments. In fact, that's something that occurred to me in the first scene.

Credit: Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Hawkeye begins with a flashback to the Bishop home circa 2012. Young Kate is eavesdropping on an argument between her parents about money. At this point, Kate is much closer with her dad, Derek (Brian d'Arcy James), than she is with her mom, Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), who tries to show her that moms can be just as fun later. Of course, this is 2012 New York, which means this slice normal domestic life is disrupted by the Chitauri Invasion and Battle of New York from Avengers, except this time we watch it from the perspective of an expensive Manhattan apartment caught in the middle. This entire sequence reminded me of Kurt Busiek's Marvels series, which is essentially a comic book about what it's like to be a normal human living in the Marvel Universe. Furthermore, this is the kind of thing we all wished the Daredevil and Jessica Jones could've done. Rather than people simply talking about "New York" all the time or being told that Jessica helped out during the crisis, wouldn't it have been great to have seen a flashback to Jessica using her powers to help people the Avengers couldn't get to?

This scene is actually an important part of Kate's backstory. After the battle blows a hole in the apartment, Kate catches a glimpse of Hawkeye as he holds his own against a bunch of aliens. This is the moment when Hawkeye became her favorite Avenger, and the script and direction do good enough job to make you believe that could be possible. Unfortunately for Kate, her dad dies in the invasion. In the aftermath, Kate resolves to make sure she's ready for the next problem and can protect those she loves, so she asks her mom for archery lessons.

From there, the episode flashforwards to the present, where we meet 22-year-old Kate at college. By this point, she has highly-skilled archer and martial artist; however, her privilege has also made her somewhat reckless and impulsive, which leads to her mom having to replace her college's bell and clock tower after she accidentally destroys it on a dare. You get the sense she has too many superhero skills for her own good at this point, but that's part of the fun.

When Kate returns to the city, her mother drags her to a fancy fundraiser, where a wealthy man named Armand Duquesne reveals to Kate that Eleanor is engaged to her oily and smarmy boyfriend Jack. Kate isn't too pleased about this, but that discomfort turns to genuine concern when she follows Armand and Jack to a black-market auction happening underneath the party. There, she watches as Jack bids on the Ronin's sword, the weapon Clint Barton used during his vicious murder-spree in the post-Snap interregnum. Alas, the Tracksuit Mafia attacks the auction looking for a mysterious watch tied to Avengers Tower. Kate decides to put her years of training to use, borrows the Ronin costume, which was also up for sale, and tries to take on the Tracksuit Mafia on her own. (How does the Ronin suit fit her so well? Let's not ask these questions.) Kate manages to escape the fight with her life and a new friend, Lucky the Pizza Dog. (In the confusion, Jack absconds with the Ronin's sword.)  

Meanwhile, Clint and his kids are busy seeing Rogers: The Musical, which features a hilarious Battle of New York-set musical number called "Save the City" with the refrain "I can do this all day," yet another instance where we see how the world reacts to and metabolizes all of the superhero action (I found this musical far more compelling than anything the Spider-Man movies attempt to do in this regard.) Clint shudders the moment Nat appears on-stage because he's still processing her death in Avengers: Endgame. Following the show, Clint and his kids return to the hotel, where Clint watches a news report about the Ronin's return to New York City. So, he sets out to find this person before the Tracksuit Mafia does. I really like how both Renner and the show lean into Clint's world weary Everyman-ness, basically like the Fraction/Aja comic book.

Still suspicious about Armand, Kate throws the Ronin suit on and breaks into his massive home to investigate. Obviously, she finds his dead body in the middle of the living room, because what else was she going discover there; we all know where this story is going. As she flees the scene of the crime, the Tracksuit Mafia shows up for round two, and this time she's even more outnumbered than before. Thankfully, Clint shows up to lend her hand and help her escape as the episode ends.

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton and Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in 'Hawkeye'
| Credit: Mary Cybulski/Marvel Studios

Whereas the first episode was focused on setting up where Kate and Clint are emotionally and putting the pieces in place, episode 2 wastes no time diving into their dynamic. As Clint leads Kate back to her apartment, Kate can't help but geek out about not only meeting her favorite Avenger, but also watching him do what he does: fight, look for tails, etc…I'll admit that I've never been a fan of Renner's Clint, but working with Steinfeld brings out something in him that makes him more compelling. Perhaps, it's the comedic contrast between Kate's youthful enthusiasm and Clint's exhaustion. I especially loved the duo's back and forth about Hawkeye's terrible branding.

The Tracksuit Mafia follows them back to Kate's apartment and set it on fire with Molotov cocktails, forcing Kate and Clint to seek refuge in Kate's aunt's vacant apartment. The more time Kate spends with Clint, the more you see why Kate idolizes him because the show highlights on what differentiates Clint from the other Avengers. Unlike most of the original seven, Clint had to learn how to bandage himself because he's a breakable human, and he shares that knowledge with Kate as she tends to her own wounds. Furthermore, when Kate asks him about his hearing aid, the show cuts to a hilarious and quick compilation of all the big, hearing-damaging explosions Clint has been near in past movies instead of simply having him deliver it via expository dialogue. It's both a funny sight gag and a nice piece of character work, drawing attention to the everyday issues Clint must contend with that his fellow heroes don't. What does this mean for Kate? Well, the lengths she's gone to train suggests how much she admires the lengths Clint, a normal human, is willing to go to protect both strangers and those he cares for.

Following the fire, Kate and Clint lose track of the Ronin suit, which winds up the hands of a firefighter who borrows it for an upcoming LARP. This leads to one of the funniest Marvel sequences because Clint is forced to join the LARP to get it back. Of course, Clint makes easy work of the other players with his foam sword; however, he essentially allows himself to be defeated in front of everyone in exchange for the firefighter returning the suit. But with the suit back in his possession, Clint moves onto the next task: Allowing himself to get captured by the Tracksuit Mafia so that he can get the bros off of Kate's back.

Meanwhile, Kate decides to act on her suspicions of Jack and interrogates him during dinner with her mom. When that doesn't work, she challenges him to fencing match, which frustrates her even more because Jack simply lets her win. After the match, Jack offers her one of Armand's monogrammed butterscotch candies, which confirms he was involved in Armand's death. Kate tries to call Clint, but he can't be reached since the Tracksuit Mafia currently has him.

So Kate grabs her bow and goes off to find Clint, who was busy messing with the Tracksuit Mafia right as Kate falls through the ceiling of their hideout. That leads to both Clint and Kate being tied up together, which wasn't the plan. As the episode ends, one of the bros tells their boss, Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox), that they're ready for them. I definitely didn't anticipate the reveal that she would be the leader of the gang.

Overall, I thought Hawkeye's first two episodes were pretty solid. I wasn't blown away by anything other than Steinfeld's performance, but they served as a fun introduction to the series and made me excited to see more. Again, I like how the writers haven't mistaken "grounded" for boring. Both Kate and Clint are definitely contend with relatively mundane problems when compared to the rest of the MCU, but the show tries to dramatize these in the most humorous way possible. B

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