All Clint Barton wants is to get home for the holidays, but Disney+’s Hawkeye is so much fun you might just hope he gets stuck in New York City a little while longer. Giving longtime Marvel Studios star Jeremy Renner his first-ever title role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the series pairs Clint up with Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop and sends them on a charming adventure that’s perfect for all seasons.
Inasmuch as Hawkeye takes its title from Clint’s codename, the Disney+ series is just as much Kate’s story, if not more so. Much of the first two episodes is dedicated to setting up Kate’s personality and home life, which — in turn — makes her the perfect foil for Clint. Where Clint is grumpy and tired, Kate shines with effervescent enthusiasm; while he wants nothing more than to get back home to his family, she couldn’t feel more distant from hers even when she’s standing in the same room.
The Odd Couple is a familiar trope, but a time-tested one. It works well here, while also providing a launchpad that allows Steinfeld to really hit the ground running. Both characters feel fuller and more lived-in when they can bounce off each other, which — in turn — makes room for Renner and Steinfeld to really play with their quirks. This also lays a strong foundation for Clint and Kate’s relationship, which unfolds in an engaging and surprisingly sweet way. Hawkeye really leans into the (albeit begrudging) mentor role Clint took up for Wanda Maximoff in Avengers: Age of Ultron, and the Disney+ series is all the better for it.
On the flip side, Hawkeye really gives focus to Kate’s relationship with her mother Eleanor, played sublimely by Vera Farmiga. The show crackles whenever Steinfeld and Farmiga share a scene together. Although it’s never explicitly stated, Kate and Eleanor have a lot of tension in their relationship, which is balanced out by a deep, abiding love. They share pauses that linger just a little too long, and soft glances express an affection they aren’t quite comfortable enough to speak. There is a lot of history here that Hawkeye has only just begun to uncover, and Steinfeld and Farmiga’s superb performances make that clear. It’s a gorgeous dance that is sure to enchant viewers as Kate’s story unfolds.
In this, Hawkeye absolutely trusts its audience to pick up on subtle clues and nuances. The show has plenty of dialogue, but it never feels the need to explain itself. Clint’s slouched shoulders and a series of quick cuts betray his discomfort with the Rogers: The Musical performance he attends with his family. When his Ronin suit resurfaces in NYC, he doesn’t unload his tragic backstory; his face says it all. He simply swings into action amid circumstances that betray just how important this mission is to him. Likewise, Kate’s discomfort with Jacques Duquesne comes across through body language before she utters a single barb. A lot of Hawkeye’s setup across the first two episodes relies heavily on its visuals, which makes it subtler than some Marvel fare, but that will just make the viewers thirsty for more of the story and these characters.
That isn’t to say Hawkeye is an entirely serious piece. On the contrary, the Disney+ show is packed with plenty of heart and humor, from Pizza Dog and the hilarious incompetence of the Tracksuit Draculas to Clint’s situational gags and Kate’s many quips. It would be remiss not to mention writer Matt Fraction and artist David Aja, whose beloved comic book series so clearly influenced the show both in tone and story. Fans of that series will be thrilled at the way Hawkeye adapts this seminal run, which also offers newcomers an easy way into the comics. Hawkeye owes a lot to Fraction and Aja, even as it charts its own path in a way unique to TV and cinema.
What’s more, the holiday setting adds a little extra flair to Hawkeye. As the MCU’s first story revolving around the holidays, that immediately sets it apart from all the Marvel projects that came before it. The holidays serve as an excellent reason to bring all these characters together, while setting up some deeply personal stakes for Clint. Hawkeye is even better — and all that more charming — for rooting its story during the holiday season in NYC.
Stuffed with humor and heart, Hawkeye has a lot to offer MCU fans new and old. Renner and Steinfeld will charm viewers right off their feet with their easy, breezy chemistry, while the mystery at the series’ core will keep them coming back week after week. Indeed, Hawkeye is a series that rewards multiple viewings — if only to catch all the subtleties in the show’s performances and relationships. Disney+’s Hawkeye is sure to be Marvel fans’ new favorite holiday tradition.