'Hawkeye' Review: Jeremy Renner & Hailee Steinfeld Hit The Target In The Delightful, Joyful Holiday Series

“Hawkeye,” the new Disney+ streaming series, fills a void in the Marvel Cinematic Universe much like its title character does in the Avengers. It doesn’t have any flashy, Earth-shattering concepts (unlike “Loki,” “What If?” or the upcoming “Spider-Man: No Way Home”). This isn’t a series that will forever change how you think of the MCU (like “Eternals”). It’s the TV show equivalent of a guy with arrows fighting against an alien invasion—it tries its best and only succeeds based solely on its likeability and heart. 

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After finally reuniting with his family after the events of “Avengers: Endgame,” Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), aka Hawkeye, is just trying to enjoy a Christmas vacation in New York City with his three kids. They go to an Avengers-inspired musical (much to the chagrin of Clint) and even for a nice Chinese food dinner to discuss their next holiday-inspired adventures. However, that lovely family time is interrupted when Clint sees a vision from his past, Ronin (the murderous character he played at the beginning of ‘Endgame’) is causing issues in NYC. How could Ronin, the character Clint became during the dark time after Thanos’ snap, be out and about when the costume is safely locked away at the Avengers facility? Enter Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who drags Clint into a madcap adventure right around the Christmas holiday involving gangs, the uber-wealthy, and the hunt for that aforementioned ninja suit. 

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An MCU fan wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that “Hawkeye” has the makings of a smaller-scale Marvel tale. That’s what happens when you focus the story on the family man Avenger, who doesn’t have a suit of armor or god-like powers. And honestly, the small-scale hijinks seen in the first two episodes of “Hawkeye” (the two given to critics for review) are precisely what the doctor ordered after all the multiversal shenanigans and Celestial-happenings of 2021’s other Marvel Studios efforts. Watching “Hawkeye” is like putting on your Christmas pajamas and sitting by a fire. It’s not the most exciting, challenging thing you can experience, but it’s never going to disappoint you, with its warm and cozy feelings.

And that warm and cozy feeling primarily comes from the chemistry between Clint and Kate. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are just fantastic together, playing a slightly new take on the old-fashioned grizzled vet and doe-eyed new person buddy-cop trope. Steinfeld, in particular, is a joy to watch on screen, making it seem as if she was born to play in the quippy, action-packed world of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every moment she is on screen, she brings a joy and charm to her character, which is infectious. Even in a show that seems to follow a fairly predictable story, up until now, you never find yourself bored because Steinfeld and Renner are just having a blast together on screen.

Speaking of Renner, outside of his brief scene-stealing moments in “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” this is the best we’ve seen the actor do as Clint Barton in the MCU. He’s able to play on all the vital parts of his character—the family man humanity, the old curmudgeon-y grunts, and the dad jokes—without having to get lost in the mix with the rest of his A-list costars. Just wait until you see grumpy Clint Barton interacting with LARPers in the park. It’s just so much fun, and something that couldn’t happen to any of the other Avengers. And because we don’t have world-ending stakes, Hawkeye is finally able to use his fighting ability and trick arrows in a way that feels appropriate and badass. 

Credit has to go to the creative team (directors Rhys Thomas and Bert & Bertie, as well as head writer Jonathan Igla) for also taking advantage of the Christmas setting in the best possible ways. Unlike the pseudo-Christmas vibe of “Iron Man 3,” it’s clear “Hawkeye” is embracing all the joy and wonder of such a classic film and TV setting. Christmas songs, cold weather, lights in New York City, all of it are just spot-on in creating the vibe that works for this story. This just makes “Hawkeye” the perfect holiday series to play during holiday family gatherings to please just about anyone. 

However, lower stakes and joyous chemistry between the two leads don’t solve all of the issues “Hawkeye” has. When it comes to the supporting characters, they seemingly serve more as plot points than people. Even someone as great as Vera Farmiga, who plays Kate Bishop’s mother, Eleanor, is hardly given any chance to really shine. And without seeing exactly where this story is going, it’s easy to speculate that fans are in for another “it was me all along” villain reveal towards the end, which seems like a Marvel trope we can happily move past by now. 

Perhaps Kate Bishop puts it best when she says people are sick of “dark, cynical” superheroes and are looking for “people with heartfelt sincerity” to help them. This is exactly what “Hawkeye” brings to the MCU and to 2021, in general. Sure, there are serious stakes. Yes, people can and will get hurt. But in a world where doom and gloom seem to be all over our media, “Hawkeye” uses the character’s best superpower to save the day—heart. And sometimes that’s all you need. [B+]

“Hawkeye” debuts on Disney+ on November 24.