Marvel Mondays – Hawkeye: Episode 1

Plot summary: Hawkeye fan Kate Bishop inadvertently gets herself entangled with a murder conspiracy, attracting the attention of the retired Clint Barton.

Notes

Episode Title: ‘Never Meet Your Heroes’

Air Date: November 24th, 2021

Directed: Rhys Thomas (1)

Written: Jonathan Igla (1)

The newsreader who announces the return of Ronin may point to a bridge between continuities, as he first appeared in the MCU at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, but before that was a regular in Daredevil and Punisher. How interesting…

Too tenuous for you? How about the hotel where the charity auction takes place being the same one Kingpin buys in Daredevil Season 3?

I actually don’t know what year it’s meant to be in this series, as Endgame moved things forward by five years into at least 2023, and many are saying this is 2024, but they clearly state Ronin hasn’t been seen in “years”, and Clint’s kids sure do look a lot older…

Apparently, there actually was an attempt at a Captain America stage musical in the 1980s, but the version we see is obviously based on Hamilton.

The clock/bell tower that Kate demolishes is named Stane Tower, presumably for Iron Man villain Obadiah Stane’s family

Recap

It’s 2012 in New York and a young Kate Bishop overhears her parents arguing. They do their best to reassure her, but moments later the Chitari invasion is unleashed on the city.

An awestruck Kate witnesses Hawkeye save her life before being scooped up by her mother and carried to safety. Unfortunately her father perished in the chaos, and at his funeral Kate vows to protect her mother.

In the present, Kate shoots an arrow at the bell of a clock tower at her university to win a bet. While she succeeds, she inadvertently makes it ring too hard, demolishing it.

Elsewhere, Clint Barton attends a showing of ‘Rogers: The Musical’ with his three children and is less than enthused about it, especially having to look at a fake Black Widow. He and the kids bail early to get dinner and pledge to have a good Christmas together.

Kate returns home for Christmas, where her mother scolds her for her reckless behaviour and cancels her credit cards. She also learns that her mother is dating family associate Jack Duquesne, which does not fill her with enthusiasm.

Forced to attend a charity auction, she rebelliously wears a tuxedo instead of a dress and chats it up with Armand Duquesne, Jack’s uncle, who spills the beans that Jack and her mother are engaged.

Angry, she begins snooping around the event, overhearing her mother and Armand arguing and decides to tail the old man, posing as a waiter to sneak into the private auction.

Among the items for sale are a triceratops skull, and the sword of Ronin (Hawkeye’s ninja vigilante alter ego), which is bought by Armand after some bickering with Jack.

Before the accompanying costume can be sold, a group of masked criminals storm the building looking for “the watch”. During the chaos, Jack pockets the sword and Kate dons the suit as a disguise and fights her way out.

During her escape she saves a one-eyed dog from being hit by a car and takes it back to her apartment, unaware some of her antics were captured by news cameras, with the Bartons being among the viewers.

Tracking Armand (she works for her mother’s security company so has access to creepy spyware), she infiltrates his expensive home only to find him dead from what appears to be a stab wound…

Fleeing the scene, she’s attacked by the Tracksuit Mafia from earlier. She does her best to fend them off but Clint swoops in and finishes them off. He confronts her and is shocked to learn a young girl is wearing his suit.

Review

Go ahead and apply a blanket statement of me enjoying the Christmas motif to every episode.

I know they won’t, but I sincerely hope that Disney cut David Aja a big fat cheque, because they leaned on the incredible aesthetic he created more heavily than any other comic book adaptation I can remember. The opening credits. The typeface. They’re sublime, but they’re his. Rhys Thomas got Matt Fraction on the payroll as a consulting producer off his own back, so I hope they find a way to send some cash Aja’s way. Heck, even the moment in the opening where it says “Based on the Marvel Comics” could have said “Based on the Marvel Comics by Matt Fraction & David Aja.”

Anyway, I thought this was the strongest first episode of any of the MCU shows to date, making good on the promise of delivering movie quality television. With some editing you could easily imagine this being the first 20 minutes of a Hawkeye movie, but there’s no bloat, and I will spend as many minutes with Kate Bishop as they’re willing to produce.

The action scenes were kept to a minimum for the pilot as most of the run-time was devoted to establishing Kate, sowing the seeds of conspiracy, and Clint’s attempts to navigate retired life. But what we got was a lot of fun, getting a lot of mileage out of the wine bottle props from the underground auction, from the gimmicky moment of Kate using a fulcrum to stomp one up into a dude’s face, to the refreshing touch of them not shattering to pieces upon touching a person. Likewise, the Tracksuit Mafia’s tough time breaking the car windows to try and get to Kate in a scene that reminded me of Bullseye’s debut in Daredevil season 3, with Kingpin trapped in a vehicle with his view obscured while wanton violence occurs outside and he can only wait for the resolution. Put a pin that…

I thought Rogers: The Musical was a great little touch to further the MCU’s post-Endgame agenda of trying to make the original Avengers feel mythical. Some of those actors aren’t coming back, and those that are will have smaller roles, with new faces facing the daunting task of filling their shoes, both in a movie star sense and in terms of the in-world story. So doing things like this impressively elaborate fake Broadway show and the impending Statue of Liberty with Cap’s shield in Spider-Man: No Way Home go a long way towards achieving that. It’s especially important here, given we all expect Kate to be the new Hawkeye by the series’ end, and to make that kind of passing of the torch story work, you need to sell the idea that the predecessor is a big deal.

To that end, showing ‘The Battle of New York’ from Avengers from yet another perspective was a great way to start the episode, with young Kate mesmerised by Hawkeye’s only memorable moment from the movie, inspiring her to use her burgeoning archery, gymnastics, fencing and martial arts enthusiasm to become a superhero. The Chitari invasion goes from a bombastic spectacle for some superheroes to mow through in slow motion, to a frenetic, terrifying thing that turns the lives of ordinary people upside down. It’s cool that you see some of them flying past in the background before the explosions start.

My only real complaint would be the clunky way we get from the auction, to Kate’s apartment, then over to Armand’s house, and then back onto the streets for the big first meeting of our two heroes. We’ll learn in episode 2 that Kate works for her mother’s security company and abuses those privileges to track people, but it wasn’t overly clear here.

Most Marvellous Player

There is a better than average chance that Hailee Steinfeld is going to run the board here, so I’ll try and highlight the runners up more than usual.

Honestly though, she deserves every bit of her ascendency to stardom because she’s charismatic as hell, able to fully engage with dramatic and comedic material with equal aplomb, and it seems she’s attacked the physical stuff with maximum vigour as well. What more could you want from an ostensible lead? I’ve been treating this series as though it is Kate’s show with a heavy dose of Clint Barton, and while that was mostly because of my distaste for Jeremy Renner, this first episode 100% adhered to my preference, likely to make sure their big debuting character gets off on the right foot. And it worked! She wears the hell out of that tuxedo, joining the ranks of famous actresses who look way better in suits than men.

Renner was about on par with his movie work, doing a good job with the trauma response to seeing the fake Black Widow on stage and trying to act like a normal human being with his family at dinner. Not the warmest of performers, but he gives it a go. He’s much better at not knowing how to deal with people recognising him.

I’m a fan of Vera Farmiga, but she’s obviously going to have to pick her spots given the heavy focus on the two Hawkeyes and action in general. I’m sure she’ll get bigger moments in future episodes, but she’s still charming here having lunch with young Kate at the start and whatnot. I don’t really know what to make of Tony Dalton, whose assignment seems to have mostly been grin like an asshole.

Simon Callow was a welcome presence in a supporting role, making a relatively innocuous conversation with Kate more engaging than it had any right to be. The mysterious whispering with Eleanor and Jack is what it is, but it’s a testament to his talent that he can essentially tell Kate that her mother ain’t shit to her face and still come across positively.

Villain Watch

The Tracksuit Mafia are one of the more gloriously idiosyncratic aspects of Fraction & Aja’s iconic book, and I was thrilled to see them pop up in the trailers. I’m even happier to know their penchant for relentlessly saying “bro” in thick Russian accents has been carried over, too. Kazi makes the briefest appearance as the one who lifts his balaclava, and is disappointingly not wearing clown makeup.

Jack Duquesne is the villainous Swordsman in the comics, but for now he is little more than a slightly douchey stepdad to Kate hinted at being involved in shady stuff with his uncle, Armand. He sure does recognise Kate in that costume, too…

Plugs

Check out The Matt Signal Beyond, in which I recap episodes of Batman Beyond every Saturday and Sunday. This weekend Shriek robs Gotham of its ability to understand spoken language, and Terry’s friend… dates a robot.

There Will Be Movies continues each Wednesday, as Ben Phillips and I talk about 25 of our favourite movies from the 90s. This week is the criminally under-awarded The Truman Show.

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Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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