Here I am again with the superhero shit. Although I’m not even sure Hawkeye qualifies as a superhero. He’s basically just a dude who can shoot a bow and arrow and flip bottlecaps. And take a beating. Over and over again. And, of course, do the strange low-key, hang-dog Jeremy Renner acting. To the point where you wonder if he actually has any interest in being there. It’s a long way from his frightening turn as a Boston tough in The Town. You know, back when he seemed to actually give a shit. Or maybe he’s just miffed that he is the lamest of the Marvel heroes. Or that he’s only getting a TV show and not his own feature film. I don’t know; maybe it’s a choice and he’s not, in fact, bored out of his mind and not internally suffering the indignity of playing dress up for a living.
That all said, Hawkeye is, at times, pretty entertaining. It certainly starts stronger than it finishes, but the development of Hailee Steinfeld’s character, Kate Bishop, and her relationship with Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) kind of takes over the more interesting portion of the narrative as we work our way through the series. There is just something soul-deadening about Renner’s portrayal of this family man who finds himself drawn into a Christmas adventure in NYC. And, yes, I know he’s basically playing the I’m-too-old-for-this-shit Murtaugh to Bishop’s Riggs, but it just feels at times — and maybe it’s his face more than his acting — that he really doesn’t want to be there. Not NYC away from his family, mind you, but like would rather be flipping houses in Nevada. Renner, not Clint “Haweye” Barton. But since Renner is Barton, his oddball energy seems to actively draw from the show and sap it of some of the screwball fun they’re after.
Now, are you a person who cares about plot? Well, this one isn’t going to break any new ground, nor really blow you away with its plotting. The clear goal is to pair the young upstart Hawkeye, Kate Bishop, with the old, tired Hawkeye, Clint Barton. She’s enthusiasm and light and he just wants to get home in time to eat turkey with his kids. It’s essentially any and every buddy cop movie you’ve ever seen, where they pair the rookie with the one-day-from-retirement veteran who just wants to get to his timeshare in Boca. The plot that ties them together is just a construct to get them into wacky adventures while trading quips.
In this case, Barton is in NYC with his family when a robbery of an underground auction of items recovered from the destroyed Avengers Tower go up for sale. Among the items are his Ronin suit — which for some reason is at the Avengers Tower, despite it being a suit in which he assassinated maybe 100s of people? — and a random watch. I don’t know a whole lot about the MCU, but this tracksuit mafia — a group of dudes all dressed in matching red tracksuits a la The Royal Tenenbaums — bust up the auction and steal the aforementioned watch. I watched the entire season and I still have no clue what the deal is with that watch, by the way. But, the more important item is the Ronin suit, which Clint now needs to recover in order to… what? It’s not as if his name was sewn into the thing. It’s not as if anyone knew he was Ronin. So why is it so important to recover the thing? And subsequently the watch, which has some connection to his wife, Laura (Linda Cardellini)? Well, the first thing makes him stay in NYC and meet up with Kate so they can adventure together. And the second thing seems like a giant coincidence that again begs the question: why were both or either of these items at the Avengers Tower when it was destroyed in Avengers: Age of Ultron? Anyhow, we now have the setup where the two of them must recover the items before Christmas so Clint can get back to his family to open presents. I guess?
All sorts of wackiness ensues. I won’t spoil anything, but suffice it to say we get thrown some curveballs in terms of who is a good guy and who’s a bad guy. There are lots of missing fathers — a theme that seems to dominate both the Disney and the Marvel universe — and lots of men, good or evil, looking to take their place. There’s a whole side plot on this front with a woman named Maya “Echo” Lopez (Alaqua Cox) that seems like a real stretch and almost superfluous once Black Widow’s sister, Yelena Belova, shows up. But I imagine her introduction and focus is in service of a spin-off of some sort? Not that her character — who happens to be deaf — isn’t interesting or fine, but her tie-in to the whole Hawkeye universe is really to maintain a plot point around Ronin than anything else. Her scenes and the need for her right-hand dude, Kazi (Fra Fee), to always be voicing over her sign language — and just kind of the dourness of the character — didn’t fit in with the wacky Snatch-like cartoonishness of the Tracksuit Mafia dudes she commands, or the breeziness with which others like Kate Bishop, Yelena and even Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton) — Kate’s maybe future sketchy stepdad — go about their business.
Anyhow, there are some entertaining scenes involving LARPing in Central Park. Some nice action set pieces and a cute, one-eyed dog. That I feel they could have done more with, truth be told. But the show does do that Marvel thing where it devolves into an insane final action scene where it’s almost impossible to tell what the hell is going on. The body count is pretty astronomical from what I can tell. Which, again, feels kind of antithetical to the cartoon-y nature of the dudes being killed. Also, are we really going to put murders on this young woman? We know Clint seems to have quite a bit of bloodlust, as illustrated during his Ronin days, but Kate is basically an innocent college student when this thing starts. So, it’s a little weird to have her unremorsefully straight maiming and/or killin’ dudes by the dozen a few days later. I’m just not sure how we’re supposed to feel about that. That all aside, the show is relatively entertaining, the performances, with a few exceptions, very good and the action pretty decent. The plot is definitely a little suspect, but, hey, it’s a Christmas show. And just like some of the best of the genre like Home Alone and Die Hard, the plot doesn’t have to be anything more than simple to make it a classic.