Review: Hawkeye – The Kate Bishop Origin Story

Before you read on, this retrospective review of Hawkeye does contain spoilers from its first episode to the last, so you’ve been warned. My understanding of comic books is quite limited. In truth, my knowledge of the comic book world, particularly regarding Marvel, encompasses everything I’ve seen from the MCU, and perhaps some small tidbits from what others have told me. It’s impossible for me then to sit down and become critical of every little detail of a Marvel production concerning its source material. I take what I’m given on the screen, whether that be in the cinema or the comfort of my home. Marvel’s latest entry into the ever-expanding cinematic universe is Hawkeye, available on Disney+.

The six-part series focuses on Jeremy Renner’s aforementioned bow slinger and his new headstrong and goofy partner, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). Ghosts of Hawkeye’s past threaten to resurface as a new enemy emerges seeking revenge for her father’s death, at the hands of Hawkeye’s vigilante alter ego Ronin. This is Maya Lopez, or otherwise known by her superhero pseudonym, Echo. With her brother, Kazi, they head up the Tracksuit Mafia, a Russian street gang who would excel at stand-up comedy over mobster work. In the much later back half of the series, Natasha Romanoff’s sister Yelena Belova, a Black Widow assassin, returns in the wake of her sister’s death. In much the same way Clint finds himself caught up in New York’s Rockefeller Christmas Tree, various subplots become tangled as the series builds to a resolution, and this is where Hawkeye, despite everything wonderful about it, starts to buckle and stumble across the finish line.

Yelena Belova, first seen in Black Widow, is recruited by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine to kill Clint Barton. We learn Contessa’s client was Eleanor Bishop, Kate’s mother. This sets up the premise for Hawkeye nicely. The conflict to come between the Black Widow assassin and Barton was one I was particularly excited for, and it was a showdown that ultimately, left me disappointed. We had to wait until the final minutes of Episode 4 for Yelena to make an appearance, and longer yet for their inevitable showdown. After a ten-minute fight in the season finale, Barton reminds Yelena of their relationship and her part in saving the universe. Yelena spares him and walks away. Instead, we were made to suffer through a weakly intriguing subplot concerning Kate’s mother, Eleanor Bishop, her fiancé Jack Duquesne (the wonderful Tony Dalton), a grisly murder, a money-laundering scheme for the Tracksuit Mafia through a shell corporation headed up by Duquesne, and a predictable twist that reveals Eleanor as the true mastermind behind it all.

Hawkeye. (Pic: Disney+/Marvel).

Following the death of her first husband, Derek, in the Battle of New York, Eleanor allied with Kingpin to pay off his debts, killing Simon Callow’s Armand Duquesne III (what a title), subsequently framing Dalton’s Duquesne (Armand’s nephew) for the murder and supposed dodgy dealings with the company). With Kate and Clint closing in on the truth, Eleanor hires Yelena to kill Clint. The story works well enough, but I can’t help but imagine Yelena’s arc for vengeance would have worked better. On reflection, Yelena should have been made front and centre in this series, which leads me to my biggest qualm with Hawkeye. It’s an odd feeling, but this series didn’t entirely feel like a Hawkeye series, despite Jeremy Renner in the lead role. In actual fact, it felt like a Kate Bishop origin story, and not a Hawkeye series. Kate Bishop is the story they should have told, and it felt like it was the story they wanted to tell. Throughout, I struggled to get away from the feeling that Kate was the show’s true lead character, a novice archer mentored by Hawkeye in much the same way Tony Stark mentored Tom Holland’s Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Homecoming. That should have been the pitch.

Vincent D’Onofrio makes a welcome return as Kingpin, established in Drew Goddard’s Daredevil. As the head of the Tracksuit Mafia, D’Onofrio was sadly underplayed, making his only full appearance in the season finale. If there’s another series on the horizon, then it’d stand to reason that Kingpin could serve as the next major antagonist. Now I’m imagining a Hawkeye/Daredevil and Kate Bishop team-up to take on Kingpin. Clint returns home for Christmas Day with Kate and Lucky the adorable one-eyed dog, where we discover the watch stolen from the black auction market belongs to Clint’s wife, Laura. Engraved on the watch reads the number 19, which may establish a connection to Agent 19, otherwise known as Mockingbird, a SHIELD agent.

The Ronin arc is bought to an end as Clint and Kate burn the suit, Eleanor is arrested for Armand’s murder, Kingpin may or may not be dead, while Yelena and Clint’s relationship, going forward, appears to be on thin ice (quite literally). Hawkeye doesn’t always hit the target, particularly from a narrative standpoint. The inclusion of Yelena and Kingpin so late in the story leaves something to be desired, while Renner and Steinfeld’s chemistry was nothing short of infectious and perfect, the latter’s performance as budding archer Kate Bishop teemed with healthy doses of humour, charm, and a fearsome attitude that makes her a worthy candidate for the Avengers. What did you think of Hawkeye? Give us your thoughts in the comment section below!

Kate Bishop. (Pic: Disney+/Marvel).
Matt Bailey

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