HAWKEYE Episode 1 & 2 Review - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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HAWKEYE Episode 1 & 2 Review

Hannah sees if Hawkeye hits the mark…
This may come as a surprise to everyone, but since I first delved into the Marvel Universe as a child, Hawkeye has always been my favourite Avenger. Something to do with his origin story being the most ‘human’ of the Avengers helped sell the idea that superheroes don’t necessarily need to have an abundance of money or magical powers and could, therefore, feasibly exist in our reality. So, you’ll forgive me for being a bit miffed when Clint was pretty much only used as a background character unless the plot demanded otherwise for all three existing phases of the cinematic universe.

But hurray! July 2019 brought us news that Marvel were developing a Hawkeye series for Disney+ with Jeremy Renner returning and a whole two years and a pandemic later, it’s finally here. I can’t wait to settle in and watch them finally flesh out my favourite circus performer (Yeah, you heard me Dick Grayson).

Wait, the show’s actually about introducing Kate Bishop to the canon? Oh.

The series opens watching the battle of New York from young Kate Bishop’s perspective. We see Hawkeye heroically fighting the Chitauri on the roof of a skyscraper and saving Kate’s life before gracefully falling off said skyscraper and taking his fragile human self out of the fight. All Kate sees, however, as she adjusts to the harsh reality of no Daddy and a cold, distant (albeit rich) Mother, is a hero.

Kate is, for all intents and purposes, the antithesis of Clint. Hawkeye was forged in fire, with Clint fighting with every inch of his being to become somebody he could bare to look at in the mirror: a hero. Kate, however, with her relatively luxurious upbringing seems to think, like everything else in her life, the title should be handed to her. You can certainly see where the series is trying to go by having them ‘team-up’.

If you were doubtful after the cold open that Marvel’s intent was to make Hawkeye the Kate Bishop show, then the opening credits will clarify it for you. Gorgeous though they are. The playful silhouettes and colour palettes reflect Kate’s naivety perfectly and I like the idea that the opening credits are what Kate imagined while she played ‘Avengers’ in the playground as a child.

It is worth pointing out the credit sequence and marketing designs have caused significant controversy. In an effort to give the look and feel of the Hawkeye run the show was adapted from, the production team pretty much lifted from page to screen and failed to pay the original artist, David Aja, leaving some fans to boycott the show entirely. It’s certainly not the first example of Marvel offering up a ‘special thanks’ whilst failing to cut a check, but it’s certainly their most brazen.

Anyway, back to Christmas 2024, and Clint is making the most of having his children returned to him. We get to see the big act one finale of Rogers: The Musical, in which Ant-man gets a shout-out over Hawkeye despite not being present at the battle of New York. The first of many jokes about nobody giving a shit about Hawkeye. Jeez, raise your hand if you’ve ever been personally victimized by the Marvel writing team. Just me and Clint? Sounds about right.

At this point, we find out that the cinematic universe Clint finally echoes his comic-book counterpart and after many years of eardrum abuse is now wearing hearing aids. This is a moment I have been wating for and yet it comes across somewhat bittersweet. Would it have killed Marvel to have him hearing impaired from the beginning? Clint’s hearing loss is part of his backstory and not something that should be used as a plot device as it seemingly is here. I’ve had an image in my head since the first Avengers was announced of the group arguing over something banal and Clint just reaching up and popping his hearing aid out. It didn’t need to be a big deal, just a nod. I’m not angry, Marvel, I’m just disappointed…

Meanwhile, Kate is very unhappy that she’s about to have a stepdad and after spying on his uncle (beautifully portrayed by Simon Callow) tricks her way into a secret rich people auction which is then crashed by ‘The Tracksuit Mafia’, a delightfully comedic entry into the Marvel Villain Hall of Fame. They are there to steal a watch and although we don’t know whose watch it is, it certainly seems like it’s going to be important to the plot.

As important to the plot, however, is Clint’s alter-ego, Ronin, whose suit and sword are also up for auction and conveniently donned by Kate to fend off the Mafia in an attempt to conceal her own identity (a futile attempt, we come to realise). It is from here that Kate’s motivations become dubious at best. The show attempts to portray her Mother’s fiancé Jack as a conniving villain who is up to no good, and Kate as our heroine desperate to uncover the man’s evil deeds. All I see, however, is a rich Daddy’s girl who doesn’t want anyone to replace her Father. Jack is certainly weird and is probably linked to the show’s true antagonist, but Kate has no reason to believe that Jack is behind the Mafia’s appearance, or indeed, the untimely demise of Armand. Even taking the monogrammed butterscotch into account (something the director really wanted us to do), Armand was Jack’s Uncle. Who hasn’t got sweets from relatives?

It seems this plotline was reverse engineered to allow Hawkeye and Kate to meet, as Clint decides to sweep in and clean up Ronin Kate’s mess. After saving her life twice, he fathers her for a bit before setting off to put an end to this nonsense once-and-for-all; starting by reclaiming Ronin’s suit, which apparently meets regulatory requirements for the local LARPing event.

Our friend at Warped Factor, Alexander Wallace recently expressed his relief at Disney+ hit ‘Free Guy’ and its realistic portrayal of modern gaming. I wish I could say the same about their portrayal of LARPing, instead I am forced to echo Clint’s sentiments ‘I’m begging you. Kill me.’ As I am once again forced to endure a played-out stereotype of a beloved pastime. It’s regretful that a comic book adaptation would choose to reduce something so quintessential to its own nerd culture into a tired cliché, but there we are.

Episode two ends with Kate failing a rescue mission on Clint’s seemingly successful Catch and Release mission, but all is not what it seems, and it looks like the Tracksuit Mafia have got a new leader. Me and the rest of the comic fans were left squealing at the reveal of Alaqua Cox’s debut into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but for those of you that are experiencing these characters for the first time, sit back and enjoy.

Preferring the company of fictional characters to living, breathing people; it should come as no surprise that Hannah is a connoisseur of all things geek. Whilst their body resides in the capital of Wales, their heart resides in Middle-Earth and their mind remains firmly lodged in the memory of that embarrassing thing they did when they were eight.

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