It’s hard to be a Hawkeye fan, and Disney+’s new series does not make it easier. While every MCU Disney+ show has had its ups and downs, no series has been so filled with as many downs as Hawkeye. With the season already halfway through, here are some glaring problems that are preventing Hawkeye from reaching the heights it’s aiming for.
Marvel has been able to put out a fairly consistent standard of technical ability in all its properties. One of the most impressive parts of its transition to TV making was how the CGI quality didn’t seem to waiver. But somehow that quality was completely dropped in Hawkeye. The first two episodes featured some horrendous ADR and generally poor audio mixing. Episode 3’s car chase was bogged down by a very gummy looking green screen and unfinished effects (the puddy arrow looked like it was rendered a decade earlier). The wine cellar fight scene was also edited in such a rough way that I found myself completely tuned out of the action.
The entire first half of Hawkeye feels like it was sent out after a brief, preliminary pass in every regard. The dialogue writing is not up to par, with many conversations giving a distinctly first draft vibe. Kate and Clint’s conversations crash between being surface-driven or too purposeful in an attempt to force a deeper relationship. Meanwhile, Clint’s conversations with his kids feel written by an algorithm with an approximate understanding of human speech.
Hailee Steinfeld is a great actress who has been given almost nothing to work with in this series. When she’s not stumbling through Kate’s cringey dialogue, she is trying to make something of a character that’s written in the most predictable way. Kate Bishop has always been a fun character in the comics because it’s clear she’s way too cool to be hanging out with Clint. She’s funny, witty, calm under pressure and the most competent of the Hawkeyes.
Hawkeye the show has turned Kate into a bumbling fangirl. Yes, she is still good at shooting arrows and is a skilled computer expert, but Clint is always helping her. This complete reversal of their comics dynamic takes all the interest out of their relationship. Steinfeld can still be a great Kate Bishop, but so far she’s been given a predictable and boring character to work with. It’s a profound disappointment to take out all of what makes her so fun and mold her into a much flatter and more tropey character.
Let’s be honest: no one likes Clint. Giving him a family in Avengers: Age of Ultron helped his appeal a bit, but he is still not very interesting to a wider audience. No Marvel writer or director has ever known what to do with Clint, and suddenly this under-developed character has to lead his own show. (To add insult to injury, the most recent Hawkeye character adjustment was making him a ninja serial killer that mostly targeted minorities in Avengers: Endgame so, there’s that.)
This show is obviously Hawkeye’s farewell. Black Widow teased the end is coming for him, and Kate is being built up to take his place. But no one will shed a tear at Hawkeye’s departure. He has been loaded with so many desperate and flat attempts at being interesting that now he’s just a sponge absorbing whatever trait a Marvel property needs him to have in a given scene. Funny guy? Sure, why not. Family man? Okay then. Traumatized murderer? I guess. Arrogant asshole? Fine, I give up.
Clint is whoever someone wants him to be so Clint is no one. He is not consistent in any way and not strong enough to lead a focused show about the end of his MCU tenure. Marvel only gave us 6 episodes to finally care about Clint. But to pull off that impossible feat, they would have to rework a decade of poor characterization, and Hawkeye is not a skilled enough show to do it. Just kill Clint already and get it over with.
Disney’s Hawkeye is adapting the comic Hawkeye, written by Matt Fraction with art by David Aja. It’s a wonderful story that revitalized Hawkeye as a character and was beloved for its human portrayal of a very stupid superhero. During the comics’ run, Hawkeye reconciles with the trauma of his childhood, the deep insecurities he has of being a normal guy who fights alongside gods, the way he has self-sabotaged nearly every relationship in his life, and his journey of accepting his disability. The central plot revolves around him protecting his apartment building from a predatory mafia that seeks to kick out the low-income residents for profit.
Hawkeye is a show that isn’t about humanity at all. Clint has no empathy for anyone but his own family. While many writers are to blame for his legacy of poor characterization, it becomes most frustrating when faced with such a bad adaptation of a story that is about selflessness and trying to become a better person while still being an idiot.
One of the most memorable lines in the comic is when Hawkeye says “I can’t miss.” If Hawkeye misses just once that means he’s not a superhero, he’s just a guy with a bow and arrow. That insecurity makes him more human than any other Avenger. He wants to do good so he can prove he is more than just a weapon.
Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye would never wrestle with these ideas in a meaningful way. Hawkeye tries to adapt the humor from the comic, but without the humanity underneath, it’s hollow. Fraction and Aja’s Hawkeye is a great comic, one that made people fall in love with the character. But Hawkeye is a show about tying up loose ends and setting the stage for a new decade of Marvel media. The show aimed for the head, when the essence of the material was in its heart.
Leila Jordan is the TV intern for Paste Magazine. To talk about all things movies, TV, and useless trivia you can find her @galaxyleila
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