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The ‘Hawkeye’ Premiere Recap: The Clint Barton School of Mentorship

The first two episodes of the MCU’s latest TV series reintroduce an Avenger while introducing the girl who’s likely to take his place

Disney/Ringer illustration
Spoiler warning

The series premiere of Hawkeye opens in the middle of the MCU’s Battle of New York, the showdown between the Avengers and an Asgardian trickster god and his alien army that served as the climax to 2012’s The Avengers. But the scene begins far away from the heart of the fight, even far away from the arrow-slinging Avenger who finally got his own TV show. It starts in the home of a girl named Kate Bishop.

Kate is still a child living at her parents’ opulent apartment in New York City on the day of the Chitauri invasion in 2012. Before the Bishop family is aware of the chaotic scene happening outside their window, Kate’s parents are in the middle of a fight of their own, with tension building over the potential sale of their beautiful home—an issue that would be rendered trivial within a matter of minutes. The dispute boils over, but moments after Kate leaves her mom’s side, she finds herself alone, with the building caving in and a group of Chitauri soldiers flying right toward her. Her fear subsides when an arrow suddenly destroys the aliens’ cruiser, and she witnesses her savior, Hawkeye, propel himself down the side of a building with little more than a bow in hand. This is the day that Kate decided to become a superhero.

Screenshots via Disney+

The first two episodes of Hawkeye, which debuted together on Wednesday, are as much about Kate Bishop as they are about Clint Barton. The first installment, “Never Meet Your Heroes,” even skews its focus more toward Kate, serving as a bite-sized origin story for the spoiled yet gifted 22-year-old. She dreamed of being a superhero ever since her father died in the Chitauri invasion, and upon sneaking into a black market auction hidden beneath her well-connected mother’s charity event and borrowing Clint’s old Ronin suit from the inventory, she stumbles into the life overnight. Then, after the season opener concludes with Clint and Kate crossing paths for the first time, “Hide and Seek” strikes a closer balance of screen time between the two of them.

The dynamic between Barton and Bishop that begins Hawkeye is representative of Matt Fraction and David Aja’s critically acclaimed comic book series, which serves as a huge source of inspiration for the new Disney+ show. Fraction’s story arcs across his 22-issue run alternate between Clint’s adventures (and misadventures) defending his brownstone in Brooklyn and Kate’s solo journey to the West Coast, along with a number of stories shared between them—not to mention an entire comic told from the perspective of Lucky, the Pizza Dog. But what Hawkeye might be borrowing most from Fraction’s series is the efforts to bring more depth to Clint Barton, exploring what everyday life is like for one of the few Avengers with no powers or multimillion-dollar warsuits to help him fight alongside gods and Super Soldiers.

While Kate’s story begins at the Battle of New York, Clint’s resumes over a decade after it, with the now-retired Avenger watching Broadway actors perform a reenactment of the event on a stage. (After seeing Hulk smash and dance his way through the “I Can Do This All Day” number, I’m going to need to see the rest of Rogers: The Musical from the Hairspray songwriting duo immediately.) Only two years removed from the Blip, Clint is in attendance with his three children, as he does his best to give them the New York City holiday experience before they all return back home to join their mom for Christmas. As one of Earth’s mightiest heroes, Clint has become a celebrity, with all its benefits and downsides. But after years of staving off threats of alien invasions and genocidal robots, and the loss of his best friend Natasha Romanoff, the superhero life has taken a physical and emotional toll on Hawkeye. But as his dark past comes to light—thanks in large part to Kate—it’s clear that it’s not quite time for a life of normal Christmases with the family.

With the release of Hawkeye’s first two chapters, we’re already a third of the way through its quick six-episode season. Like we’ve done with past MCU TV shows, we’ll break down each episode every Wednesday. To start things off, let’s take a closer look at our two leading archers, as well as the villains who have set their sights on them.

Introducing Kate Bishop

“I know that young people think they’re invincible, and rich people think they’re invincible—and you have always been both. So, take it from someone who hasn’t: You’re not. You will get hurt, so please, don’t go out looking for it.”

These are the words of Kate’s mother, Eleanor, when her daughter returns home after accidentally destroying her college’s historic bell tower. (It is named Stane Tower, though, in a likely tribute to the disgraced Stark Industries executive, so it’s not that much of a loss, is it?) They’re also a neatly packaged introduction to Kate Bishop.

Following her father’s death during the Battle of New York, Kate vowed to always protect her mother. An animated montage during the premiere’s opening credits provides a snapshot of her childhood thereafter: Kate becoming an expert in archery, fencing, and gymnastics at a young age, even earning a black belt by the age of 15 for good measure. Thanks to her mom’s successful security company, she’s also rich enough to have her own apartment in Manhattan while she’s away at school. Yet despite having a major role at Bishop Security already lined up for her after graduation, Kate’s heart is set on doing something more than taking over the family business.

Kate’s sense of invincibility is what gets her into this whole Ronin mess in the first place, setting her on a collision course to meet her childhood idol Hawkeye. At her mom’s charity gala, Kate follows the shady uncle of her even shadier prospective stepfather after overhearing him threaten Eleanor, which leads her to a black market auction that features Clint’s old Ronin gear and other prized collectibles. When the auction is disrupted by a group of men wearing tracksuits who are seeking a watch recovered from the destroyed Avengers compound, Kate borrows the Ronin suit, knocks out a bunch of henchmen, saves a delightful pizza-loving dog, and gives the entire city the false impression that a brutal vigilante has returned after years of dormancy.

It’s fitting that Hawkeye spends most of its first episode establishing Kate as a character in the MCU, as she seems primed to succeed Clint as the world’s next Hawkeye. Marvel Studios’ Phase 4 TV shows have all been indebted to the events from the Infinity Saga; Hawkeye and Loki are similar in that they both use the Battle of New York as their opening backdrop. And yet Hawkeye takes this storytelling tactic a step further, with a new hero’s origin story hinging on one of the most transformative events of the MCU, and recycling moments seen in 2012’s The Avengers from alternate perspectives.

Despite Clint’s best efforts to avoid her and return home to his family, Kate is slowly becoming his mentee as she manages to keep getting them both into trouble. The second episode ends with Kate crashing Clint’s half-baked plan to confront the aptly named Tracksuit Mafia and their mysterious leader, setting the stage for a much-needed first lesson on how to improvise an escape plan while tied up in a sketchy warehouse full of your enemies.

Reintroducing Clint Barton

In stark contrast to Kate, Clint is well aware that he is not invincible. He now wears a hearing aid due to all the hits he’s taken over the years—yet another example of Marvel Studios exploring the consequences of the Infinity Saga, though it’s also a nod to his character in the comics. Above all else, Hawkeye emphasizes that Clint is a human with no abilities beyond being a good fighter and an incredibly skilled marksman.

Clint has always been a bit overlooked when it comes to the Avengers, a point that Hawkeye pokes fun at when Kate chalks up his lack of popularity to being a “branding issue.” The reality is that Clint really is human; Kate geeks out when the Hawkeye tells her that they need to go grab some supplies, assuming that he’ll break out some superhero secrets for her—but Clint just ends up taking her to a pharmacy to purchase Neosporin and bandages. Through two episodes, the most valuable wisdom that he’s imparted upon her is how to properly clean a wound.

Beyond Clint’s physical limitations, Hawkeye also explores the guilt and loss he feels after Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame. He’s triggered by the sight of a Black Widow actress during Rogers: The Musical, as well as a young fan of hers sitting a few rows ahead of him. With Natasha’s adopted sister, Yelena Belova, expected to appear during the series to confront him over his involvement in her death, we’ve barely scratched the surface of Clint’s grief over a friend he’d fought beside since before the Avengers had even formed.

Despite being one of the longest-standing heroes in the MCU, Clint has never been a very fleshed-out character, with much of his limited screen time working to establish his friendship with Natasha and his sudden transformation to being a family man who owns a farm. But just as Fraction did with his acclaimed comic series nearly a decade ago, the team behind Hawkeye is giving Clint more of a personality and his world more depth. It’s only fitting that that effort begins with a lot of bandages, a family vacation gone awry, and a bit of live-action role-playing for the guy who brings a bow to every apocalyptic gunfight.

And, of Course, the Villains

As advertised, Hawkeye is already shaping up to be a series with a bunch of villains hunting down Kate and Clint thanks to the resurfacing of what Mrs. Barton refers to as Clint’s “problematic wardrobe.” And at least as far as Kate is concerned, Jack Duquesne is chief among them.

Jack is about to become Kate’s stepfather, but as Kate is quick to point out, he has something to hide, and it’s unclear how aware Eleanor is of his potential criminal ties. Like the complicated character from the comics on whom he is based, Jack is a skilled swordsman—an important piece of information that Kate manages to find out after sparring with him during a testy evening in the second episode. From the brief, antagonistic conversations he had with his late uncle Armand, Jack seems to have ulterior motives for marrying the wealthy Eleanor Bishop. And when you add in the fact that he stole Ronin’s sword from the black market auction on the same night that Armand was killed by a sword, it’s safe to say Kate’s suspicions are warranted.

However, the only villains she and Clint should be worried about by the end of “Hide and Seek” are the blundering bros known as the Tracksuit Mafia—a group of vaguely Slavic bad guys who were created during Fraction’s Hawkeye run. They’re harmless enough in Clint’s eyes to let him whip up a pretty weak “catch-and-release” strategy to get kidnapped by them in order to clear the air with their boss, but Kate’s meddling has complicated the situation. Worse still, Clint seems unaware of the looming threat at the head of this crime syndicate: Maya Lopez.

The second episode ends with a tease of Lopez, a deaf superhero known as Echo in the comics. All we know for now is that Maya ordered her Tracksuit minions to storm the black market auction for a watch, and that Clint did something to really piss her off while he was masquerading around in the Ronin outfit years ago. For someone who’s a hero in the comics, and who was just announced as having an upcoming spinoff show in the works, being the head of a criminal posse is a fascinating starting point for the new character. Just like Clint’s still-mysterious adventures as Ronin have yet to be revealed in full, Maya’s story still has plenty of time to come into focus, as the MCU’s past and future meet in Hawkeye.