Hawkeye Is the Latest Marvel Show about Grief
Based on the glimpse of Disney+’s Hawkeye offered to critics (two episodes, with my email address watermarked over everyone’s facial expressions), there’s a pattern in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s television shows that have started to air on its parent company’s streaming service, Disney+, this year. WandaVision, Captain America and the Winter Soldier, and now Hawkeye: They seem to be where the storytelling machine is parking the fallout. Marvel’s movies keep getting larger in scale—half the world’s population winked out of existence, etc.—and the movies simply aren’t long enough to keep up with the losses inflicted on the ever-expanding cast of characters.
So we have these interstitial shows where a character or two from the movies are stuck in a rut. A cul-de-sac away from the dramatics of saving the world, these shows can be a little different from the movies—aesthetically, thematically, tonally, there’s more room to explore these characters. And mostly we catch them when they are overcome by what they’ve lost. WandaVision was explicitly about grief, and Captain America and the Winter Soldier had the leads rebuilding their own identities in the wake of personal loss. Hawkeye, in the first few minutes, has Jeremy Renner‘s Clint gazing at an actor dressed like Black Widow, grousing to himself about how Rogers: The Musical doesn’t get the Battle of New York right. He seems a distant and preoccupied. When a spunky girl shows up with an intense amount of private training in the arts of war—Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop—his primary reaction is to be fed up by the burden of having to deal with her.
All around Clint, though, Hawkeye is having fun. The series was loosely inspired by the excellent Matt Fraction and David Aja run of Hawkeye comics, and some of that fun makes its way into the show. The series is particularly interested in Clint navigating the Avengers fandom, which takes on several absurd forms in the episodes I saw. Steinfeld is a spirited Kate, and in her family, Kate’s mom (Vera Farmiga) and almost stepdad (Tony Dalton) are wealthy, entertaining types giving baroque performances. And although Fraction is only a consulting producer on the show—brought in not by Marvel, but by director and executive producer Rhys Thomas, after an introduction brokered by Seth Meyers—the zing of his writing makes it through the show in some filtered way, even though the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye is a remarkably different character from the Renner Hawkeye.
I do have some concerns. Hawkeye makes much of it being the Christmas season—so much so that by the second episode I felt already weary of the jingling of sleigh bells. The holiday spirit, coupled with the overarching grief themes, suggest truly saccharine possibilities. It’s heightened by Clint’s calls home to Linda Cardellini, as Hawkeye’s wife, who seems to only exist inside the living room of her cozy home, protected from the indignities of New York City. The contrast between Laura and Kate, like it was between Laura and Natasha Romanoff, is clear, but the MCU has mined that in the past to dramatically poor results. At least Hawkeye has atmosphere in spades and the refreshing presence of Steinfeld to set itself up for telling Clint’s story on a more human—and less superhuman—scale.
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Published at Wed, 24 Nov 2021 17:00:00 +0000