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‘Hawkeye’ review: The perfect Avengers story (so far) for the holiday season

Does ‘Hawkeye’ bring anything new to the MCU?

Kate Bishop in “Hawkeye.”
Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) in “Hawkeye.”
Disney+

We’ve seen a lot of new Marvel Cinematic Universe content the last few months.

In 2021 alone, we saw “WandaVision,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Loki,” “What If...?,” “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” and “Eternals.”

Three feature films and four Disney+ projects all jampacked into one year (largely thanks to the coronavirus pandemic delaying everything).

That’s a lot of Marvel.

So, to close out the year, Marvel Studios has brought you one more show — a Christmas wrapped buddy-cop comedy show in the form of “Hawkeye,” telling the story of Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) being stuck in New York City for the holidays. At the same time, he must mentor the young Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), a huge Hawkeye and Avengers fan who is trying to find her place in the world.

By now, you might be exhausted with all the Marvel content. You might even be behind with all the shows and movies and rumors — not to mention those “Spider-Man” trailers.

But “Hawkeye” is a refreshing return to Marvel Cinematic Universe, which blends a genre rarely seen in the MCU (Christmas) with the return of a classic hero in Hawkeye. And it could not have come at a better time.

Much of the MCU’s 2021 run has been centered on the mystic, the magical and the multiverse. After “Avengers: Endgame,” the MCU has taken on the bigger challenge of multiverses and alternate timelines. We’ve seen this in “WandaVision” and “Loki,” with more expected in “Spider-Man: No Way Home” and “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

We’ve also focused on new characters. “Shang-Chi” introduced us to the MCU’s newest Avenger in Shang-Chi, and “Eternals” gave us 11 new characters to meet.

After seeing all this cosmic and confusing content — packed with theories, speculation and more — it’s fun to see an older MCU veteran back in the main storyline. “Hawkeye” feels very much like a return to the old MCU, one not layered with too many characters or universe-ending concepts. “Hawkeye,” in a sense, is simple — stop the bad buys so that a dad can make it home for Christmas.

But at the same time, the show brings us a new character who is going through her own origin story. “Hawkeye,” really, is about Kate Bishop. And she’s an awesome addition to the Marvel canon. Steinfeld excels in the role, bringing wit, spunk, aggression and strength. She’s confident throughout, much like the comic book version of her character. She deserves to be the new Hawkeye if that’s where this series is going. Bishop, who has already worked herself into the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s list of top characters, needs to be a future Avenger or a Young Avenger, either way. I love the possibilities of her teaming up with Shang-Chi or the Eternals in future films, representing the new era of the MCU.

The Oscar-winning actor Renner does an excellent job in his MCU return, too. We never saw too much of him in MCU movies, so now he has a chance to grow and breathe a bit. Much like “Black Widow,” Marvel has decided to give its original Avengers who didn’t get their own film time to tell their story. The film definitely leans into Hawkeye’s comedic skills, which were hinted at throughout the MCU before but never fully explored. It almost feels as though previous directors and scriptwriters never knew how to handle this MCU-version of Hawkeye ... until now. He has a great back-and-forth with Steinfeld, and Renner brings a gentleness to the role that works well as he becomes a mentor for Bishop.

What doesn’t work? Well, it’s a good thing “Hawkeye” gives us the first two episodes together in the premiere. The first episode did not work on its own. There’s also a lot of questions thrown into the fire with a lot of loose threads to tie up. That’s not a bad idea for a TV show, but also a risk if people don’t remember everything thrown at them every week. As I said, the beauty of this show is in its simplicity. Complicated storylines could hinder the it down the road.

In a similar light, there are also a lot of villains, thugs and enemies to keep track of in these opening episodes. This appears to become more centralized later, but there are a lot of moving parts to watch and keep track of.

That said, this show has a simple idea — stop the bad guys and get back home for Christmas. This show, like previous MCU films before it, recognizes that there are plenty of on-the-ground issues to deal with in the world, not just the cosmic destruction of the universe or an invasion of aliens. Sometimes it’s just getting home in time for dinner or trying to navigate the world without a credit card.

“Hawkeye” is a nice return to Earth after all the cosmic stuff we’ve seen lately. It’s a reminder of why you fell in love with the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the first place. And, so far, it appears to be a television holiday classic you can rewatch every year.