The latest Marvel show is at its best when it doesn't try to be a part of the MCU, but instead does something new.
Those of you who have read my Norwegian reviews of WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and What If...? know that I'm on the more positive side compared to quite a few others, but even I think the shows rely a bit too much on nostalgia and MCU tropes. That's why the first two episodes of Hawkeye are far more interesting than I feared, even if they can't make up their mind with what they want to focus on.
Because it's obvious that Marvel is well aware of the fact that Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, usually is the last Avenger to be mentioned if you ask someone to name everyone in the group. Many of us have just found him to bland with a stoic personality up until Avengers: Endgame. These first two episodes don't throw all of that out the window, but instead play around with it by both toning it down while also pairing him with a Kate Bishop that is basically the complete opposite. Hailee Steinfeld does a marvellous job as the very playful, charming and direct young woman who finally meets her idol after getting unwanted attention from some of Barton's enemies by opening old wounds. The contrast between her and the cynical Hawkeye who just wants to enjoy Christmas with his family without being asked for selfies and reminded of previous events creates a terrific dynamic comparable to some of the best buddy cop movies.
Jeremy Renner can take some of the credit for this as well, as he finally gets to show of more of his chops by going from being his old serious self to enjoying life a bit more, whether its because he is pretty much forced to in order to complete his objective or due to Bishop's energy rubbing off on him. Even the serious moments are more comedic because the show doesn't take it or him too seriously, which is a great change of pace. Sure, some of them end up feeling a bit forced, but the vast majority at least made me smile or chuckle.
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One of the problems with this approach is that it takes time for the story to really get going and removes any sense of danger and drama. I barely found myself especially excited for where the story was going until the last ten seconds of episode two. Seeing how Bishop's complicated relationship with her step dad, Barton's need to put his hero days behind him and the duo's dynamic is interesting, but rarely goes past being good fun and okay action. How is it possible that a show focused on two fantastic archers and sword-wielders so far only have fired a handful of arrows and offered fairly ordinary hand-to-hand combat (even if a couple of uses of the environments are cool)? The tone also makes it clear that none of our beloved characters are in real danger. Those of you who need teases for MCU's future will also be disappointed until the very end of the second episode.
That's why it's difficult to make up my opinion about Hawkeye right now. While I really enjoy the show's light-hearted nature and fundamental story in, the show just can't seem to make up its mind whether it wants to follow the traditional MCU formula or not. This disturbs the flow of the show, as the best moments happen when the two Hawkeye's are allowed to just play around with their dynamic and don't take themselves or the otherwise tense situations seriously. These scenes are more than enough to make me long for the rest of the season, however, because it's refreshing to just get some simple fun without having to think about how they're connected to everything else.