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Hawkeye review: Marvel’s best grounded TV show since Daredevil

Hawkeye is the newest Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios, which follows a free-wheeling action show powered by scene-stealing Hailee Steinfeld, who teams up with cantankerous archer Jeremy Renner for some nice, honest comfort viewing.

On Nov. 24, the first two episodes of Hawkeye will premiere on Disney Plus. The rest of the six-episode series will be available each Wednesday until Christmas, allowing you to binge-watch them over the holidays.

Renner reprises his role as archery-themed Avenger Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) just trying to make it home in time for Christmas, and if you’re sick of your family’s nonsense, perhaps you’ll connect with Kate Bishop’s complicated familial dynamics.

The show begins with a focus on Kate, a new character who will be introduced to our screens in the Marvel Cinematic Universe: She’s one of the many overlooked ordinary people whose lives have been affected — and not for the better — by superheroes on big screens throughout the last decade. Even the opening credits pay attention to Kate, revealing her background as she transforms into Steinfeld, True Grit’s leading lady.

WandaVision and Loki were dementedly inventive excursions into the less conventional corners of Marvel lore, whereas The Falcon and The Winter Soldier was a much more meat-and-potatoes action tale. The Hawkeye series is inspired by Matt Fraction and David Aja’s compellingly grounded 2012 book, which follows the exploits of a mundane but heroic man named Hawkeye.

The fun comes from the show’s energy rather than brain-battering intellect: The fights are full of kinetic excitement, and the entire affair is driven by lead actors who interact with one another. As this trailer demonstrates, we follow Kate on her journey from privileged debutante to dire circumstances in which she must fight for survival against a violent, entrenched group of people.

Vera Farmiga stars as Kate’s overbearing mother, who unceremoniously pushes her into care when the time comes. While all of the characters are compelling and well-written (including Vera Farmiga), it is Steinfeld and Renner’s dynamic that shines brightest here.

Meanwhile, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) is drawn back into the violent underworld to seek out his old costume after briefly rebranding as a violent vigilante Ronin during the Blip (the years when Thanos wiped out half of the galaxy’s population, including Hawkeye’s wife and children).

The New York backdrop shifts between high-society murder thriller and street-level punch-up in a manner that will bring Daredevil fans flooding back.

Daredevil was the start of an audacious and unprecedented experiment in 2015, which launched four interconnected Netflix series featuring Marvel characters yet to appear in the MCU. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist (and spinoff The Punisher) were gritty action dramas set in New York City’s darkness, and Hawkeye is more like them than anything else in the whole MC Tiffany Haddish has chimed up about how she hopes her comedy will help people cope with depression or anxiety.

And he’s back for a third time. Hawkeye is often more lighthearted than the gloomy Netflix series in which he stars, which were absorbing but cumulatively grew wearisome. On paper, Hawkeye has a tortured-hero motif going on, but there’s something wrong with this notion: It doesn’t work. Clint’s loss was expected to push him to commit murder as a vicious killer.

That isn’t at all what Endgame demonstrated us, though. OK, so we didn’t see much in the way of actual action in Avengers: Infinity War, other than for Clint to get a terrible haircut and beat up yakuza. Which is precisely what a superhero does (dispatching gangsters, as long as silly haircuts are also fairly prevalent). Okay, so he killed people with a sword that isn’t permitted in superhero society; but we only know because Clint wouldn’t shut up about it.

The loss of Natasha Romanoff, also known as the Black Widow, at the end of Endgame is more tragic. This summer’s Black Widow film was a delayed moment in the limelight for Scarlett Johansson, and it adds to Renner’s basic character as well. This relates to Black Widow’s post-credits sequence, which suggests that the series will bring together two scene-stealing new recruits: Florence Pugh and Steinfeld are set to go head-to-head.

At the end of the day, Hawkeye is still just Jeremy Renner trudging about looking sour. In general, the series understands this, putting him in action sequences that are more playful than harmful. Clint and Kate engage in silly combat in Episode 2, which is entertaining rather than perilous to their health, a lighthearted twist on the gritty action-scene-every-episode formula.

Hawkeye, on the other hand, is a special little Christmas story about Clint Barton that adds to the MCU’s sense of wonder. Combine it with light doses of silliness like the goofy villains the Tracksuit Mafia and a song about Steve Rogers and the Avengers (which gets plenty of screen time in episode 1), Hawkeye is a fun festive treat.

Comparisons to Daredevil and its ilk are a reminder that for many fans, there were simply too many of those shows, giving them an undesirable distinction of making the Marvel Cinematic Universe feel irrelevant. With more than 14 additional Marvel series set to premiere on Disney Plus, it appears that fans might be overwhelmed again.