Although Hawkeye/Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and his new sidekick Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) provided the show’s center, “Hawkeye” was heavily punctuated by other Marvel properties pulled into its orbit.
By the finale, that included not only Yelena (Florence Pugh) from “Black Widow,” finally sharing her grief with Clint over Natasha’s death, but the Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio), introduced in the gritty “Daredevil” series that Netflix ran from 2015-2018. Coupled with the appearance by Charlie Cox (a.k.a. Daredevil) in the current Spider-Man sequel, and in “Star Wars” terms we’re seemingly probing the outer rim of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In one key respect, the show gave part of the game away with its casting, since Vera Farmiga would be an unusually high-profile talent to squander in what had been until the penultimate episode a fairly basic role as Kate’s mom. The reveal that she was, in fact, working in cahoots with the Kingpin thus didn’t come as much of a shock, even if it did further complicate Kate’s life, and by extension the finale itself.
Indeed, even by Marvel’s standards there was a lot happening all at once, with Kate taking on the Kingpin, Clint confronting Yelena and another new character, Maya (Alaqua Cox), turning on the Kingpin’s mob.
By the time the smoke cleared the prevailing sense was one of relief, allowing the Bartons to share the Christmas that dad had fought so hard to earn before closing with a great big showstopper from the Captain America musical, which turned out to be the series’ most oddly inspired touch.
Of course, not everything that Marvel does has to be world-conquering and operatic (or even rock opera-ish) in nature, and “Hawkeye” clearly sought to provide a more grounded view than most of its brethren. As Kate told her at-first grudging mentor, his exploits taught her that “being a hero isn’t just for people who can fly or shoot lasers out of their hands.” The show also found a winning comedic pairing in Steinfeld and Pugh, whose banter brightened up the last two chapters, creating some interesting possibilities going forward.
Overall, though, “Hawkeye” really did play like the equivalent of a holiday card from Marvel to its fans. And with apologies to that catchy song, despite its share of clever moments this isn’t the kind of exercise that needs repeating anytime soon, much less do all day.