Skip to main content

Hawkeye review: A great start as Hailee Steinfeld steals the show

Here's what we love (and don't) in our spoiler-free review

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner star in Hawkeye
(Image: © Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

Our Verdict

The Hawkeye show looks to be setting up another Avenger, with a fun holiday season story.

For

  • Hailee Steinfeld impresses as Kate Bishop
  • Jeremy Renner gets more room to explore Clint Barton
  • Tracksuit Mafia are funny goons
  • Pizza Dog is adorable

Against

  • Definitely feels like MCU connective tissue
  • Episode 1 is a slightly slow starter
  • Foreshadowing seems a bit obvious

Tom's Guide Verdict

The Hawkeye show looks to be setting up another Avenger, with a fun holiday season story.

Pros

  • + Hailee Steinfeld impresses as Kate Bishop
  • + Jeremy Renner gets more room to explore Clint Barton
  • + Tracksuit Mafia are funny goons
  • + Pizza Dog is adorable

Cons

  • - Definitely feels like MCU connective tissue
  • - Episode 1 is a slightly slow starter
  • - Foreshadowing seems a bit obvious

Hawkeye isn't just Marvel Studios' latest Disney Plus show, it's the first that's primarily a character who is entirely new to the MCU. Yes, the show is named after the Avenger otherwise known as Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), but from the first moment you'll see that this isn't really about the Hawkeye we know.

From the opening scene, audiences will realize that Disney Plus' Hawkeye show is about the next Hawkeye: Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld). And that's a very good thing. Not only because it seems like Barton's beyond ready to hang up his bow and arrow, but because MCU Phase 4 is all about building up our next Avengers. And Kate Bishop is definitely looking like she will be one of them.

So, should you actually watch Hawkeye on Disney Plus? I think so, and I think more shows like this would probably help Disney Plus keep its rank as one of the best streaming services, but also possibly lead to more Marvel fatigue. And I'll use this Hawkeye review of episodes 1 and 2 (seen in advance screeners provided by Disney Plus) to explain why. Also, we just watched the latest episode so check out our Hawkeye episode 3 recap and review to learn more.

Hawkeye on Disney Plus review: Release date and availability

Hawkeye episode 1 and 2 arrived on Disney Plus on Wednesday, November 24, at 3 a.m. ET / 12 a.m. PT / 5 a.m. GMT. Disney Plus is practically ubiquitous, and available on all of the best streaming devices.

Hawkeye episodes 3 through 6 will arrive at the same time on the following Wednesdays, running up until Dec. 22's season finale.

Looking for something else to watch on Disney Plus? This week also sees the debut of the Beatles: Get Back documentary by Peter Jackson.

Hawkeye review: Episode 1 has heavy lifting

Hawkeye episode 1 has the tough task of grounding the current Hawkeye and the next Hawkeye in a specific place and time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But in order to get that done, we jump back to 2012, and meet a younger Kate Bishop and her parents Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) and Derek (Brian d'Arcy James). 

Hailee Steinfeld co-stars in Hawkeye on Disney Plus

(Image credit: Disney Plus/Marvel Studios)

Chaos soon ensues, and lives are forever altered. I won't spoil what happens, and take away the dramatic power of the moment (though I'll say I thought it was laid on a little thick), but this show starts off with a bang.

About the Hawkeye comics

Before you can say "But I read in the comics!" I would just like to pause. Fans should, I'd say, throw out all of their expectations about what the Hawkeye show will choose to use from Matt Fraction and David Aja's iconic run on Hawkeye. That book did not exist in the MCU, and this show (for better and for worse), has to. How much fun would the show be if it was a simple re-telling of a story that's already out? Just ask the Cowboy Bebop fans how expecting a mirror image is going for them.

Anyway, Kate Bishop's origin story works well, though making her rich makes her a little less relatable. Fortunately Hailee Steinfeld's imbued the character with an excellent delivery and a self-possessed confidence that makes you want to root for her, even when you might ask "no, why are you doing that?!?" 

By the time we get to present day, the show has explained how she's developed the skills that make her a prime candidate to be the next Hawkeye and it alls make sense. Chaotic, funny and smart, and she's the most likable rich person on TV since Tony Stark. 

And with Kate established, we move to the Hawkeye we know, as Clint Barton's finally getting family time for the first time in a long time. Barton is still adjusting to the world that he has seen change so greatly over the years, and a lot is accomplished as he's taking in Rogers: The Musical (which is pretty funny) with his family.

In quick bursts, we feel Clint's sadness about the loss of Black Widow/Natasha Romanov, and his frustration over the fact that the facts have been smudged about who actually fought off the Chitauri. It all works, but I think a little more room could have been given to his thoughts about Natasha, as that moment kinda goes by in a snap if you don't know what you're looking at.

Hailee Steinfeld in hawkeye

(Image credit: Disney/Marvel)

Episode 1 has Renner on daddy duty, which kind of keeps his performance restrained with little to make him flex his muscles. But when he groans through the weaker moments of his newly found celebrity status, and tries to adjust, it works. While you may find yourself wanting more from the character, this is the kind of moment that Marvel's Disney Plus shows are made for. Giving us a chance to learn more about the less-developed MCU characters (Wanda, Falcon and Winter Soldier) come to mind. Speaking of which, feels weird that Clint gets free meals in to enjoy New York City for the holidays while Sam Wilson was stuck

The rest of the Hawkeye premiere invites Kate Bishop further into the world of the MCU, though I feel like someone in costuming is playing tricks with our expectations. In one scene, her mother Eleanor wears an outfit that practically screams "supervillain," and we meet many other potential wolves in sheep's clothing. High among them is Tony Dalton, whose Jack Duquesne is either a baddie or a really aloof red herring. If Hawkeye is true to the comic books, well, fans already know which direction that is going.

All of this setup and exposition is over, and the show truly kicks into gear, once Kate stumbles across a seedy underbelly of high society. As a premiere episode, Hawkeye does well by establishing our good guys, and the world they're living in. But by comparison, though, it doesn't really compare to the second episode in terms of how much fun you'll have watching.

Hawkeye review: Episode 2 brings the funny

Putting Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld in the same conversation is the best thing that the Hawkeye series does in the first pair of episodes, and so I'm happy to report that Hawkeye episode 2 delivers plenty of great interactions. As much as Barton wants to be a dad, he doesn't seemingly want to be a trainer for his successor. But, Clint can't help himself from trying to clean up Kate's mess, and that's why we have a show. 

And as Barton and Bishop meet, we're formally also introduced to Pizza Dog (an official title if ever there were one). I'm happy to report that Pizza (a fan favorite from the aforementioned Fraction/Aja comics) is used sparingly. Every big pop culture property seemingly is trying to find its own Baby Yoda (I see you, tiny Stay-Puft marshmallow men in the new Ghostbusters), and the risk of over-saturation to try and make a "Poochy" happen seems all too possible. 

Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton/Hawkeye, sword fighting at a Renn Faire in the Hawkeye show

(Image credit: Marvel Studios via YouTube)

Instead, Hawkeye sets up a sea of Easter-eggs and interesting riffs to characters fans may know, so keep an eye out for interesting names. The biggest riff, teased in one of the Hawkeye trailers, is the scene where Barton goes LARPing, diving into the wholesome world of live action role-play (where folks get dressed up in renaissance faire gear and live lives in a different era). This scene, just like Barton dealing with how unmanageable Bishop is, allows Renner try and do a lot with a little and it mostly works. He's put upon by the world, and he's trying his best.

We also get laughs from The Tracksuit Mafia, the goons that Clint knows from his past life as Ronin. And as Clint and Kate deal with the likes of the clueless Ivan, Kazi and Enrique, Hawkeye finds better goofy humor here than the Black Widow movie did from the broken English of Natasha's family. But since underlings can only make you slightly intimidated, Hawkeye teases the bigger bad: Echo (played by Alaqua Cox).  We already know Echo is going to get her own spinoff in one of the upcoming Marvel movies and series, so keep an eye on her.

Hailee Steinfeld and Jeremy Renner in the Hawkeye show on Disney Plus

(Image credit: Disney)

And as Kate digs further into the potential criminals around her, she finds enough to confirm some suspicions, but not too much to make things too obvious. How does her family, exactly, fit into the MCU? I guess we'll find out together.

Hawkeye on Disney Plus review: Outlook

Jeremy Renner stars in Hawkeye on Disney Plus

(Image credit: Disney Plus/Marvel Studios)

Hawkeye isn't looking to reinvent the wheel, or even the bow and arrow, but so far it succeeds to a high enough degree that I'm ready to say I'm locked in for these next four episodes. Not only to see what the heck is going on in the high society that Kate Bishop comes from, but because of who we haven't seen yet. As teased in the Black Widow post-credits scene, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) is coming for Clint Barton. 

But, honestly, as long as Hawkeye keeps giving us more banter between Bishop and Barton, and maybe a training montage? Hawkeye looks like a winner. It's not a genre-breaker like WandaVision or Loki, but it looks much more well-baked than Falcon and The Winter Soldier.

The only real issue I have with Hawkeye is that it definitely feels like another domino in the path to building the next Avengers team. That's the normal right now in the MCU, so it's not a huge problem, but I'm hoping we come away with this feeling like it was a good story, and not just another cog in the larger Disney/Marvel engine.

Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.