In the midst of a holiday season following the events of Avengers: Endgame and the return of billions of vanished people after a five-year absence, Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is suffering the emotional fallout of losing his best bud Black Widow. Little does he know that he's about to get a new ally in Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), even if their relationship has a rocky start.
Let's follow their arrows straight into SPOILER territory for the opening episodes, titled Never Meet Your Heroes and Hide and Seek.
'We got you now, bro'
The Tracksuit Mafia attack a secret underworld auction to acquire a watch taken from the Avengers Compound. Clint's old Ronin gear is up for sale too, and Kate dons it to fight them off. It's unclear why they want the watch (maybe it contains fancy Stark tech like the one he used in Captain America: Civil War?), but they get hold of it and Kate ends up in the Tracksuits' sights.
Kate and Clint form a tentative partnership as Clint tries to recover his Ronin gear and get the Tracksuits off her tail, but the second episode ends with them captured. The goons gleefully bring news of their success to their mysterious boss Maya Lopez, aka Echo (Alaqua Cox), as she hangs out in a room full of speakers playing Depeche Mode's Christmas Island.
"We have… them both. We have them both," her goon says in a deliberate manner, before she casually dismisses him.
This scene subtly hints at Maya's deafness -- she touches the speakers to feel the vibrations -- but she possesses an ability that lets her go toe-to-toe with anyone in the MCU.
In the comics, she has "photographic reflexes" -- meaning she can perfectly mimic another person's movements (kinda like Taskmaster, who showed up in Black Widow). In her first appearance back in 1999, she became a concert-level pianist by watching someone play and has gained awesome martial arts and acrobatics skills by viewing recordings of fights.
Despite showing up in a villainous capacity here, she's unlikely to stay a baddy. She's getting her own Disney Plus show sometime in the future, and her comics counterpart started out as Daredevil villain and went on to become a member of the Avengers.
That comics history might also hint at another villain in the shadows -- a character fans of the Netflix Marvel shows will be familiar with.
A bigger boss?
The events of these episodes were set in motion by Clint's dark time as the criminal-killing vigilante Ronin, which we glimpsed in Endgame. After Thanos' Snap took his family, he started a grief-fueled campaign of bloody justice against the criminal gangs who survived.
We previously only knew of his slaughtering bad guys in Mexico and Japan, but these episodes reveal that New York City's criminals fell to his sword as well. In an underworld auction of illegally obtained items, Ronin's costume and sword go under the hammer and the auctioneer mentions how the vigilante wiped out "the status and power of the head of organized crime" in the city.
We don't learn who this person is, and there are a bunch of hardcore New York City crime bosses in Marvel history, but the most iconic and awesome was established in a show on another streaming service. Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, held the city in his iron grip through three seasons of Netflix's Daredevil and was an absolutely magnificent, terrifying villain.
When we last saw Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio) at the end of Daredevil's third season, which took place before the Snap, he was sent back to prison. However, he managed to run his criminal empire from behind bars before, and he could easily have escaped in the chaos following the Snap (assuming he survived it). If Fisk isn't the head of organized crime that the auctioneer was referring to, it's possible he'll try to fill the power vacuum.
"This is going to be fun. I love these @Marvel series," the actor wrote.
How very suspicious. It's possible I'm barking up the wrong tree, though.
Echo is also Fisk's adopted daughter in the comics -- he raised her after killing the little girl's father. Fisk's deception is revealed after he sends her after Daredevil, and she turns on the crime lord.
New Movies Coming in 2023 From Marvel, Netflix, DC and More
The Netflix shows (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Punisher and Defenders) ran from 2015 to 2019, and all ostensibly took place in the MCU. However, their importance seemed diminished as time went on -- the shows referenced each other and some MCU movie events, but the characters didn't permeate the movies like many fans had hoped.
Earlier this year, Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige told the Hollywood Reporter that "everything is on the board" in terms of characters from the Netflix series reappearing, and he acknowledged the "great characters and actors in those shows."
The infuriatingly smug Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton) is clearly up to no good, given his presence at the underworld auction, his deception regarding his skill with a sword and the hints that he killed Armand III. It's likely he's cozying up to Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga) to gain access to Bishop Security's resources. We got a sense of the company's tech when Kate easily tracked Clint's phone, so Jack could use it for criminal pursuits.
However, Eleanor might not be squeaky clean. Kate overhears Armand confronting her, and he says "I should've known that this empire of yours would be built on a lie." It's unclear what that means, but we heard her arguing with Kate's late Dad about something in the 2012 flashback -- this conversation could be linked to Armand's allegation.
Duquesne's comics counterpart -- Jacques Duquesne -- goes by the name Swordsman and trained a young Clint in the use of blades. If the same is true in the MCU, it's possible he recognized Clint as Ronin from the footage of his rampages and will fling that in our hero's face when they meet (especially since he has Clint's fancy Ronin sword).
The comics version started out as a villain, even infiltrating the Avengers while working for the Mandarin. However, he preferred the life of a hero to that of a criminal. It's unclear what direction the MCU character will go in, but all the swords he placed around Eleanor's apartment hint at his questionable activities.
A Fraction of the source material
This show riffs heavily on Matt Fraction and David Aja's incredible Hawkeye comics run, from the opening title and credits aesthetics to shots, situations and characters (like Clint's capture by the Tracksuit Mafia and Lucky the Pizza Dog) closely mirroring the source material.
I highly recommend you read this incredible 22-issue series -- it's all available on Marvel Unlimited, a subscription service that gets you access to a massive library of comics and has a one-week free trial. If you read roughly 3.2 issues a day, you can get through the series in a week.
The Tracksuit Mafia are called the Tracksuit Draculas in the comics (the repeated "ac" makes the latter a bit more satisfying to say out loud), but are super similar otherwise. And bro, that's pretty great.
It also turns out that Clint's heroic exploits have gradually damaged his hearing, with flashbacks to explosive moments in Avengers, Age of Ultron and Endgame. This is inspired by a 1983 Hawkeye miniseries (also on Marvel Unlimited) by the late Mark Gruenwald, in which Clint lost much of his hearing in a battle with supervillain Crossfire. This four-issue series is more retro than Fraction and Aja's one but oozes traditional Marvel charm.
Observations, WTF questions and Easter eggs
The plaque outside the bell tower Kate destroys reads "The Oldest University Bell Tower in the United States. Its Cornerstone was placed on October 20, 1725. Rededicated on July 1st, 2006 in honor of Obadiah Stane." Stane was a business partner of Tony Stark before he tried to have Tony killed in his attempt to take control of Stark Industries. The rededication happened two years before Stane's death in the first Iron Man.
Clint being a Dorky Christmas Dad is delightful, and he's mostly pretty good at hiding how haunted he is.
It is excellent that Clint is a continuity nerd regarding the musical's incorrect use of Ant-Man in the Battle of New York. He didn't show up until 2015's Ant-Man, which came out three years after Avengers.
You'd better not break that promise to be home by Christmas, Clint. As of the morning the kids left New York, you have five days.
Clint's iconic building fall happens at 2:02 in Avengers. This episode reveals it was a traumatic and formative moment for 2012 Kate.
The "Thanos Was Right" graffiti on the theater urinal references the warped notion that the universe was better off after the Mad Titan wiped out half of all life.
One of the Tracksuits takes a long look at the costumed Kate, suggesting that Ronin killed someone close to him.
"There are no trick arrows, Kate." There are definitely trick arrows.
Watching Clint use his Ronin skills in the LARP is pretty great, and it's very cool of him to play along with Grills' trial by combat. Grills is also the name of one of Clint's neighbors in the Fraction comics, and insists on calling Clint "Hawkguy."
Do the police think Kate was involved with the fire in her apartment? The detective was cool with her waiting until the following day to swing by the station, but will probably get suspicious if she fails to show up.
Laura Barton notes that Clint's plan to get captured is "one of Nat's old moves." We saw Black Widow using this technique at the start of Avengers.