During the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, critics were constantly questioning how a sci-fi film like Iron Man can exist in the same universe as a fantasy film like Thor. Comic fans never had such questions because they were accustomed to those two facets co-existing. But film is quite different that a comic book. What might work on the page is not neccesarily going to work on the screen. So it’s a vital question. And the answer was surprisingly simple: they just do. Besides a brief line in Thor about magic being science not yet understood, it’s never really addressed how and why so many different types of stories can exist in the same universe. And Hawkeye — a show that constantly has to battle so many different tones and genre — can only work in a setting like that.
During the first few episodes, I applauded how grounded it was. It truly showed how a human without powers can be a superhero and the physical, mental, and emotional toll such a life can take on someone. It was probably the closest Disney+ entry we’ve seen to the feel of the Marvel Netflix shows. And probably the most shocking part about its finale is that all of that mentality was completely thrown out the window.
All one has to do is look to the very literal connection Hawkeye has to the Netflix shows: Vincent D’Onofrio‘s Kingpin. I have no doubt, canon-wise, this is the same Kingpin from the Daredevil show, but from a practical standpoint, he is a very different character; tailored more in line to the tone of the MCU. He gets hit by a car, has seemingly super strength, and survives an explosion at point blank range. One could never imagine the Kingpin in Daredevil experiencing the same things. No doubt, there will be fans of the Daredevil show that will criticize those decisions, but regardless, they are there and work in the MCU.
And then there’s the final battle. Up to this point, we have seen what it means to be a non-powered superhero. Clint (Jeremy Renner) and Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) are constantly on a level playing field with thugs and gangsters; the fighting taking a very real toll on their bodies. But once again, this element of grounded realism is completely ignored for a fantastical climax. Facing an absurd amount of foes, Kate and Clint use an array of trick arrows to defeat them. We’re talking electrical magnet arrows, balloon arrows, ice arrows, and, of course, shrinking arrows. It was wild, crazy, and flies in the face of the rest of the show.
If this were a standalone show outside of the MCU, such a drastic change in tone and style would be criticized. But surprisingly, it works here. Mainly because of the groundwork Marvel Studios put in over the last twelve years. We’ve seen spy thrillers, space adventures, war stories, and more. The MCU has trained its audience to expect literally anything, which is why Hawkeye is able to dance between the world of a grounded character drama and a fun, ridiculous battle of two archers going to town on an endless army of tracksuit wearing gangsters.
Hawkeye is available on Disney+.