Hawkeye, and, in particular, Jeremy Renner, has always been an unusual fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Hawkeye and Black Widow are the only members of the Avengers that don't have some kind of superpower - unless you count accuracy and keeping his hair vertical no matter what. Yet, for all of this, the opening episode begins with a young Kate Bishop - played later by Hailee Steinfeld - seeing Hawkeye fling himself off a building and firing off arrows at aliens. The scene is enough to plant the seed in the young girl that she's going to be the next Hawkeye, and sets about training herself in archery, gymnastics, martial arts and so on.
For all of her hero-worship, however, Hawkeye is more or less ignored and that's how he wants it. A scene in the second episode sees the pair walking down Times Square and passing a group of photo-taking superheroes, with Bishop mistaking one of their number for him because they've got a bow and arrow. With a slight sigh, Hawkeye corrects her. "That's Katniss Everdeen." Again and again, what 'Hawkeye' does is make it clear that of all the superheroes there are in this universe, he's not really one of them. He wears functional jackets, comfortable boots, he's a father of three kids, and he's even got a hearing aid. Short of giving him a progressively dirtying vest and a badge, he's John McClane - a capable guy, sure, but totally normal who's caught in the wrong place at the right time.
That element of action-comedy is something that's hard to balance, and something that the Marvel Cinematic Universe tends to lean into quite heavily. 'Ant-Man and the Wasp', for example, was billed as the franchise's first romantic comedy, but really it was just an action-comedy. In their Disney+ offerings, however, they're far more willing to go to the places that they've ignored in the big-screen outings. 'Loki', for example, went to all kinds of strange places with the character and really made for some funny moments along the way. 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier' might have been a little ho-hum in parts, but there was a depth to it in how it examined the idea of a Black Captain America. 'Hawkeye' doesn't have that kind of baggage, and if it does go into it, it's losing something unique - at least to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What we get in 'Hawkeye' so far is that Clint Barton/Hawkeye is just a guy trying to do the right thing, and in a world of billionaire playboys, Nordic gods, super-shrinking master thieves, all-American war heroes, he's a rare thing. Director Rhys Thomas, who previously cut his teeth directing segments of 'SNL' and 'Documentary Now!', knows how to set things up in such a way that it allows everyone's natural talents to bubble up. Jeremy Renner, for example, does have a sense of comedic timing and so too does Hailee Steinfeld. Likewise, the fact the character of Hawkeye is so low-key, they can allow for that humour to exist. 'Better Call Saul' alum Tony Dalton, meanwhile, plays a literal moustache-twirling villain who also just happens to be the evil stepdad to Hailee Steinfeld's character. Again, the low-key nature of 'Hawkeye' allows for moments of real humour to come up, as well as giving the action a chance to feel real and grounded without constant CGI everywhere.
With four episodes to go, 'Hawkeye' is going to be an enjoyable romp that won't tax the brain or require anything other than for you to have a good time.