With Spider-Man: No Way Home in theaters and Hawkeye having wrapped up on Disney+, Marvel Studios' packed 2021 slate of five series and four movies has come to an end. After taking last year out due to the pandemic, the MCU certainly made a blockbuster comeback with Phase 4 in what has been yet another successful year for Marvel.
Marvel Studios certainly delivered a wide variety this year between reality-bending extravaganzas, cosmic blockbusters, and world-threatening espionage. As the MCU continues to get bigger than ever as the Multiverse encroaches into every new outing, Hawkeye took a step back for a street-level romp filled with heart and festive cheer.
Now that the series has come to an end just as Christmas rolls around, The Direct ranks all six episodes from worst to best.
6.) Episode 1: Never Meet Your Heroes
Hawkeye opened its festive run with what is by no means a bad episode, in fact, it's arguably Marvel Studios' greatest Disney+ series premiere yet, which is in many ways a testament to how incredible the Avenging Archer's solo debut is.
Undeniably the thing that "Never Meet Your Heroes" does best is introducing Kate Bishop as an intriguing and likable co-lead to Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton. Bishop is in many ways the star of this premiere as she demonstrates her impressive archery and martial arts skills, infiltrating a black-market auction and taking on a gang by herself.
While the titular Barton does take something of a backseat for the premiere, it does flesh out the heroic spy more than any past MCU entry as viewers get to spend some time with his family before the demons of his past resurface.
But one simply can't discuss Hawkeye's series premiere without talking about the two particularly memorable moments it offers. Firstly, the episode kicks off with one of the best openings in MCU history as the events of The Avengers' Battle of New York are recounted from a young Kate Bishop's perspective. Secondly, Rogers: The Musical is truly inspired perfection that will be forever remembered for its wit and hilarity.
With all that said, "Never Meet Your Heroes" lags just behind other installments due to the lack of interaction between Kate and Clint. The loveable partnership between the two is in many ways the crux of Hawkeye and since the two don't meet until the final moments of the premiere, it's missing something of the charm of the subsequent episodes.
5.) Episode 2: Hide and Seek
"Hide and Seek" edges just above the series premiere due to the bond which quickly begins to form between Clint Barton and Kate Bishop right from the get-go. Beyond that, the follow-up continues to introduce the key players of the story being the Tracksuit Mafia, Kate's mother Eleanor, and step-father-to-be Jack Duquesne.
Nothing particularly ground-breaking happens within this second episode: Kate and Clint take on a street gang, the retired Avenger goes LARPing to retrieve his old Ronin suit, and there are some questions raised surrounding Jack's motives.
Hawkeye's second installment is carried just above its premiere by excellent character dynamics, all-out festive fun, and a dramatic cliffhanger that sees the leading heroes captured and Alaqua Cox's Maya Lopez introduced.
4.) Episode 6: So This Is Christmas?
After five episodes of conspiracies, festive fun, and archer action, Hawkeye certainly wrapped things up with a bang that tied up all its critical plot points with top-tier MCU action and the introduction of a major new threat.
Of course, the thing many were most excited about in the climactic finale was the reintroduction of Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin from Daredevil. While changes have certainly been made to the villain in terms of his size, tone, durability, and strength, Kingpin is just as formidable of a villain as ever.
Although, the crime boss could have certainly benefited from more screen time scattered throughout the season as opposed to a last-minute big bad introduction. Particularly since all KIngpin really does in the finale is have brief meetings with Eleanor and Maya, face off with Kate, and potentially wound up shot by Echo, leaving his fate up in the air.
The true shining star of Hawkeye's finale is the moments shared between Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova and Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop. The duo spends much of the episode together and there is always a hilarious dynamic with a sense of mutual respect and friendship, perhaps a spin-off may be in order.
As a whole, the finale delivers with a showdown packed with archer action, festive spirit all the way to the end, satisfying resolutions for every character, and even some new comic-accurate suits in classic Phase 4 fashion.
3.) Episode 3: Echoes
After two already excellent opening episodes, Hawkeye truly elevated things to another level with its third chapter in terms of action, character, and generally beginning to push the story further forward.
Alaqua Cox's Tracksuit Mafia leader Maya Lopez earns herself a proper introduction with an expansive flashback opening the episode recounting her childhood and her father's death at the hands of Ronin. All of this helps the audience to sympathize with her more going forward, setting the stage for her upcoming Echo spin-off series.
"Echoes" delivers by far the best action sequence of the series as Kate and Clint's escape the Tracksuits leads to an epic warehouse battle and car chase with plenty of fun trick arrows shown off for the first time. On top of that, the scene takes advantage of some unique cinematography which places the viewer in the back seat of the car with the duo which only adds to the immersion.
Having spent almost half of the episode with one of the greatest action sequences in the MCU, the remainder of the chapter is spent building on the dynamic between Kate and Clint as they investigate the Tracksuit Mafia.
One particularly tear-jerking moment sees Kate transcribing a phone call to a deaf Clint so he can talk to his son. This scene, along with much of the episode, explores Clint's disability phenomenally through muted or muffled audio that puts the audience in his shoes.
2.) Episode 5: Ronin
"Ronin" certainly has the appropriate levels of tension, excitement, and action for a penultimate episode as it sets the stage for a blockbuster finale. Particularly since it puts a neat little bow on Clint's time as Ronin as he dons the suit one last time to take on and defeat Maya.
Florence Pugh's Yelena remains as charming and enjoyable as ever in this episode, particularly in the moments spent with Kate Bishop in her apartment. The Black Widow establishes herself not only as a force to be reckoned with but still a good person with believable motivations, even as she seeks to hunt down and kill the titular hero.
Yelena's appearance also clearly resurrects Clint's grief for Natasha which is conveyed to perfection through Renner's best performance yet and well-timed use of score. As a whole, this episode certainly brought to light the darkness of Barton's character and allowed him to become more compelling than ever before.
Not to mention, "Ronin" leaves viewers off on the most agonizingly jaw-dropping cliffhanger of the series it sees the return of Vincent D'Onforio's Kingpin. Not only that but Kate's mother is revealed to be working with Fisk and to be the one behind Yelena's contract to kill Clint.
1.) Episode 4: Partners, Am I Right?
Everything that makes Hawkeye such an amazing series, "Partners, Am I Right?" does by far the best out of the six episodes. Between grounded street-level action, heartfelt character dynamics, and all-out festive fun, the fourth installment truly has it all, despite being the shortest of the bunch.
Until the dramatic conclusion, Hawkeye puts aside the action to have fun with Clint and Kate as they work together to pursue the Tracksuits. A particular highlight sees the two continue to investigate during a festive movie marathon night with cocktails, pizza, and coinflipping fun - the perfect showcase of the bond they have quickly built.
The heartfelt episode ends off with an amazing rooftop showdown featuring Clint, Kate, Maya, and ends off with the shock reveal of Black Widow's Yelena Belova. The three-party fight makes for a complex and intricate action scene with plenty going on and even some callbacks to past MCU movies.
Only two episodes before the end, the fourth installment both answers questions and raises new ones, all while offering more of everything that makes Hawkeye so great.
What's the Best Episode of Hawkeye?
With five Marvel Studios Disney+ series already complete - WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, What If...?, and Hawkeye - the archer-centric outing demonstrates consistency more than any other placing it far above the rest.
Stepping back from the world-ending action of every other series, Hawkeye tells a more personal street-level story that develops all its characters well while packing in memorable action sequences and taking full advantage of its festive setting.
All six episodes of Hawkeye are streaming now, exclusively on Disney+.