Avengers Week - Hawkeye: Eyes, Ears, and Backbone of the MCU
Welcome to Avengers Week here at Mirror Box! Each day, we’ll feature a piece from our incredible writers that highlights each original member of the iconic team and discuss the cultural impact and relevance these characters have on the big screen! In this piece, Sonya May takes a deep dive into one of the most underrated (and underused) characters in the Marvel Universe, Hawkeye!
When thinking of the original Avengers, all too often, Hawkeye is forgotten. But I’m here to set the record straight; as demonstrated in Hawkeye’s arc in the MCU, it is clear that he is the glue that holds the Avengers together. Many tend to overlook him simply because he isn’t a hero with superpowers. Instead, Hawkeye is the most regular human guy out of all the Avengers. In all reality, Hawkeye is the father figure in the messed up family that is the Avengers.
We are first introduced to Hawkeye very briefly in Thor. This cameo appearance helps to establish his character as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent as well as his preference for using a bow and arrow while observing from a high vantage point. On the surface, it looks like he’s merely a trusted agent with the best marksman skills. Dig a little deeper and you start to see the foundation of his empathetic and fatherly side being built. Even though he has his bow and arrow locked on Thor at all times, he admits to Agent Coulson that he’s rooting for Thor. It’s likely that he is rooting for Thor because he sees the demigod’s potential, much like how he saw the potential and good in Black Widow when he had been sent by S.H.I.E.L.D. to kill her (which Black Widow admits to Loki in The Avengers).
Admittedly, the worst movie for Hawkeye’s character development would be The Avengers. Even Jeremy Renner wanted Hawkeye to be killed off after discovering that his character was not really going to be fleshed out in the film. While being Loki’s pawn for the majority of the film, Hawkeye is simply being used for his fighting abilities and inside knowledge of S.H.I.E.L.D., which are two character traits already established by his short cameo in Thor. His only ties to the Avengers are his pre-existing relationship with Black Widow and his professional obligation to Nick Fury. Let us not forget that unlike most of the Avengers, Hawkeye is still just a regular guy who is really good at fighting and has keen sensibility. After Black Widow literally knocks the sense back into him, Hawkeye joins the Avengers, mostly because he wants to kill Loki in revenge for having been mind controlled. So his reasoning for joining the Avengers paints him once again solely as a fighter and nothing more. During the Battle of New York, Hawkeye plays a quintessential role, as he perches up high and calls out enemy movements for the rest of the team and defends the city from there. Even though Hawkeye is mostly just set up as a one dimensional character, he can still be seen as the glue that holds the Avengers together. Without Hawkeye, the Avengers were unable to beat Loki on their own, but with his help, they were able to save New York.
Finally, in Avengers: Age of Ultron, Hawkeye gets the character depth he deserves. He goes from being just a regular man who has insane combat skills to a man with a heart and family. After the Avengers face a major beat down from Ultron, they realize that they need to get off the grid. Hawkeye has the solution and brings them to a “safe house,” which turns out to be his family home. There the Avengers come face to face with Clint’s pregnant wife and two children.
Now, we begin to realize how much the Avengers truly do rely on Hawkeye. His wife, Laura, admits to him that she thinks they need him too much and that they may not always have his back in the future. This plays out later in Captain America: Civil War when he gets dragged out of retirement due to his desire to help Scarlet Witch and winds up having to sacrifice himself so that Captain America and Bucky can escape the airport battle, which results in his arrest.
It is also at the Barton homestead that we learn what he thinks of the Maximoff twins, and it seems like he even has a bit of a soft spot for them off the bat. In his words, they’re just punks. He realizes that they were young and desperate, which made for them to be easy targets to manipulate by the evil that was Strucker and later Ultron. After the Maximoff twins join with the Avengers, Hawkeye truly shines as a father figure when Scarlet Witch begins to have a breakdown, blaming herself for all the turmoil happening around her. Even though the twins are partially to blame, Hawkeye steps up and gives her the pep talk to end all pep talks. He puts on that dad hat and tells her that it doesn’t matter whose fault it is; none of it all makes sense seeing as he’s out there fighting robots with a bow and arrow. Like a good dad would, he gives her the option to stay hiding and her brother will come get her later, or she can step back outside and become an Avenger. That’s a defining moment for the future of the Avengers, and it’s all thanks to Hawkeye.
In Avengers: Infinity War, we learn that Hawkeye bargained with the government, allowing for a real chance at retirement while under house arrest. It is during this time that, dare I say it, shit hits the fan. Now I’m not saying that Hawkeye’s lack of participation in stopping Thanos led to the snap, but I’m just going to put it out there–a good chunk of the time that Hawkeye is around, things get resolved. Such as defeating Loki in The Avengers, convincing Scarlet Witch to join the fight in Age of Ultron, and admitting that in order for Cap’s team to succeed, the rest of them need to be left behind during the airport fight in Civil War. Time and time again, Hawkeye has the Avengers’ backs and the one time he doesn’t, he loses everything.
Avengers: Endgame opens on Hawkeye and his family, so right off the bat you know that this is not going to be a happy opening scene. He seems to truly enjoy his retired life, getting to spend time with his family and teaching his daughter how to shoot, but once again, he turns his back and all of that blissfulness disappears into thin air. That’s the catalyst that turns Hawkeye into Ronin. Now, I don’t believe they outright refer to Clint as Ronin after his five year turn to vigilantism and the dark side, but anyone who’s read the comics knows about Clint Barton’s stint as the lone warrior when he joined with the New Avengers. I’m not going to delve into the comics because the timelines do not precisely align, but when we see Clint again in Endgame, he has a new haircut, is a loner, and is mercilessly killing bad people in Japan. So even if he has not adopted the Ronin persona, he is still rogue and clearly not over the disappearance of his family. He hops from country to country, killing all the criminals that got to survive the snap, seeking vengeance and trying to make the world more fair.
Even when Black Widow appears before him with a plan that could potentially bring his family back, he tries to deny her in fear of becoming too hopeful. At this point, he is truly a broken man. His brokenness is further explored when he and Black Widow go to Vormir to retrieve the soul stone. He realizes that even if his family does return, he’s not the same man, and he doesn’t deserve to be with them. He’s seen Black Widow’s character development, and yet again, he so eagerly wants to have her back. This results in their heartbreaking battle of who should die so that the rest of the world may carry on. Despite their epicly choreographed sacrificial fight, Hawkeye was not able to sacrifice himself in the way he wanted to. He lost his best friend, but regained hope in being reunited with his family. Black Widow promised him hope at the beginning of the film, and through her sacrifice, she was able to give it to him. He may not have been the same Clint Barton as five years prior, but he had something to live for again.
At his core, Hawkeye is not just a fighter, but also a lover. He has the perfect doses of compassion and loyalty mixed in that help him to be the best Avenger that he can be. He is always dedicated to protecting those that cannot protect themselves and defending the innocent. No matter how much he wants to have just a regular family life, whenever the Avengers are in desperation, he is there for them and always helps them to succeed in their mission with whatever it takes. Through the course of his time in the MCU thus far, we’ve seen him grow from being a focused S.H.I.E.L.D. operative to a selfless Avenger and backbone of their missions. Hawkeye can assess situations in a way that most people and even other superheroes would overlook, so please world, stop overlooking Hawkeye.