We’re running a weekly recap of Hawkeye on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
Thirty seconds into the dread-filled opening of Avengers: Endgame, my wife leaned over to me and whispered, “I should have taken a Xanax.” Less than a minute later, Clint Barton’s wife and children were dead, blipped from existence, along with half of the universe, by the snap of a Mad Titan’s finger. Thus began Hawkeye’s quick descent to grief, revenge, and madness, atoned for by the blood and slaughter of the world’s criminal underbelly under the guise of the masked vigilante Ronin.
And that’s the story of how the most boring Avenger broke bad.
What came next, however, was arguably the emotional center of the Infinity Saga’s climax. Hawkeye, bereft and stripped of all hope, at the coaxing of his only living friend, Natasha Romanoff, relented. He relented of the dark, relented of despair. And so it was that when the Avengers learned they could undo the course of history, to right Thanos’s wrong and bend time’s crooked arc back toward justice, light, and life, they learned it by sending Clint back to the Barton family farm. And later, when we saw, as Clint did, that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (a Gospel truth woven through creation itself), it was by Natasha’s laying down of hers to save his. And later still when the plan finally worked, when Earth’s Mightiest Heroes collected all six infinity stones and brought (almost) everyone back to life, we heard about it by a phone call from Laura Barton, back from the dead. (Why Hawkeye migrated his dead wife’s phone number over a couple of iPhone upgrades, I’m not really sure.)
The universe was restored (kind of), and Clint got his family back.
Kate Bishop’s father was a civilian casualty of the 2012 Battle of New York. In the blink of an eye, the Chitauri invasion upended the Bishop family’s life of relative wealth and privilege and protection nestled away in their high-rise penthouse. Yet, as the floor and walls and ceiling gave way around her, a young Kate’s life was spared by a far-flung arrow from the most under-appreciated Avenger’s bow. With barely a moment to grieve the loss of her father, Kate Bishop knew in an instant who she wanted to be when she grew up: Hawkeye. And by all accounts, with countless martial arts and archery trophies bestowed upon her in the subsequent decade, at the age of 22, Kate Bishop is now nearly there.
Meanwhile, Clint Barton is making up for lost time with his kids, celebrating the holidays with an excursion to New York City. It’s a jarring experience to say the least. Imagine, if you will, devoting five years of your life to the massacre of every criminal enterprise on the planet, then the next minute you’re sitting through the bubble gum Broadway–ified retelling of the most traumatic events of your life, trying to pretend not only that everything is normal, but we’re also all great, actually, thank you for asking. The band crescendos, and you belt it out: “I could do this all daaaay!”
No, no, no. Heavens, no. Clint is not okay.
But he’s trying.
He’s going through the motions because even when the body keeps the emotional and physical score, sometimes the motions help lead to the real thing. Sometimes the heart catches up to where the body is trying to lead, and right now, the motions are taking Barton to the only thing that can make any sense of the toll and misery and regret and sacrifice and shame he carries. And that’s being with his family for Christmas.
Kate Bishop infiltrated a black market auction, where the primo items for sale were Ronin’s retractable sword and suit, recovered (somehow) from the ruins of the Avengers Compound (you know, after this happened). And yet the auction is interrupted by an attack from the, um—forgive me—the tracksuit mafia.
(I just recap it, I don’t write it).
Kate being Kate, she nabs and dons the Ronin suit and nearly beats back the tracksuit mafia by herself, all while wearing the suit that she has no idea belongs to the messed-up-in-the-head alter ego of her hero Hawkeye. It’s the same suit that’s now put a target on her head from every crime syndicate that just saw their judge, jury, and executioner re-emerge on the snowy streets of New York City.
Upon seeing the Ronin suit back in the wild, Clint tracks the imposter down. And that’s how Barton will almost certainly become the grizzled mentor to the youngest up-and-coming addition to the Avengers, Kate Bishop.
One last thing.
We take for granted now that one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s defining characteristics has been how its superheroes almost never have secret identities. They are known to the world and beyond. And for the most part, they’re able to keep their identities public because they either 1) have no family or 2) their family is a secret.
That’s the central premise of the “safehouse” sequence in Avengers: Age of Ultron, which turns out to be Barton’s family farm, home of his secret family. “Fury helped me set this up when I joined,” Clint said. “Kept it off SHIELD’s files. I’d like to keep it that way.”
This new series seems to have done away with that central premise. We’ve gone from keeping the family a secret to taking them downtown to the most public place on earth.
I can only make sense of it if I assume that Hawkeye is trying to live a semi-retired life and is essentially done with the superheroics, meaning his enemies are essentially gone and the danger to his family is minimal. In that case, Clint is a man whose arc was more or less wrapped up at the end of Endgame. That is, until Kate Bishop resurrected Ronin. And now that Ronin is “out there” again, Clint can’t let the wrath reserved for Ronin fall on someone else, let alone a kid who needs his help.
What’s a man to do? Face the past and right Ronin’s wrong, of course. Bend time’s crooked arc back toward justice, light, and life.
Crown a new Hawkeye.