We’re running a weekly recap of Hawkeye on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
Maya Lopez was in grade school when she learned the world wasn’t made for her. Too poor to afford a school for the deaf, Maya’s father, William, sent her to the local public school, which was ill-equipped (or poorly motivated) to accommodate a student with Maya’s needs. Her life would be better because of the struggle, her father assured her.
“You have to learn to jump between two worlds,” came his instruction.
“How?” she asked him.
“Just by watching.”
Such is life on the margins. James Baldwin described something of Maya’s jumping and watching in his unfinished work, I Am Not Your Negro. “You never had to look at me. I had to look at you,” he wrote. “I know more about you than you know about me.”
Maya followed the advice. She watched and studied, until she knew both worlds better than most. And she excelled by every possible academic and physical measure, over and against her peers.
And so it was that the deficit in Maya’s life, the thing that was missing that set her at edge against the world, had little to do with her “disability,” but rather the basic dignity and decency owed to her but rarely paid. That is, we cannot talk about Maya without talking about the world’s lack of care and intention to design itself for anyone outside its narrow definition of normal.
There are exceptions to the rule, of course, with Maya’s father being one of them. He was a man who honored and treasured his girl, someone who saw Maya when few others did.
But that was before Ronin killed him.
Yelena Belova was the long lost adopted sister of Natasha Romanoff. After Clint Barton, a paid killer, spared Natasha’s life (“I just had this feeling she wanted out,” is how he explained it to Kate Bishop), Romanoff defected from the Black Widows and joined SHIELD (and eventually, The Avengers) thereby forging a lifelong kinship with Clint.
Meanwhile, Yelena and the other Widows were placed under mind control by the Red Room to ensure that no Widow would ever dare defect again. But later, after the Room lost its grip on Belova, she joined her fugitive sister to help bring down the organization that forged them and their sisters into highly skilled killers. The Red Room and General Dreykov were dead. And Yelena got her sister back.
The problem is, years later, when Natasha sacrificed her life for Clint’s, no one saw her do it. It’s no surprise that many observed these events from afar and presumed that Clint (i.e., the paid killer) finally did the thing he was supposed to do all along and offed his “friend” for the greater good.
And that’s how Valentina Allegra de Fontaine recruited Yelena Belova to avenge her sister’s death and kill Hawkeye.
So while Yelena has her target set on Clint, Maya’s is aimed squarely at Ronin. And Maya has finally figured out that they’re the same guy.
Hawkeye is on a new kind of mission, at least in terms of what we’ve seen in these Marvel shows before. It’s true that we are witnessing the origin story of the MCU’s newest hero in Kate Bishop. But we are seeing something else entirely of the MCU’s long-suffering, neglected Avenger in Clint Barton. Unlike Wanda Maximoff, Clint isn’t making a new world in his own image. He’s not carrying the mantle of a new Captain America, like Sam Wilson, or even making amends to the people he’s hurt, like Bucky Barnes. And he’s certainly not on any quest as epic as Loki’s, taking down the Time Variance Authority and remaking the multiverse itself.
Clint’s past has almost caught up to him, and to put it crudely, the man’s goal thus far has been to not let it. His has been a mission of avoidance, to scrub Ronin’s steps and forever sever his association with whatever villainy he indulged in the years after the Blip. Not to face his past or own up to it, but to obscure it. And hide it. Lest we, the audience, try to cut Mr. Barton a break, let’s not forget that the man literally murdered a whole lot of people, including Maya Lopez’s father. Which is not cool, because he seemed like a pretty okay guy.
(I shouldn’t have to say this, but even if William Lopez wasn’t an okay guy, that’s not a good enough reason to murder him.)
At some point in the next two episodes, whether by choice or by force, Clint will need to stop. “For there is nothing hidden that will not be revealed,” Christ told us. “And nothing concealed that will not be brought to light.”
Maya and Yelena are out for Hawkeye’s blood. And while it’s true that Yelena’s vengeance is driven by de Fontaine’s manipulation and a mistaken narrative about Romanoff’s demise, Maya’s revenge isn’t like that at all. In fact, one could say that Maya is fully justified to bring her father’s murderer to justice.
So can I tell you my dream scenario for the end of Clint’s story?
What if, for the first time in his life, Clint experienced something akin to the gift he once gave Natasha? What if the avenger of blood looked upon this man and “got a feeling,” like Clint once had, that he just wants out. Out of the past, out of the superheroics, out of the “paid assassin” gig, and yes, out from under his past as a raging, vengeful Ronin.
It’s not without precedent! We’ve seen what forgiveness looks like in the MCU when Prince T’Challa looked upon his father’s killer, the harbinger of a rift that literally tore the Avengers into warring factions, and realized, “Vengeance has consumed you. It’s consuming them. I’m done letting it consume me.”
It’s an almost impossible task, to give up your right to another’s life. And while I would never be so bold as to claim that Christians own a monopoly on forgiveness, our beliefs offer us the framework. We forgive not simply because we have been forgiven, and not simply because we follow our Lord’s example. No, we forgive because a tangible and cosmic and mysterious Exchange took place at the cross, an Exchange that defies whatever theologies we’ve invented to explain it. The cross paid our debts, not only for us, but to us as well.
The blood you’re after? Christian, it’s all yours now, to have and to own for all eternity. Would the MCU be so bold? Is it possible for a “villain” to give up their bloodlust in this little Disney+ universe? Probably not! But if they do (and that’s a big IF), then Hawkeye won’t just be a Christmas show by style and design, but by substance too, a story of absolution cast by the incarnate Christ’s shadow.