Marvel’s “Hawkeye” somewhat successfully exposes the dark side of heroism and sacrifice through a lighthearted lens



Released on Nov. 24, 2021 on Disney+, “Hawkeye” is a six-episode series focused on concluding the tale of the famous Marvel hero, Hawkeye.

Mayukhi Katragadda, Managing Editor

Warning: This story includes mild spoilers for the following Disney+ series: “Hawkeye,” “Wandavision” and “Loki.”

Marvel has been releasing many different short series lately, and this one is no different. Like the others, it centers on one of the Avengers’ most overlooked hero: Hawkeye. Unlike Thor, with his gifted powers, or Iron Man, with his handmade suit, Hawkeye seems to have nothing special about him, only the fact that he can use a bow and arrow really well – and I mean really well. “Hawkeye,” a six-episode series released on Nov. 24, 2021, focuses on Hawkeye’s past regrets and brings light to the many sacrifices one must make for blatant heroism through a fun mix of festivity and comedy in a semi-successful way. 

Hawkeye or Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) just wants to spend time with his family for Christmas. A week before Christmas, he takes his kids on a vacation to New York City. The series makes it apparent that family means everything to Barton, especially through his interactions with his daughter, Lila, to whom he promises to spend time together during Christmas. However, as Hawkeye gets stuck in the city resolving past mistakes, fighting crime and tying up loose ends, his Christmas with his family quickly becomes at stake.

Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) is a rich New York City kid with an ambition to become an avenger. With ambition to become an avenger with a bow and arrow after witnessing Hawkeye rescue people in the 2012 attack in NYC (shown in the first Avengers movie), Kate started to start taking archery lessons right after in hopes of becoming like her new idol, Hawkeye. Now, viewers are set up to follow Kate into a black market charity auction, following her new, soon-to-be, very creepy stepfather, Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), whom Kate doesn’t trust due to his shady nature and many secrets. 

The auction takes place in an underground wine cellar, and soon items from an old, destroyed Avengers complex are being auctioned. Kate gets her hands on the Ronin suit, an old belonging of the super vigilante, Ronin. Kate comes across the suit all by accident, intending to wear it only to defend herself and save others from the Tracksuit mafia, villains who attack the auction to steal other important artifacts.  

As she puts it on, she quickly becomes targeted by Ronin’s old enemies, who mistake her as the Ronin, whom they have an absolute hatred for. This is where Hawkeye, who comes across Kate while watching the news, quickly sweeps in to save her from these villains and to retrieve the suit. However, right after the suit is found, it is lost once again and Kate’s apartment is set on fire. The two must work together to find the suit once again, and so a new duo between the two is formed. 

Nevertheless, it is also clear that this lighthearted tone is all just a guise for the real struggles of heroism and the mental battle Clint must face in order to finish this mission of retrieving the suit and returning to his family in time for Christmas. 

Perhaps it is their quirky relationship that makes the series interesting as the overeager student, Kate, and her grumpy teacher, Hawkeye, forms a classic comedic duo. Rather than putting his life in danger, the many action scenes in “Hawkeye” focus more on the collaboration between the two and Hawkeye teaching Kate more about archery. Through a festive tone and a funny batch of villains, the show is perfect for those who simply have time to pass. 

Nevertheless, it is also clear that this lighthearted tone is all just a guise for the real struggles of heroism and the mental battle Clint must face in order to finish this mission of retrieving the suit and returning to his family in time for Christmas. 

The series brings light to Hawkeye’s new hearing loss, an impairment that came with being in the proximity of multiple explosions and blasts that now requires him to wear hearing aids. The show reveals that whenever Hawkeye feels overwhelmed, he tends to simply turn off his hearing aid to escape the world. The juxtaposition of silence in a bustling city background shows more of Hawkeye’s story and the consequences of his sacrifice. 

Hawkeye struggles not only physically but also emotionally and mentally with accepting his beloved friend, Natasha Romanoff’s (“Black Widow”), death (shown in “Avengers: Endgame”). In particular, one scene comes to mind. In this scene, he visits the original Avenger’s monument left in place after the first avengers battle and speaks to Natasha’s monument. Hawkeye confides in her his worries about correcting his past mistakes. He still blames himself for her death, and it is clear that it will take him a long time to accept Natasha’s death.

Finally, the most prominent struggle he faces is his own past as the Ronin (shown in “Avengers: Infinity War”) during the blip. When half the earth’s population was wiped away by Thanos, who used his infinity stones (shown in “Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame”), including Hawkeye’s own family, he copes by going against his hero nature and working as a vigilante. For close to two years, he quietly murders crime’s biggest faces all over the world until he is recruited by Natasha, whom he believes broke him out of his empty, murderous shell. That same day, Ronin dies by Natasha after Hawkeye gives up the suit, but past grudges caused by Hawkeye’s alter persona still come to haunt him and Kate. 

There’s good evidence that Hawkeye is uncomfortable with his title as a “hero” as it led to his best friend’s (Natasha) death and made him break his own moral code and commit cold-blooded murders. 

Taking into account all of his struggles and losses from his inner battle with the idea of heroism, Hawkeye discourages Kate from being a hero. His paranoia heightens when Natasha’s younger sister, Yelena (Florence Pugh), makes a cameo with large bloodlust against Hawkeye for “killing” or letting her sister die. Kate is banished from this large mission of recovering the suit and defeating the Tracksuit mafia among other villains as Hawkeye doesn’t want her to go down the same “heroic” path he has gone on or much worse, for her to lose her life in the process.

The series itself doesn’t blatantly explain any of this, and Hawkeye’s backstory as the Ronin and Natasha’s death is talked about but never shown as flashbacks or scenes. This makes Hawkeye hard to understand for newer Marvel fans or people who never paid attention to Hawkeye’s avenger story. Despite describing all of these topics, they are never explicitly discussed or explained, which makes the story a little confusing and hard to follow. 

The show does its job and sets up Hawkeye’s protege, Kate, and it somewhat concludes his own story. Although it makes for a lighthearted watch from the comedic chemistry between the duo, it isn’t as seat-gripping or anticipating as its predecessors: “Wandavision” and “Loki”. Both of those previous shows thoroughly explained the characters’ struggles and showed how they coped with them. For example, Wanda coped with losing everything by creating her own multiverse and Loki coped with his own self-hating streak by falling in love with himself. 

In these shows, the main characters are given a chance to truly shine and show the audience more about their powers and strength. However, for a show focused on the underdog of the avengers, it doesn’t truly highlight his own strengths and rather sets the scene more for his protege. A similar pattern can be seen in Marvel’s “Black Widow”, which didn’t focus mainly on the Black Widow, but rather introducing her sister to the universe. Despite its name being “Hawkeye,” Hawkeye never got to show us the full abilities of his talents in his own show. 

As part of the conclusion to the original six Avengers, Hawkeye may not exactly hit the bullseye, but it does get a little close to the target.