With Marvel’s Hawkeye series coming to Disney Plus, one of the most overlooked Avengers is going to be making his way to the forefront, finally. But with all the other plots and Avengers’ stories overshadowing the man (Jeremy Renner), people may have ignored or forgotten his many contributions to the MCU’s ever-growing canon. It’s true – Hawkeye, a.ka Clint Barton may not have any superpowers. But neither does Natasha Romanov, aka Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). Technically, neither does Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.)! Instead, he is but a man with a bow and arrow. Arrows that can explode, blind people, tie up enemies, short circuit electronics, etc… but just a man, nonetheless. He is a hell of a shot, though. Having survived everything the Avengers have been through as a mere mortal makes him almost more impressive than the gods and supes with whom he’s been working alongside.
Before we get to dig into Hawkeye’s own personal TV show, let’s take a moment to appreciate all he’s done in the MCU so far. Here is a chronologically ordered list of his appearances in the films thus far, so that you can follow his trajectory towards his solo outing on Disney Plus. Take a moment and appreciate a man with nothing but a bow and arrow, that has stood tall amongst nearly omnipotent beings, and survived to tell the tale.
Hawkeye’s first appearance, although uncredited, took place in the Odinson’s first movie. When Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and his hammer, Mjolnir, are sent to Earth by daddy, S.H.I.E.L.D. erects a guarded perimeter around Mjolnir, which no one is able to lift, obviously. Thor eventually comes for it, and Philip Coulson (Clark Gregg) has Hawkeye watch the Asgardian, ready to attack from a high vantage point should things go awry. As he observes Thor trying his damnedest to lift Mjolnir, Barton remarks, “Better call it, Coulson, ‘cause I’m starting to root for this guy.” However, Thor, no longer worthy to wield his weapon nor his powers, is unable to lift the hammer, and he is taken into custody without any intervention from the archer.
2) The Avengers
Barton’s next role was in the very first Avengers movie. He is tasked by Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) with watching over a S.H.I.E.L.D. research facility while scientist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) investigates the properties of the tesseract. As he tells Fury, he’s much better at keeping guard over things from high above, in his “hawk’s nest,” as coined by Selvig. Unfortunately, when Loki (Tom Hiddleston) teleports into the base, he uses his scepter, which contains the infinity mind stone, to place Barton under his control. They steal the tesseract and travel to Stuttgart, where Loki uses Hawkeye to acquire iridium needed to stabilize the tesseract. After Loki is captured and taken aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier (intentionally), Barton and Loki’s other cronies invade the ship. Black Widow is forced to fight her most trusted friend, and she eventually knocks him out, breaking Loki’s mind control. Later, Barton becomes a founding member of the Avengers, along with Black Widow, Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor, Iron Man, and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo). He helps the team to defend New York City against Loki and an invading alien force of Chitauri, participating in the Avengers’ first team victory.
3) Avengers: Age of Ultron
While the first Avengers movie sidelined Hawkeye for most of its screen time as a mind-controlled zombie of Loki, Age of Ultron finally did right by the character and fleshed him out properly. It is revealed in this film that Barton is a true family man, complete with a wife (Linda Cardellini), three kids, and a farmhouse in the country.
Further, he demonstrates his abilities as a mentor, inspiring Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olson) to join the fight against Ultron (James Spader), telling her, “You go out that door, you're an Avenger.” This is the kind of inspiration that will carry over into his teachings of Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) as the next Hawkeye in the upcoming series. Other than joining the gang in demolishing Ultron’s army of robots, he goes a step further into the role of hero when he deboards an escape ship to rescue a stranded child. Unfortunately, Hawkeye and the child come under enemy fire. Their lives are saved by Wanda’s brother, the ultra-fast Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who speeds into the line of fire and sacrifices himself in the process. After this tragedy, Barton chooses to retire from the Avengers and return to his family.
4) Captain America: Civil War
Sadly, Clint Barton’s retirement doesn't last long. When the Avengers break allegiances over the signing of the Sokovia Accords, Captain America, taking the side opposed to the accords, calls in Hawkeye for help. His first task is to break Wanda Maximoff out of the Avengers Facility, where she is unknowingly being kept prisoner by Vision (Paul Bettany), per Tony Stark’s instructions. While Barton does his best to hold off Vision for as long as he can with his trick arrows and melee attacks, they both eventually agree that Barton cannot beat him. But Wanda can. Maximoff, still reeling from the lives taken by her unintended movement of the explosion meant for Cap at the beginning of the film, remains reluctant to leave, until Barton’s mentor powers break through her guilt and snap her back to reality. This leads to Scarlet Witch’s temporary defeat of Vision, and her escape with Hawkeye to join the civil war.
The remainder of Hawkeye’s contributions to the film come mostly in the form of fighting the pro-accords Avengers alongside Cap and his followers. After Spider-Man (Tom Holland) enters the fray and takes Cap’s shield from him, it’s Barton who frees Rogers from Spidey’s webs with an arrow. Further, Hawkeye’s care of his witchy ward extends to the battlefield, where he protects Maximoff from Iron Man’s attacks.
Hawkeye and everyone else on Team Cap get arrested and sent to the Raft. When Tony Stark visits, it is Barton who has the most to say about this supposed hero’s actions. When Stark tells Barton he should have thought of his family before he chose his alliances, Barton cautions everyone to watch their backs, as Stark is liable to break them. This is a clear reference to Tony’s friend James Rhodes aka War Machine (Don Cheadle) who suffered spinal injuries during the civil war. Cap eventually shows up to spring his buddies, and Barton makes a deal to be placed under house arrest, allowing him to return to his family.
5) Avengers: Endgame
While Hawkeye was benched during Avengers: Infinity War, he made a triumphant, but tragic, return in Avengers: Endgame. In fact, the movie opens with Barton’s entire family being wiped out of existence by Thanos’s (Josh Brolin) infinity gauntlet snap. This results in Hawkeye taking a dark turn to become Ronin, a character he once portrayed in the comics. Seeking nothing but death and vengeance, he cuts his hair into a groovy mohawk and goes on a killing spree of the criminal underworld. That is, until Natasha Romanoff comes looking for him in Japan and talks him into joining the remaining Avengers’ efforts to undo the damage Thanos did.
This effort requires Barton and the rest of the team to split up and go back in time to collect the infinity stones before Thanos can, via Ant-Man’s (Paul Rudd) quantum physics Pym particle. Hawkeye and Black Widow are tasked with retrieving the Soul Stone, which unfortunately requires the sacrifice of a loved one. Barton and Romanoff once more go head-to-head, but this time each of them fighting to be the one to take the fall for the other. It’s a heart-wrenching scene, but Black Widow wins out (or loses, depending on your perspective) and launches herself into the abyss to save Barton. Hawkeye then takes his place in the major battle with Thanos and his space flunkies.
6) Black Widow
Black Widow is a bit of an anomaly on this list, as it actually features Clint Barton, without having any actual screen time, taking his first actions in the MCU timeline as well as displaying what’s in store for him in the future. Black Widow is a movie that takes place directly after Captain America: Civil War, when Natasha Romanoff is on the run from the U.S. government. It includes many details of her life before working stateside, including her time teamed up with Barton.
In The Avengers, Hawkeye and Black Widow speak briefly about a mission they had in Budapest. Black Widow finally sheds a little light on this event, as it features flashbacks wherein Barton’s voice can be heard over Romanoff’s earpiece. He tells her, during the mission, that he needs confirmation that Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the head of the Red Room that bred Soviet assassins like Romanoff, is in a building she’s staking out. She confirms such, despite Dreykov’s young daughter (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) being at the scene. Afterward, the place is detonated with explosions.
But more important is the post-credits stinger. Yelena (Florence Pugh), Romanoff’s sister, visits Natasha's grave after the events of Avengers: Endgame, where she is approached by Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). She hands Yelena a phone with Barton’s picture on it, claiming that he’s responsible for Romanoff’s death. She is tasked with killing him. It is now known that Pugh will be returning to play Yelena in Disney Plus's Hawkeye, so she will no doubt be gunning for Barton in the upcoming series.
And this is where Hawkeye stands in the MCU, prior to his big solo debut. Hawkeye will stream exclusively on Disney Plus beginning on November 24, 2021.
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