(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)
After a year of grieving witches, perilous geopolitics, and the Multiverse changing to its utter core, it is fitting that Marvel Studios’ TV efforts would close out the year with something smaller scale. For Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), however, those seemingly smaller stakes still lead to plenty of trouble — this is Hawkeye, after all.
Taking its cues from the comic book series by Matt Fraction and primary artist David Aja, Disney+’s latest trip into the Marvel Cinematic Universe keeps the notion of what happens when Hawkeye (both of them) isn’t busy saving the universe. The results so far are charming — even if the premiere episode took a little time to get going — and still full of the hat-tips, Easter Eggs, and narrative hooks we’ve come to expect from the Marvel TV venture. So let’s take a look at some of the clues Hawkeye has given us thus far in its holiday romp.
Spoiler alert: The following discusses the events of the first two episodes of Hawkeye season 1 — “Never Meet Your Heroes” and “Hide and Seek” — as well as some plot details of the Marvel comics. Stop reading if you have not watched the episodes or will find events from the comics to be spoilers.
(Photo by Marvel Studios)
Although it hasn’t been said in the series so far, we fully expect the program will end with Kate adopting the Hawkeye name with no alteration. This is a key aspect of the character as created by Allan Heinberg and Jim Cheung back in 2005. She’s never been “Kid Hawkeye” or “Lady Hawkeye” — just “Hawkeye.” A character in the Fraction and Aja series even made a joke of it as a character consistently referred to Clint as “Hawkguy.” A subsequent series focusing on Kate (by Kelly Thompson and Leonardo Romero) also played with the naming convention. But no matter the joke, one thing is clear: Kate Bishop is Hawkeye.
From the first two episodes, her journey to becoming Hawkeye is just beginning, of course, and we have to applaud head writer Jonathan Igla for couching that notion in the Ronin costume Clint wore during the Five Year Gap. Back in the comics, Clint first became Ronin because he had recently returned from the dead (long story), leaving the Hawkeye name to Kate, although they wouldn’t discuss the matter for some time. Also, in a possible shadow of things to come, Maya Lopez (played by Alaqua Cox in the TV series) was the first Marvel Comics character to adopt the Ronin persona.
But as we see in the show’s opening moments, MCU Kate’s fascination with archery begins with the Battle of New York. Framing her origin, as it were, within the last half-hour of Marvel’s Avengers. Like the sudden importance of the Ronin costume, seeing her spy Clint in the middle of The Event locks her down as a character with deep roots in the MCU.
Also, we suspect there is more to the opening scene.
(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. © Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)
As comic book fans know, Kate tries her hand at being a private investigator, an idea explored by both the Fraction/Aja series (although artist Annie Wu drew most of those stories) and the subsequent Thompson and Romero book. With that in mind, the series presents a seemingly simple mystery: who killed Armand Duquesne (Simon Callow)? Yes, all signs point to his nephew, Jack (Tony Dalton), but we suspect another person hiding in plain sight. We also suspect that person may have been involved in another murder during the worst morning of Kate’s life.
First, though, let’s take a look at the Duquesne family from the comics. As it happens, Armand and Jack are father-and-son back in the comic book universe. As a government official in a Marvelized pastiche of an East Asian communist state, Armand took liberties with his staff, but brought Jack (or Jacques) up to respect their family’s tradition of sword play; an ancestor fought in World War I as the Crimson Cavalier. Nevertheless, Jacques was sympathetic to the plight of the oppressed in that troubled state, adopting the persona of the Swordsman to aid in a people’s rebellion.
Afterword, he became a circus performer, where he would meet a young Clint Barton. He also became a thief and tried to join the Avengers as an avenue to bigger scores. He enjoyed the work, though, and became a more legit member of the team (after one big moment as a double agent).
So, it is still possible he killed Armand. He has the moral flexibility and an absolute love of swords (as seen throughout the first two episodes). But when is the most obvious killer ever the real murderer?
Our prime suspect: Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga). We freely admit this is all based on her comic appearances, in which she apparently died when Kate was still a child, but later resurfaced as the person behind Kate’s major foe, Madame Masque. Her MCU counterpart has the clearest motive to kill Armand: he opposed her marriage plans with Jack. She also has an inheritance to gain, as her conversations with Armand suggest she is having some monetary difficulties. Also, we suspect she murdered her first husband, Derek (Brian d’Arcy James), just as the Battle of New York began.
Granted, all of that is a lot of guesswork with few clues. And, as readers of the various Hawkeye comics know, it sounds more like a plot Derek himself would mastermind. As it happens, he is well-connected in the Marvel Comics Universe’s criminal underworld. Naturally, he and Kate do not get along. So, yeah, throw him on to the suspect list as well.
Subsequent episodes may convince us Eleanor is not the killer. But considering the way the show is leaning hard into her relationship with Kate, revealing her as the sword-wielding murderer would be the biggest emotional gut-punch our hero could face.
(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved)
One of the great treats of the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye comic book is the addition of The Tracksuit Mafia (aka, The Tracksuit Draculas). They first enter Clint’s life when he forces one of their members to sell him the apartment building he was living in at the time. They would return time and again to threaten Clint and the other tenants, but were always chastened by Hawkeye — both of them. Largely played for laughs, they still present a physical threat thanks the abundance of men, guns, and cars they possess.
It is fitting, then, that MCU Clint has a seemingly long history with them. As seen in episode 2, Clint’s wife, Laura (Linda Cardellini) is aware of them, suggesting Clint has been fighting them even before he became Ronin. Then again, it is also possible that Clint came clean to Laura about all of his activities in the five years she and the rest of the family were gone. Their sudden beef with Kate after she wears the Ronin suit suggests they have no clue Hawkeye was ever on to them. Either way, though, The Tracksuit Mafia was Clint’s problem first and a huge motivator in his decision to stay in New York. For a fan of the Fraction and Aja series, it feels appropriate.
Also, it’s just a pleasure to hear their “Bro”-heavy dialogue spoken in a television series.
Visually, they are also an example of the enormous debt Marvel owes to Aja, whose distinctive style suffuses the series, from its fun and informative title sequence, to various logos, to the overall tone. Sadly, the comic book industry’s work-for-hire system means Aja receives no additional compensation for his design work, as he recently mentioned on Twitter.
(Photo by Chuck Zlotnick/©Marvel Studios 2021. All Rights Reserved.)
One last question to consider: When does the series take place? After Kate’s Ronin escapade is caught on video, a news anchor presenting the footage mentions it has been “years” since Ronin was seen. From Avengers: Endgame, we know Clint was active as Ronin into the spring of 2023, so this innocuous line of dialogue creates an interesting bump in the timeline.
Also, didn’t New York seems like it finished the recovery still evident in both The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Spider-Man: Far From Home?
Even in the comics, dating Marvel events and epochs is imprecise, but the studio seems to be making an effort to set things in specific years. The Battle of New York, for example, is now clearly defined as occurring in 2012. Kate also tells us she’s 22 as Hawkeye begins, which means she was 11 during the battle if the series is taking place during the winter of 2023.
Of course, it is possible the “years” the newscaster spoke of refers to the last time Ronin was seen in New York, which is likely the intent as Clint is behaving as though this is his first holiday with the kids since the Blip. Also, it is possible New York completed a lot of its infrastructure fixes in the months since The Falcon and the Winter Soldier even if skyscrapers are still under repair (as seen in Far From Home, which takes place the summer of 2024).
Admittedly, these sorts of questions really aren’t Hawkeye’s concern. Things like the GRC and the variant timelines would only get in the way of its holiday action-movie vibe. But at the same time, internal consistency is important on this front, if only for the series to have a clear place in time heading into the debut of Spider-Man: No Way Home, which will occur the furthest out from Endgame.