If Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch and Disney+ Marvel had a crossover, their brainchild would, perhaps, be called Hawkeye. Not to take away from the most underrated superhero of the Avengers clan, but that’s precisely what the web series feels like in its first season — how the world’s greatest archer saves Christmas in the days leading up to THE day! The Disney+ show is a Christmas-themed offering and a classic ‘superhero saves the world’ guilty pleasure rolled into one, only this time it’s Clint Barton — the most underrated and, often overlooked, superhero of the Marvel universe leading the front.
Marvel has come a full circle, with Hawkeye being the fifth streaming show they launched this year, beginning with meta-sitcom WandaVision in January, followed by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and animated spin-off What If?. With minor exceptions, all these web shows, following the mega-success of the Infinity saga, stepped out of Marvel’s ‘style’ to experiment with different genres and, quite often, passed with flying colors.
From Hawkeye to Clint Barton
The Hawkeye you see in the show is unlike the badass soldier-on-duty you have seen in the Marvel movies so far. In here, he is grounded and ridden by the guilt of losing his best friend (Natasha Romanoff a.k.a. Black Widow). He wears a hearing aid as he has turned deaf due to repeated trauma during the events of The Avengers, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and Avengers: Endgame. He often uses sign language to communicate with his son (and, later with a pivotal character in the show, who happens to be deaf and mute).
As he walks out of a musical — Rogers the Musical — in New York with his three children, one sees people celebrating the holiday spirit with kitschy costumes of their favorite Avenger. But Hawkeye is nowhere to be seen, underlining, yet again, that he has no significance in pop culture like his more famous friends such as Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, and Black Widow.
Unlike his fellow Avengers (with an exception of Black Widow), Barton has no superpower or super-tech to boost his performance while fighting the bad guys, he is a trained assassin at the most. But he always keeps a low profile and does not boast about his heroics. As his 22-year-old partner in crime Kate Bishop puts it correctly, the problem isn’t that he is a bad Avenger, he just has a branding problem. However, Barton couldn’t care less. That’s what makes him human among the bandwagon of ‘larger than life’ superheroes and power-hungry villains.
Keeping it real
At one point, Bishop, who is an ardent Hawkeye fan, says: “You [Clint Barton] showed me that being a hero isn’t just for people who can fly or shoot lasers out of their hands, it’s for anyone who’s brave enough to do what’s right, no matter what the cost.” That is the essence of the show.
Right from the start when Barton is celebrating days leading up to Christmas with his children, to later helping Bishop get out of the mess she landed herself into by impersonating Ronin (an alias Hawkeye used when he lost his family in the blip), the show keeps it real. Nobody is flying or possesses supernatural powers.
With a one-eyed dog and his persistent fan in tow, a vengeful Yelena Belova (Natasha’s sister) and Maya Lopez a.k.a. Echo (who also happens to be deaf and mute) out to kill him and an unsolved murder in hand — Barton keeps it real every step of the way. Rather than being a superhero, Barton does what a hero, in the most fundamental way, must do — protect, inspire, empower and own his actions. Case in point, how Jeremy Renner’s Barton supports Hailee Steinfeld’s Bishop while also giving her the reality check as and when needed.
The show may not have the alternate realities of Loki or the magical world of WandaVision, as it is conventional at its best. Among the overwhelming list of Christmas movies, this six-episode web series has all the ingredients to make a traditional holiday feast.
(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)