Commentary: The Powerful ‘Hawkeye’ Theme You May Have Missed

by Frank Martin

Between all the arrow shooting and witty banter, it may be hard to see some of Hawkeye’s most powerful storytelling. At its heart, the story has a lot going for it. There’s Clint’s (Jeremy Renner) denial of his protégé as well as Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) coming to terms with the trouble within her family. The most prevalent, though, is probably Clint processing his time is Ronin, and, specifically, his relation to the criminal underworld.

Following his family’s disappearance during the Blip, Clint went rogue as Ronin, killing as many criminals as he could track down. He essentially became the Punisher, killing indiscriminately as judge, jury, and executioner. But Clint Barton is not Frank Castle. Frank’s crusade is fixed and can never be altered. Clint’s wasn’t, as we saw when his family came back. He returned to family life, but his time as Ronin would forever haunt him, as we see during the series.

Clint is attempting to atone for his time as the masked vigilante, and that means realizing the error in his ways. Specifically, he is communicating to the audience that no matter how bad they may be, even criminals deserve to live. That’s a very powerful statement that is quite politically charged in today’s world of capital punishment, but it’s there and might have slipped under many viewers radars.

A good example of this is when Clint visits Maya’s (Alaqua Cox) second-in-command Kazi (Fra Fee). This is someone who Ronin would’ve killed instantly, as he did with Maya’s uncle. Instead, Clint just has a conversation with him, going out of his way not to do Kazi any harm during the encounter. Interacting with these people has made Clint realize that although they are criminals, ending their lives the way he used to caused nothing but more pain. His actions triggered a chain reaction through multiple families that continues well after his own returned. Although they are bad people, killing them is not the answer. It’s a powerful theme, which now makes me want a Punisher/Hawkeye crossover more than ever.

Hawkeye streams Wednesdays on Disney+

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