“Hawkeye, let’s face it, he’s nobody’s favourite Avenger.” Popular YouTube channel and web portal Screen Rant opened their video on “5 Hawkeye Theories That Could Change the MCU” with those damning words which Hawkeye fans have heard over and over again.

Internet is full of articles and blogs claiming Hawkeye is the least favourite or most useless Avenger. He does not have any superhuman skills so he doesn’t smash things or flies or cause thunder and lightning or something. Apparently, that makes him useless. Or so they say. The MCU also never gave Hawkeye his own standalone movie which is assumed to be another sign that nobody loves Hawkeye. Even actor Jeremy Renner who plays Hawkeye was unhappy how the character was written in the first Avenger movie having been turned into a Loki minion.

“I was just getting to know who Hawkeye was, and then zap, I go round like a zombie, I’m like Loki’s minion. He is not even a villain or evil because he has no agency,”

Jeremy Renner in one of his interviews

But internet is also full of countless fans who love Hawkeye. Right below the Screen Rant video in the comment section you have a fan saying, “What do you mean nobody’s favourite? He’s been my favourite marvel character since his two seconds clip in Thor.”

Indeed, Hawkeye is a fan favourite and it is because of their love that MCU had to finally give Hawkeye his own TV series if not a movie. A popular social media meme going viral for quite some time now gives a fantastic statistic on the battles fought by Avengers which shows that every time Hawkeye is absent the team loses. “The Avengers are 7-0 in battles that include Hawkeye. They are 0-4 in battles either against him or without him,” says a Reddit post. A fan comment on an SNL comedy sketch featuring the real Jeremy Renner acting as a useless Hawkeye (eye roll) breaks it down further:

Avengers 1 with Hawkeye: Win

Avengers 2 (Age of Ultron) with Hawkeye: Win

Captain America Civil War Hawkeye joins team cap: Team cap wins

Avengers 3 (Infinity War) No Hawkeye: Loss

Avengers 4 (End Game) with Hawkeye: Win

Moral of the story: Hawkeye just has to be there for them to win.  

Both Hawkeye and Jeremy Renner are people dissed by a toxic peer circle but loved by fans. They both belong to a particular personality type who do not do the song and dance to seek peer approval, live life on their own terms, let their work speak for themselves. And people who are shallow hate their guts.

I am a Hawkeye and Renner fan and in this blog I am going to explain why even a mind controlled Hawkeye is one of the most formidable force and not someone to be either pitied or underestimated or ignored. It is an analysis of the first Avengers movie which is said to have done the most injustice to the character. Jeremy Renner disliked the character in the first Avengers so much that he kept insisting the MCU people to kill Hawkeye off. After every scene he would pretend to have a heart attack in case they want to use that to create a Hawkeye death scene. His point was, if you have hired me, use my talents properly, otherwise just kill off the character.

For most of the article from here on I would refer to Hawkeye by his S.H.I.E.L.D name, Agent Clint Barton.

Clint Barton did not lack agency, only his allegiance was changed:

My first argument is that even though he was mind-controlled, Clint Barton did not lack agency. He was not a brain-dead zombie or minion. His capacity to think or act on his own did not die but what changed was his allegiance. He was still the same soldier with extraordinary skills, a super spy, a combatant and a human weapon. But now he was using them in Loki’s service.

Let’s take a look at the first thing Barton did moments after Loki turned him.

Having killed a few S.H.I.E.L.D agents at the Project P.E.G.A.S.U.S. Facility and taken control of Clint Barton, Dr Eric Selvig and another agent’s minds Loki then got engaged in talking about his “burden of glorious purpose” to Director Fury. The more Director Fury tried to reason with him more narcissistic Loki became about how he was going to free the mankind from freedom. At this point, Hawkeye interrupted and said, “Sir, Director Fury is stalling. He intends to bury us all.”

Clearly, this was Agent Barton speaking from the intelligence of his sharp mind and not some mind-controlled zombie. He knew what Fury’s plan was, Loki did not. Then, he helped Loki and others escape the Facility before it collapsed. He led the team from the front during the chase. From this point onwards Barton became the Chief in Command for Loki’s Army until his mind was freed by Romanov.

Loki need not control him, rather he needed him. There is no fun in controlling someone like Barton. If you control a Hulk, that’s fun. You could order him, “Go smash Capitol Hill or UN Building or a S.H.I.E.L.D Facility” and he will do it. That’s his job, smashing. But super skilled people need to be won over, not controlled. Perhaps that’s why Loki’s scepter touched the heart not the head. Essentially, Clint Barton was not mind-controlled but the loyalty of his heart was won over.

Next, we see an underground hideout where Dr Selvig was working on the Tesseract. The place was suddenly teeming with a whole bunch of men or soldiers under Barton’s command. It was Barton who gathered this team and this facility, Loki did not have the knowledge or skills to pull this off. We know this from a two sentences conversation between Barton and Selvig.

“Where did you find all these people?” Dr Selvig asked Barton.

“S.H.I.E.L.D has no shortage of enemies doc,” replied Barton while working on a tab. He then asked the doc showing a photo on the tab, “Is this the stuff you need?”

It was an image of Iridium which Selvig needed for the Tesseract to open a portal in the sky for the aliens to invade. Barton was the one to figure out what Selvig needed. He was also the one to come up with a plan to get the iridium while avoiding S.H.I.E.L.D’s eyes. The execution of the plan, the taking down of security guards, were also done by Barton alone. We also see later, that Loki getting captured by Captain America and Iron Man, and brought to the Helicarrier, was part of a plan once again devised by Agent Barton.

A contrast between the mind-controlled Dr Selvig and Clint Barton:

In the above scene we also see a sharp contrast between the impact of Loki’s Scepter on Dr Selvig and Barton. Dr Selvig was in awe of the enchantment he had come under and the enchanter Loki. When he saw Loki, he greeted him with abundant joyfulness and gratitude. With a childlike wonder in his eyes he said, “The Tesseract has shown me so much, it is more than knowledge. It is the truth.” Even though mind-controlled Selvig was the happiest man on earth.

But Barton was still the same cold faced killing machine.

“What did it show you Agent Barton?” Loki asked with a smug, as if to hear a few words of gratitude from Barton too. But Barton wasn’t interested.

“My next target,” he replied with a menacing face.

Barton’s will was controlled by Loki’s Scepter to the extent that he was now serving Loki’s interests but his personality was not altered or enslaved.

That should address Jeremy Renner’s concern with the character that he was not even a proper villain because he lacked agency. No, he did not. If villainy is to be respected in a narrative Barton, with his skills and intelligence, as this point was a more terrifying villain than Loki.

Free-thinking Avengers were not much righteous than a mind-controlled Hawkeye, and gives us a lesson:

It is widely believed that the scriptwriters simply did not put enough effort in writing the Hawkeye character with depth and complexity. I disagree. I do not believe that the character was underwritten rather I believe there is some profound thinking behind writing the character the way it was.

Firstly, through Barton’s fate we understand what it truly means to be free.

The very premise of the first Avengers story i.e. the story of how the original six assembled for the first time in the Battle of New York is rooted in what Loki thinks his “glorious purpose” is – to free mankind from freedom. His claim, “It’s the unspoken truth of humanity, that you crave subjugation. The bright lure of freedom diminishes your life’s joy in a mad scramble for power, for identity,” is the starting point of the Avengers assembling to save mankind.

Thus, the audience is forced to ponder, could Loki be right?

In Barton we see Loki’s idea of a truly free man, one who is not in a mad scramble for power or identity but simply doing his job. Is he worse than the seemingly free minded Iron Man, Thor, Hulk and Captain America whom we see bursting with anger, ego, untrusting and disrespectful of each other, of Directory Fury and in complete disarray regarding who they are and what their life’s purpose is? There is a deep poetic contrast here. After all, who is free? Is it not true that our minds are always controlled by something or the other, by consumerism, advertising, propaganda, politics, hate, love, ego, jealousy, greed, fear, insecurity? Does it only take a Scepter to control our minds?

Is it Barton whose mind is under control or is it the heroes who are busy fighting each other on petty issues poetically at the exact same time when Barton attacked the invisible Helicarrier? Note that he has already cracked its location and cloaking mechanism. From the start, Barton has been the most efficient and productive person getting all his evil plans and jobs right, and meeting all his objective. Can a mind-controlled person be so efficient?

Perhaps not, but skills and efficiency are not mark of freedom. Barton is serving the wrong side. He is standing with the evil. Freedom is the ability to freely choose between right and wrong, good and evil. Through Barton’s mind-controlled character we learn this most profound lesson.

Secondly, I believe Hawkeye being mind-controlled by Loki was written keeping in mind the original Marvel comics where Barton indeed first appeared as a reluctant villain and later joined the Avengers.

Thirdly, even though he was missing from the physical locations where the Avengers, Director Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D agents Romanov, Coulson, Hill and others were present, he was not missing from their minds. His presence and value was always felt, in Coulson’s sombre voice when he said, “Barton has been taken”, when his face could be seen on the many computer screens as the team desperately tried to search for his location, and most importantly when Romanov spoke to Loki, we learnt the true value of the great Clint Barton and what he meant for her.

Clint Barton and Agent Romanov are some of the best Agents S.H.I.E.L.D ever had, they had a long-cherished past during which Barton saved Natasha’s life, and Directory Fury trusted nobody else but Barton to keep an eye on the Project Pegasus – These facts were obvious through the story and at no point did it feel that Hawkeye was not important.

The Original Six

It is also hard to imagine that even though Hawkeye is meant to be one of the original six Avengers, a special status in the MCU, they will deliberately not write a good character for him just out of what, laziness? Point is they did write a great Hawkeye but it takes nuances to understand.

Once Romanov got Barton freed from Loki’s control we immediately get to see his value and why he was cut out to be amongst the original six. When Captain America asked if anybody can fly one of the Quinjets, “I can,” Barton said. “Suit up,” said Cap. Question one should ask, who else could have flown the Quinjet? Afterall there is nobody better than Barton to handle S.H.I.E.L.D tech and strategies.

It was the first time Captain America met Barton not the vice versa. Barton knew all of them because he is a shield agent. He knew this team and its strength from long before. He had recruited Natasha. He had encountered Thor in New Mexico when Thor’s life was on the tip of Hawkeye’s arrow but the call was not made and Hawkeye disappeared from that story. He was always there, recruiting, overseeing the earth’s mighty heroes but they don’t know him.

In the battle of New York, we see Captain America assigning each Avengers their role in the battle. “Barton, I want you on the roof, eyes on everything. Call out patterns and strays.” That’s Hawkeye, he watches your back, he keeps the team together, he is the human heart in the team. He relayed to Stark which were the aliens sniffing on his tail, where to find a tight corner, what was Thor up to, his eyes followed Natasha who was flying around on one of the alien jets, helped her out by shooting down Loki with his arrow, he kept eyes on the civilians – who was stuck where, who needed rescuing?

One wonders what would battle of New York be without Hawkeye relaying every details to the team all the while shooting the aliens.

The Final Shot

Lastly, perhaps the biggest proof that Hawkeye was never underestimated or ignored is the final shot when the original six Avenger stood tall over a defeated Loki lying on the floor. Please recall who is at the front and center of that assemble? It is Hawkeye.

The Avengers final shot when the original six Avengers stand towering over Loki with Hawkeye at the front and center

It was not lost upon anyone that while the other Avengers were called upon to save the mankind from an alien invasion because of their superhuman strengths it was Barton who was personally wronged by Loki and therefore for him it was a personal battle. Even more of a personal battle than Loki’s own half brother Thor which was evidenced by a dialogue in a previous scene when Thor said, “I’ve got unfinished business with Loki,” Barton says, “Yeah? Well get in line.” Barton’s unfinished business with Loki comes before Loki’s own brother’s and in the final shot justice was done to Barton.

And one wonders why do so many people still keep saying Hawkeye is the least favourite, least utilized, underrated Avengers or not worthy of being an Avenger at all?