The Endgame of Hawkeye…Er, Ronin?
Now that the Avengers: Endgame spoiler embargo has been lifted for awhile, it’s time for us to take a look at the “endgame” of each of the original six Avengers and see how they got to this point in their respective journeys. Clint Barton AKA Hawkeye has easily been the most overlooked Avenger by fans and the studio alike since this movie franchise began, but as one of the “OG six” he deserved the spotlight and a satisfying conclusion just as much as his teammates. But did he end up getting those things?
Unlike the other five Avengers, we didn’t see Clint in Avengers: Infinity War due to him finishing out the house arrest sentence for his actions in Captain America: Civil War, but were assured by the Marvel Studios team that he would have an important role to play in Endgame. While he was fairly prominent in the movie, his arc felt the most basic and least interesting of the six (even though it got more focus than the Hulk’s for some reason). It pretty much boils down to him losing his entire family to the Decimation (a plot point everyone and their uncle predicted months before we even got a trailer for the film) and helping to get them back in the end, though not without having to sacrifice his best friend.
Like with Hulk, the most interesting part of Clint’s story got the least focus: Thanos’s snap caused him to “snap” himself and take up the new mantle of Ronin while travelling the world as a vigilante, hunting down and killing people who we’re probably supposed to assume are criminals, but it’s never really explained in the movie beyond a small hint that Clint was taking things a little too far by not taking pity on one of his victims when given the chance.
This was definitely an interesting and dramatic way to go with this character, having him turn to the dark side (to some degree, even though he was supposedly mostly killing criminals) after losing pretty much everyone he cared most about. But it’s strange that this plot point was only around for a scene before being abruptly dropped for the rest of the movie. When Clint and Natasha went to Vormir for the Soul Stone, it’s clear the latter’s sacrifice was supposed to be her way of “wiping the red from her ledger” as she’d wanted to do over the course of the films. But Endgame made it clear that Clint’s slate isn’t entirely clean either, and Natasha had been an Avenger for over a decade at that point (give or take a few years on the run with Team Cap). Clint hadn’t done anything to “make up” for his possibly unfounded kills, or even shown much remorse for his time gone rogue.
So what was the deciding factor in giving Clint the happy ending over Natasha? The directors have said they kept him alive because he had a family, but we know from other events in the film they didn’t have qualms with a family man making the ultimate sacrifice. His characterization throughout the movie – as Hawkeye, Ronin, and just regular old Clint Barton – was handled quite nicely; certainly better than those of quite a few of the other heroes. And he certainly got a more concrete, satisfying ending than, say, Hulk. But by never facing any real consequences for his time as Ronin, his arc wasn’t quite fleshed-out enough to feel complete at the end of the movie.
(Also, this isn’t really a criticism, but Clint’s “retirement” is starting to feel like a running joke at this point. Maybe it’ll get lampshaded in his upcoming Disney+ series!)