The Avengers: Hawk’s Strike

Hawkeye

Hi, DiNozzo!

Yes. I am going back to The Avengers. What about it? I’m a Marvel fan. I have been one for years. I don’t think I’m going to stop just yet.

But I’m no seer. I’m just a consumer. If Marvel’s stories really tank, then they will definitely lose my business.

I digress. Do you know what one of my favorite scenes in the film is? It’s at the very beginning of the movie, when Fury asks Hawkeye whether or not the archer has noticed any suspicious activity around the Cube before it began “behaving.”

Hawkeye essentially says no and adds, “If there was any tampering, sir, it wasn’t at this end.”

Fury looks at him, his expression saying, ‘You’re not supposed to know that.’ Out loud he asks, “At this end?”

Hawkeye glances at Fury, realizes the boss is upset with him, but plunges on all the same. “Yeah. The Cube is supposed to be a door through space, right? Well, doors open from both sides.” As he is saying this, Hawkeye continues to shoot glances at Fury that seem to say innocently, ‘What? I’m not stupid; I have ears as well as eyes. I was paying attention.’

And that is exactly the point of this scene. Hawkeye was paying attention when no one thought he would be. In the ‘mainstream’ Marvel comics and cartoon shows, Hawkeye is better known for his smart mouth than for actually being smart. This behavior has been the tipping point in his favor during a battle many times. His opponents often assume, to their detriment, that because Hawkeye is running his mouth off he is not paying attention.

As we see here, this is not the case at all. Hawkeye is smart enough to realize that if the Cube really is the inter-dimensional doorway Selvig and the other scientists keep saying it is, and if he saw no one tweak it from this end, then the problem is not at this end. The problem is on the other side of the ‘door’ the Cube forms.

Of course, this does not solve the problem. If anything it makes the situation worse, as everyone at the base discovers when Loki arrives, almost as Hawkeye himself predicted.

There is soon more proof of Hawkeye’s being “smarter than your average bear” in the scene where he warns Loki that the portal is going to collapse and bury the facility.

Eh..? What, you think that was Loki watching the portal getting ready to explode through Hawkeye’s eyes (pardon the pun)?

I doubt it. While Hawkeye appears to be little more than a robot under Loki’s control, this does not necessarily make him a pure extension of Loki’s will. That would require Loki having somehow developed telepathy after leaving Asgard, and we know this was not the case. Loki controlled Hawkeye, Selvig, and others via his “glow stick of destiny.” Whatever Tesseract energy that shaft had in it, the mind control did not work along the same lines that telepathic mind control would.

Come on, DiNozzo! I have been a Marvel fan for years; you don’t think I would not know proper telepathic mind control when I saw it, do you? Telepathic mind control would have been far more invasive, personal, and much harder to shake. Loki would not have needed the scepter to make people “his personal flying monkeys” if he were telepathic. He would not have needed to even touch the person he wanted to control. Telepathy, according to the Marvel Universe, very rarely requires any kind of physical contact to be effective. Yet Loki had to tap everybody with his magic spear to get them under his spell.

In a nutshell, this means that Loki was not simultaneously watching the portal through Hawkeye’s eyes while giving Fury his “glad tidings”; he was not using Hawkeye as a viewer screen/computer monitor. He was using the archer as a programmed automaton.

You really should watch more sci-fi, DiNozzo. Stargate: Atlantis would give you a pretty good idea of what I mean about telepathy being more invasive (and thus harder to fight off – or, occasionally, accomplish) and it would do so from the second episode on in. I do not know precisely how one might explain the manner in which Loki controlled Hawkeye, but it certainly was not through telepathy. Argh, now look at what you’ve made me do! I’m jumping down rabbit holes trying to explain things to you that you should be able to figure out yourself! ARRRGH!

My point is, in this scene, even while under Loki’s ‘spell’ Hawkeye recognized that the portal was destabilizing and getting ready to collapse. Watching it, I could tell it was doing something abnormal and important, but Fury and Loki’s exchange was distracting. I was not sure what it was doing – although I had a pretty good idea it was about ready to blow up. But Hawkeye knew it was going to blow up. Not something many people who know his history might expect from him in such a situation.

DiNozzo, Hawkeye barely made it out of high school in the original comics! The only thing he got a ‘master’s’ degree in was shooting; he’s known in the comics as a grandmaster marksman. (Thanks for the new rabbit hole, by the way!!!)

Anyway, after Hawkeye, and then Selvig, warns Loki that the portal is going to collapse and bury them “like the Pharaohs of old,” Loki has Hawkeye shoot Fury to get him out of his hair. In my post ‘The Best Villain of 2012,’ I pointed out that this proves Loki’s direct contempt for humanity and the men he ‘commands’ given that he never attempted to learn whether or not Fury was wearing some sort of protection.

Thinking about it now, though, I wonder if Hawkeye did not shoot Fury in the chest on purpose. While Loki certainly would not know Fury was wearing body armor, Hawkeye should have at least been able to guess he was. If he was the compliant machine Loki believed him to be, why did he not just put a round through Fury’s head and have done with it? Loki wanted Fury completely out of the way….

And yet Hawkeye shot Fury in the chest, leaving him to direct the counterattack against Loki. What ‘robot’ would do that?

Yes, Tony, it is possible that Loki had him aim at Fury’s chest and that it was not a form of resistance on Hawkeye’s part. But that brings me to the next strange thing Hawkeye does before escaping the facility under Loki’s control.

This strange event begins in the next scene, where Hawkeye, Selvig, another SHIELD agent, and Loki take a SHIELD vehicle as a getaway car. Maria Hill is present when they come in and – of course – asks who Loki is. Hawkeye deflects her question, but the game is up when Fury radios Hill and tells her Hawkeye has been compromised.

Overhearing this, Hawkeye turns and fires at Hill, lightning fast. He misses her, and she gets to cover. The two exchange more shots, Hawkeye again missing Hill each time. A car chase then ensues, where Hill and Hawkeye continue to shoot at each other. Again, Hawkeye misses Hill. The closest he came to hitting her in the chase was when he put a bullet through the windshield, less than a foot from where Hill was sitting behind the wheel. He then breaks his vehicle free of Hill’s and hits the gas, escaping the collapsing base while her vehicle is pinned beneath the rubble.

Why do I keep emphasizing the fact that he missed? Because, DiNozzo, as Hawkeye himself is fond of reminding anyone within earshot (both in the comics and on television) he never misses. Not once, except for the story arc Blindspot in the comics a few years back, has Hawkeye everEVER – missed his target in a battle. NOT. ONCE.

With this fact in mind, we are then left to wonder: why did Hawkeye continually miss shooting Agent Maria Hill?

The crass answer is that it was in the script; if Hawkeye had killed Hill, then she would have had no part in the rest of the film (oh, boo hoo). I would stipulate, however, that since Hawkeye does not miss any of his opponents when he is fighting the Chitauri with the rest of the Avengers and is known in the comics to never miss, it would seem he intentionally avoided killing Hill.

And if he deliberately sidestepped shooting her, then can his shooting Fury in the chest be truly attributed to Loki’s ignorance of modern body armor? The more I think about it, the less likely that theory appears. It appears much more likely that Hawkeye did not kill his superiors on purpose. The man puts too much pride in his precise shooting to change his firing style so abruptly, shooting at everything in front of him in the hopes of striking his target, like any hired thug. Hawkeye could hit a target dead center in his sleep – he would not need to use up half of his pistol’s magazine trying to take out Maria Hill.

There is another point I think may be made about Hawkeye’s skills as well. When Hawkeye is leaving the Helicarrier to rejoin the newly freed Loki, Widow catches up to him and the two “master assassins” begin a lethal dance of survival. The first thing Widow does is disarm Hawkeye of his bow. Upon losing his primary weapon, Hawkeye draws a knife and prepares to get into even closer combat with his partner.

Now, one of the things Hawkeye is known for in the comics is his stunning accuracy, not only with his bow, but with pistols, rifles, knives, shuriken (throwing stars), and practically anything else he can lay his hands on. He can even turn baseballs, tin plates, coins, sticks, and any bits of junk lying around nearby into effective weapons, often using a rebound/interaction effect to accomplish this. In the comics, he is one of the few people in the Marvel Universe capable of handling Cap’s shield the same way Steve Rogers does; ricocheting the shield off of stationary objects or indestructible super villains and having it return to him. Few other Marvel characters have the skill to toss Cap’s shield the way that Cap does, even the majority of those whom the First Avenger has personally trained to fight, one of whom was Hawkeye.

In light of this fact about Hawkeye’s ability to hit a target with whatever he can grab, why didn’t he simply throw the knife at Widow and kill her?

Again, there is the crass answer: it was in the script. The writer (Joss Whedon) wanted Hawkeye and Widow to get into a typical Hollywood assassin duel. I will admit that this is possible, but I think it is somewhat unlikely. Whedon kept a lot of details in the film that came from the comics, new and old. I do not see any plausible reason for him to throw this killer ‘dance routine’ into the film simply to add excitement. Everything in the film relates to something else that has gone before in the comics; I doubt Whedon would simply slip this battle into the film for the less-than-substantial “let’s have an assassin duel” adrenaline-pumping time-filler other directors appear to favor.

A second answer would be a pragmatic one: if Widow somehow dodged the thrown blade, Hawkeye would have had to resort to unarmed combat, a field in which Widow is extremely proficient (she shows this to the audience when she finally frees Hawkeye of Loki’s control by slamming his head into a steel railing). This is a perfectly reasonable answer to why Hawkeye did not throw the knife.

A third answer, I think, is that Hawkeye did not want to hurt Widow and so forced her into hand-to-hand combat, knowing – or hoping – he would lose such a battle. This fits in with the theory I mentioned above, the one concerning Hawkeye’s reluctance to kill his SHIELD commanders. Here he did not want to kill his SHIELD partner, Widow, so he forced her to fight the way she fights best – in close quarters.

Huh..? What does this tell us about Hawkeye as a character? It tells us a great deal, DiNozzo, mainly that he was not under such strict control as Loki believed. For more about Hawkeye’s personality, you would have to remember what Widow says about him in her interview with Loki, and later on Hawkeye’s actions when he joins the Avengers in fighting the Chitauri.

During her discussion with Loki, Widow says that Hawkeye decided not to kill her, as he had been ordered to do, before she worked for SHIELD. Were he “no more virtuous” than Widow describes herself as being at that time, he simply would have killed her out of hand. But something made him pause and reconsider his orders.

As I said in ‘Widow’s Sting,’ we do not know what made him decide to break with his orders. And it does not appear likely that anyone in Hollywood will be interested enough in the character to fill us in. While Whedon says he has written Hawkeye into the sequel to The Avengers, it is impossible to tell whether the archer will get any more time in the limelight or any more character development in the upcoming film than he received in the first movie.

I reiterate from ‘Widow’s Sting,’ however, that Whedon may surprise me. I also reiterate that I would greatly enjoy helping to give both Hawkeye and Black Widow their dues in the theater, as I enjoy both characters. But, as I also said then, no one asked me.

However, this is beside the point. Hawkeye’s decision to spare Widow, and even to recruit her into SHIELD, points out two things about his character. First, he has a keen sense of right and wrong, a sense which far outweighs his loyalty to SHIELD. Were it the other way around, he simply would have killed Widow and asked any questions he had later.

Secondly, his recruitment of Widow demonstrates, as I said, where his loyalty to SHIELD stands. Despite working hard for the agency, Hawkeye has no automatic devotion to SHIELD, something Maria Hill appears to have in spades. Personally, I would hypothesize that going against his orders meant Hawkeye risked more than simply getting expelled from SHIELD. If Fury or Hawkeye’s other superiors suspected that the archer had been “emotionally compromised” and become romantically involved with Black Widow when he suggested recruiting her, they might then have jumped to the conclusion that he had chosen to become a double agent. In that case, Hawkeye could have been ‘burned’ by SHIELD, at which time he would have been put on their hit list. This, as far as we know, did not happen. Which makes me think that, in the end, Hawkeye was almost as lucky as Widow.

Bringing about Widow’s defection is the first act of Hawkeye’s we know of which reveals his unwavering moral compass, or nobility of character, if you will. But this is reinforced in the movie on three occasions later on.

The first time Hawkeye’s morality is fully highlighted is by the horrified remorse he shows when he finally shakes free of Loki’s mind control aboard the Helicarrier. For a while after coming around, Hawkeye looks to be fighting serious nausea over the idea that he has probably killed people on his own side, some of whom were likely his fellow agents.

He seems to conquer that sickness only when he realizes Widow is strangely interested in “wading into a war.” Although still scarred by his recent actions, Hawkeye’s concern for Widow outweighs his personal pain as he recognizes that Loki has somehow wounded her emotionally. So Hawkeye pushes aside his problems and tries to help her as she has helped him, by gently coaxing his best friend into telling him what is bothering her.

Finally, in the battle with the Chitauri, Hawkeye is shown helping civilians trapped in a bus to get out of the line of fire, before he joins Widow in shooting down the invading aliens. While this is not a spectacular action on his part, rescuing the people trapped in the bus emphasizes Hawkeye’s sense of right and demonstrates where his priorities lie. This is the instance where Hawkeye proves he really is “more virtuous” than Black Widow; his main concern is saving lives. The audience learns in this scene that taking lives is the last recourse for him. With Widow, it was originally her first act.

Widow knows this, and this is why she fights so hard to get Hawkeye back. He is what she was not, what she can never be. She owes him a huge, monumental debt. There is no way to repay that debt; it is humanly impossible – something I never got around to stating in my post ‘Widow’s Sting,’ unfortunately.

So Widow does the next best thing. She stays by Hawkeye’s side to make sure he never becomes like her. This is why she fights beside him. This is why she is in his medical bay, waiting for him to wake up. She knows what it is like to be used but she also knows that, for her best friend, this may just be what pushes him over the edge into the dark abyss he helped her escape. We’ve just spent several ones and zeroes going over why Hawkeye behaves the way he does; he has a moral center which he will not step outside of.

And in The Avengers, Loki tried to force him out of it.

It takes a minute, but Widow does help Hawkeye regain his moral balance. And, like her, Hawkeye decides he wants back at Loki. Not because he has been awake for three days and nights without a shave or a moment’s rest, but because Loki has used him to do what Hawkeye would never consent to doing if asked, threatened, or pressured. Loki has made Hawkeye behave like a soulless monster, albeit briefly.

Hawkeye is no monster, and he is not soulless. Anyone who makes him into such a creature, even momentarily, is going to pay. Big time.

These are my opinions on the Hawkeye of Marvel’s The Avengers. You can take them or leave them, Tony, as you wish.

What’s that? Am I looking forward to seeing Hawkeye in the second Avengers movie? Well, yeah. Duh. I am looking forward to seeing all of the Avengers again. My hopes just are not very high for Hawkeye’s part in the next movie being very relevant – and don’t get me started on my worries about Whedon having Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch in the film. Or that the villain in the next movie is going to be the crazy, evil android Ultron (I am rather fed up with that guy). These three characters worry me somewhat about the sequel. See my posts ‘The Art of Probability Manipulation’ and ‘Age of Despair’ to learn why.

I do, however, have my fingers crossed that the sequel will be great. I really hope Whedon manages to surprise me with Avengers: Age of Ultron, the way he surprised me with Marvel’s The Avengers.

I could do with a nice surprise. So could the Avengers. But we will have to wait and see what happens. Bummer. I despise waiting.

Whoops, I have to get while the getting is good. See you around, Tony!

Later,

Mithril

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About The Mithril Guardian

I like stories.  Whether they’re on film, in song, or in print, I always remember a good story.  They remind me of paintings.  People cannot see them without learning something.  So it’s a good idea to look at a story from as many angles as possible.  I can watch the same movie a million times and still I will learn something that I did not know before.  Thoughts on the Edge of Forever is where I get to focus on what I learned from stories; what was not obvious the first time, the second time, or the umpteenth time. Earlier posts are written in the form of letters, usually to specific characters, to point out what I saw in a particular story or heard in a piece of music. Some of those letters, though, are like letters to the editor. Why did someone write a story this way and not another? Would the story have turned out better if the writer had done something different? These ‘letters to the editor’ will probably never be answered by the writers - the characters certainly will not answer anything - but their contents are still up for debate. After all, unless you ask a question, you will never get an answer. Still, civil ground rules apply. Any foul language or other form of abuse will not be tolerated in Thoughts on the Edge of Forever. I mean, who wants to be around the guest at the dinner party who is being nasty? Practically nobody, since people go to a party to have fun, not to hang around a grouch. So let’s have fun! The Mithril Guardian
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