Alyssa Wend ’24
Editor’s Note: Contains spoilers for “Hawkeye”
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is known for creating well-loved and layered characters with complex backstories. Yet, as they transition into their fourth phase, this doesn’t appear to be the case for their newest heroine: Kate Bishop.
Bishop is introduced in the six-episode series “Hawkeye,” the fourth MCU series released on Disney+, which had its first episode premiere on November 24, 2021.
The series stars Clint Barton or Hawkeye, played by Jeremy Renner, and follows him a few days before Christmas as he tries to spend the holidays with his family. Unfortunately, his plans are interrupted when Bishop, played by Hailee Steinfeld, revives Barton’s old persona “the Ronin” and causes his old enemies to resurface. Barton was introduced as “the Ronin” in “Avengers: Endgame” (2019), where he enacted justice to mobsters through uncharacteristically violent means.
The premise of Hawkeye being a hero with no powers is a key foundation of Bishop’s background. This is clearly established in the first episode when a younger version of the heroine watches Barton in a flashback to “Avengers” (2012) as he fights Chitauri with just his bow and arrow. In the next scene, she asks for her own bow.
Instead of focusing on building Bishop’s character development, the writers of “Hawkeye” created an incredibly short origin story for her that gave her no standout drive in her actions or a satisfying character arc.
The show attempts to portray Bishop as a normal-girl-turned-hero. However, it gives her skills in not only archery but fencing, swordsmanship, jujitsu, gymnastics, and boxing. Considering that this series is Bishop’s first appearance in the MCU, it’s surprising that it holds out on any in-depth training of her skills and the character development that comes with this process. Instead, it focuses on her when she is already talented enough to take out mobsters alone.
It’s important to remember that Bishop’s incredible wealth allows her to be so accomplished in so many arts. This ability to become a hero through wealth is not a new concept in the MCU, as shown by Tony Stark as Iron Man. “Hawkeye” handles her wealthy background incredibly poorly by not following through in their seemingly intended storyline of addressing it.
In the first episode, Bishop completely destroys her school’s priceless bell tower. The consequences of this extreme action? Her mother writes a check to have the “unreplaceable replaced,” as she puts it.
The storyline seems to hint at this being addressed and plays a large part in Bishop’s development in the series when her mother tells her she has never had to deal with any of the consequences of her actions. I’ll admit that this was pleasantly surprising, since Bishop’s privilege and lack of challenges was a major question in how her character could grow. Yet, the series eventually disappoints when this is never really addressed again.
While it seems this event is intended to be the audience’s first real look at Bishop’s character — showing her stubbornness, competitive nature, and overall recklessness — it also shows her lack of understanding for accountability.
Bishop continues to display her reckless nature throughout the series by putting herself in situations she is not ready for, thus imposing the consequences on those around her. While this was an area of possible growth for her character, there was no real character development as everything was continually handed to Bishop.
This isn’t to say “Hawkeye” wasn’t capable of creating interesting and more well-rounded women characters — simply look at Echo, played by Alaqua Cox. Even Yelena Belova, played by Florence Pugh, who was introduced in “Black Widow” (2021), was given more character depth in her few appearances throughout the series.
With these examples of characters driven by strong reasons for their actions, it was entirely possible for the show to bring to the MCU another uniquely interesting superheroine. Instead, Marvel ended up failing to balance resolving Barton’s old storyline with introducing Bishop.
As of now, a second season of “Hawkeye” has yet to be confirmed. It is also unclear when Bishop will reappear in future MCU projects. However, when she does, I hope she is able to stand out as a unique superheroine.
Image Source: Hollywood Reporter