Some of the Avengers made the most of the five years that lapsed after Thor (Chris Hemsworth) killed Thanos (Josh Brolin) in the beginning of Avengers: Endgame: Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) had a daughter, Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) figured out how to be the Hulk and be smart at the same time, and Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) helped coordinate worldwide (and intergalactic) rescue operations. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), however, abandoned his Hawkeye gig and traveled the world murdering criminals as a vigilante named Ronin in an attempt to find some modicum of justice in a world where his family was erased by Thanos’ snap and various bad guys were allowed to live.
Clint quickly rejoined his friends, with the only real reminders of his years as a murderer being his awful new haircut and his decidedly grouchy attitude. When the Avengers brought back everyone who was lost in the initial snap, Clint even got his family back and pretty much immediately went back to his self-deprecating “I’m just a guy with a bow” quips in time for the big final battle. Everything worked out, and though his good friend Natasha was dead, Clint could finally put Ronin behind him to live a nice life in peace.
That’s the plan going into Disney+’s Hawkeye, at least, and it’s quickly derailed by the snooping-related shenanigans of Hawkeye fan and world-class archer/gymnast/shenanigan-instigator Kate Bishop (Dickinson’s Hailee Steinfeld), who steals the Ronin suit from a bad guy auction and wears it while beating up a bunch of tracksuit-wearing goons, ending up all over the local news in the process.
Clint immediately sends his family away and jumps into action, both to find out who’s wearing his suit and to get rid of it (and therefore the memory of his time as Ronin) once and for all. Hawkeye leaves this as mostly subtext, but Clint’s time as Ronin hangs over his head pretty clearly in the show’s first two episodes, so it seems like it’s going to be the thing that drives him as the show goes on.
It’s unclear at this point if he’ll face any real consequences for the people he killed as Ronin or if he’ll just have to personally reckon with the fact that he’s a murderer (the show pointedly notes that the general public doesn’t know who was originally in the Ronin mask, and Clint’s in no hurry to change that). Thankfully, Hawkeye is at least letting that surprising character beat from Endgame stand and not just jumping eagerly back to the status quo.
At the same time, the legacy of the Ronin persona is an important part of Hawkeye’s history in the comics, especially in terms of how he passed the Hawkeye name down to Kate Bishop, and it provides a potentially important clue for what might happen in the Disney+ series. In the comics, Clint first wore the Ronin suit after being brought back to life by the Scarlet Witch during the House Of M event. He had just met Kate Bishop, who had since adopted the Hawkeye name, and he decided to let her keep it after being sufficiently impressed with her skills (as seen in Young Avengers Presents #6).
Comic book Clint didn’t become a secret murderer as Ronin; he was just Hawkeye in a different costume and with a greater emphasis on sword stuff. But he kept the name until after the good guys stopped a nefarious plot from Norman Osborn, a.k.a the Green Goblin, that involved a team of evil Avengers—with Daredevil villain Bullseye as the phony Hawkeye (as seen in the Dark Reign arc). Eventually, Hawkeye became Hawkeye again but encouraged Kate to still be Hawkeye as well, which was how things stood in the fan-favorite Matt Fraction/David Aja Hawkeye series that the show is partially based on and it’s how things have stood ever since.
But, Clint wasn’t the first person to wear the Ronin suit in the comics. That would be a woman with the ability to perfectly replicate anyone else’s fighting moves named Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo, who was raised by Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. the Kingpin, to be an assassin. She later realizes that the Kingpin is a bad guy and tries to kill him, resurfacing later as the mysterious vigilante Ronin and helping Luke Cage’s New Avengers team from time to time before passing the Ronin suit and name on to Clint.
Maya Lopez (played by Alaqua Cox) makes her MCU debut in Hawkeye, and she pops up for the first time at the very end of the show’s second episode. She will also be getting her own spin-off at some point in the future, indicating that Marvel Studios has some plans for the character.
She seems like a bad guy so far on Hawkeye, but maybe Kate and Clint will show her the error of her ways, maybe she’ll serve as the justification for the introduction of the Kingpin to the main MCU timeline (for now, Netflix’s Daredevil, though MCU-adjacent, isn’t canon), or maybe she’ll kick off a vigilante mission of her own. Whatever happens, it seems like the Ronin suit and the people Clint killed while wearing it aren’t going to be swept under the rug just yet.