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Hawkeye Season 1 Was Originally MUCH Darker

Hawkeye MCU dark show
By Russ Milheim

Clint Barton did not have a good time during the Blip. While he missed out on all the action in Avengers: Infinity War, that came back to bite him when he lost his entire family after Thanos snapped his fateful fingers. From there, everything went downhill fast, as he took up the Ronin mantle and started his murder spree.

That’s obviously a very dark point in the character’s story. So, one would be forgiven for thinking the recent Disney+ series Hawkeye was going to be a grim affair.

In the end, however, it was much brighter and more playful than it had any right to be. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld’s chemistry made the Christmas story a fun one—even with its dark criminal moments sprinkled throughout.

In a conversation with the show’s composers, it was revealed that at one point, Hawkeye’s story was set to be much darker than what viewers got in the end.

Marvel Planned for Darker Hawkeye

Hawkeye
Marvel

In an interview with BTL News, Hawkeye composers Christophe Beck and Michael Paraskevas talked about their time composing the Disney+ series led by Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld and described how it once had a much darker tone.

Beck recalled how he did WandaVision, the first series out of the gate for Marvel,” so when they approached him for Hawkeye, “it was an easy ‘yes’:”

“Well, [I did] WandaVision, the first series out of the gate for Marvel. And of course, Michael was involved as an additional composer. As we wrapped that one, Marvel reached out and told me about this one and that they wanted me involved. I have a very long relationship with Marvel so it was an easy “‘yes.’”

He continued, sharing that originally he “thought [Hawkeye] would be a film noir type of vibe:" 

“I knew very little about [it] and I actually thought it would be a film noir type of vibe and that this would be reflected in the score. As time went on, it turned out to be a buddy Christmas comedy! And this also felt like the perfect project to finally bring on Michael [Paraskevas] as a full collaborator, as a partner, after five years. I pitched that to Marvel, and they were very enthusiastic.”

Beck then revealed that “at first [the series] was going to be a darker tone” but eventually “evolved into something much more playful:”

“… there was a bit of an evolution for what the sound of the score was going to be. At first, it was going to be a darker tone, focused on Hawkeye, his despair around the events of the Avengers, and the dark things he went through in his past. But the show, the story, and therefore the score evolved into something much more playful, especially between Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld. And the idea that this would be a ‘Christmas in New York’ sort of thing, we took. Whenever there was an opportunity to sprinkle in Christmas magic, we did. Not just the big set pieces we mentioned, but also incorporating classic Christmas textures into what was a more traditional Marvel superhero type of score.”

“The incorporation of electronic elements” was one way that Beck helped Hawkeye’s score become unique, which helped make “it feel more contemporary:

“That’s a great question! For me, it was the incorporation of electronic elements. If you listen to the main theme of the Hawkeye show, it has a processed bell sound. It has bell-like qualities to it, but it’s most definitely synthetic and electronic in nature. That subtle electronic incorporation makes it feel more contemporary and brings it into the Marvel Universe.”

Paraskevas jumped in to add how “there are even some spots where [they] took some classic Christmas carols and rearranged them in a more contemporary way:”

“Right, and then we expand on those synthetic bells throughout the score, and incorporate them increasingly with subtle musical cues. There are even some spots where we took some classic Christmas carols and rearranged them in a more contemporary way to serve as underscores. That’s how we got that fun and festive tone melded with the superhero tone.”

“[They] came on board as they were editing,” Paraskevas recalled, adding how they “started writing themes right before [they] received picture:”

“We came on board as they were editing. And it was quick because there were only six episodes. We started writing themes right before we received picture and then adjusted as we dove in, and that’s when we started shifting perspective, as Chris said. We found what was organic to the story in the editing process.”

Beck chimed back in, noting how he loved that “[he] had a sense for the entire story” while composing, allowing him to “create a holistic musical universe:”

“One of the things I love about these miniseries Marvel is working on is that I had a sense for the entire story. Back in the earlier days, like when I worked on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I was flying by the seat of my pants. They’re cranking out an episode a week for a long time and I just had to improvise. Here, by contrast, I know where it’s going, so I was not surprised by a plot twist later, and I could create a holistic musical universe.”

Paraskevas finished off by saying that Hawkeye was “almost like a longer feature film, with a long story arc to guide the music.”

Why Hawkeye's Lighter Tone Succeeded

Hawkeye Characters
Marvel

Despite being a far lighter adventure in the end, it’s understandable why Hawkeye was once going to be so dark: it’s easy to want to wallow in the tragic events of Clint Barton’s life. 

However, that playful energy not only still allowed room for all of those to be explored, but gave enough space for Hailee Steinfeld’s hero to be introduced without drowning in all of that sorrow. Some might even argue that those darker, more reflective moments, were all the more impactful because of it.

Thankfully, even with the shift to a more playful tone, the trauma that Clint Barton has gone through never felt lost. It was always a consistent weight on his shoulders, never truly letting up, even when he would dryly crack jokes.

However, trauma like that never truly goes away. Future writers will have to continue juggling those harrowing experiences as more stories are told for the character. The real question is, when will that be? Maybe a second season? Only time will tell.

Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.