With What If...? having just recently concluded its nine-episode first season, fans are already preparing for Marvel Studios to return to Disney+ in November with the archer-centric outing Hawkeye.
The series will feature the return of the entire Barton family as the retired Avenger suits back up for another mission with Hailee Steinfeld's Kate Bishop. Reprising her spy role from Black Widow, Florence Pugh is coming back as Yelena Belova while Alaqua Cox will make her MCU debut as Echo.
As usual from a Marvel Studios production, much of the series remains shrouded in mystery, but rumors and speculation seem to point towards plenty more connections to the wider MCU. With Hawkeye premiering next month, The Direct breaks down seven sequels and spin-offs which could stem from the Disney+ outing.
Kate Bishop Takes the Lead
Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton has now spent ten years in the MCU, as most of his original co-stars begin to depart the franchise, perhaps the actor's time as Hawkeye may also be coming to an end. Renner continues to have a thriving acting career and may be looking to pursue other projects instead of continuing his time as the heroic archer.
Plot details for Hawkeye have already revealed Clint has retired from the Avengers when his Disney+ series picks up and rumors suggest the archer may lose his hearing by the time the final credits roll. While this could be the beginning of a whole new arc for Barton, it would also be a fitting time for him to bow out from the mantle for a happy retirement with his family.
Since Clint will be mentoring the aspiring young archer Kate Bishop in Hawkeye, perhaps Hailee Steinfeld's new hero may take over his mantle for Season 2 among other MCU projects. With Hawkeye tracking to match or outperform even Marvel's biggest Disney+ series, a follow-up season seems inevitable which Bishop would probably lead, although the door may be left open to Barton reappearing down the line.
Echo Gets Her Own Spin-Off
Early in 2021, Variety revealed Marvel Studios is developing a spin-off series centered around Alaqua Cox's Maya Lopez aka Echo, who will make her debut in Hawkeye. With the studio pushing ahead with a spin-off so long before Echo makes her first appearance, it's safe to say Marvel and Disney must be impressed with Cox's performance thus far.
Despite being a far less-known hero, Echo has strong connections to other corners of the Marvel universe including Daredevil and Kingpin. Vincent D'Onofrio is already rumored to reprise his Daredevil role in Hawkeye as the iconic crime boss, meaning, much like in Marvel Comics, he will probably be the adopted father of Lopez.
Recent rumors have suggested much of the Daredevil cast including Charlie Cox himself will return for Echo which is reportedly set to reboot some elements of the critically acclaimed Netflix series. With D'Onofrio reportedly returning as Kingpin for Hawkeye, these rumors don't seem too far-fetched at all.
While Echo will hopefully remain Maya Lopez's story first and foremost, many fans will be thrilled to hear elements of Daredevil will be integrated into her series, bringing the blind hero into the main MCU for the first time.
Daredevil Joins the MCU
Historically, Echo has been a common love interest for Matt Murdock's Daredevil in many comics, making her series a logical place for Charlie Cox to make his MCU debut. But with the actor also reportedly reprising his role in Spider-Man: No Way Home, perhaps fans may be treated to a brief tease of the blind hero in Hawkeye.
Granted, it's extremely unlikely Daredevil will have any significant role in the archer's series with plenty already going on, but a post-credits tease in the finale would send fans of the Netflix series into a frenzy of anticipation.
With Echo being a lesser-known hero, pairing her with a more popular hero like Daredevil is a genius way to attract more popularity to her spin-off project, especially since Season 4 of the Netflix series looks to be off the table.
It's no secret Marvel Studios has little interest in integrating elements from its old television division, but the popularity of Cox's Daredevil makes bringing him back a no-brainer, even if it is largely in rebooted form.
Daredevil only released its final season in 2018, Kevin Feige will likely be looking to wait a few more years before giving the Devil of Hell's Kitchen another solo project. Until then, involving Cox's Defender in a multitude of other projects is an excellent way to build anticipation for the inevitable Disney+ series or blockbuster movie which will probably come in a few years' time.
Yelena Becomes the Black Widow
After becoming the breakout star of Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow, Florence Pugh will return as Russian spy Yelena Belova in Hawkeye.
The post-credits scene of the Marvel prequel revealed Belova is working with Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Valentina Allegra de Fontaine who was seen recruiting John Walker's US Agent to a mysterious team in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Not only that, but Valentina has sent Yelena on the hunt for Clint Barton having blamed him for the murder of Natasha Romanoff.
The stage is certainly set for Belova and Barton to go head-to-head in an epic face-off during Hawkeye, but the lasting repercussions of this encounter remain unclear. Perhaps Clint will be able to convince Yelena that Natasha sacrificed herself and send her down a heroic path.
Since Scarlett Johansson's time in the MCU has now come to an end, now seems to be the right time to send Yelena on the path to becoming the next Black Widow and possibly even a member of the Avengers.
Even during a global pandemic, Black Widow managed to become a hit at the box office, making a sequel inevitable. Whenever this does see the light of day, Yelena is the obvious candidate to lead the spy flick in the modern-day MCU continuity as the titular hero.
Valentina's Dark Avengers Team-Up
Since Yelena, who was recently revealed to be working with Ms. De Fontaine, will be returning for Hawkeye, an appearance from Julia Louis-Dreyfus' mysterious recruiter seems inevitable. While Dreyfus has yet to be confirmed for the series, neither of her past credits have been reported before release, so a third cameo is not out of the question.
Perhaps viewers may finally gain a better understanding of what kind of team Valentina is trying to put together, with a version of the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers being the most common theories. Given neither John Walker nor Yelena Belova is exactly a villain in the way the Thunderbolts typically are, the MCU's Dark Avengers seems to be the more probable of the two.
While US Agent is an obvious Captain America replacement in the line-up and Yelena could obviously fill in as a Black Widow, perhaps Valentina will be recruiting equivalent members for each of the original Avengers.
Once Barton is eventually able to convince Belova of his innocence, she may then offer some explanation of Valentina's plan, finally offering a better idea of how it connects to the wider MCU and what project it may culminate in.
Spider-Man: No Way Home Connections
In the same week that Hawkeye releases its fifth episode, Spider-Man: No Way Home will hit theaters around the world. Interestingly enough, there is some evidence to suggest the two highly-anticipated projects may be interlinked in some way.
Hawkeye's first trailer confirmed the series will take place at Christmas with set photos from No Way Home confirming the multiverse blockbuster will also, at least partially, be set in the holiday season. With both projects focussing their attention on New York City, there is plenty of potential from some references and crossover.
Based on the film's first trailer, No Way Home will have plenty of grand-scale action going on as Peter Parker and Doctor Strange make some multiverse-threatening mistakes. Since Clint Barton and Kate Bishop will be in the city at the same time, it would be hard for the archers to not at least notice what's going on.
Additionally, rumors have suggested Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock aka Daredevil will make an appearance in the Spider-Man sequel as Peter's lawyer. With his arch-nemesis Kingpin reportedly returning for Hawkeye, perhaps the simultaneous integration of Daredevil into the MCU may prove to be the link between these two projects.
The Young Avengers Assemble
For every new Phase 4 project that comes along, it seems as if speculation continues to reignite that Marvel Studios are preparing to assemble the Young Avengers on-screen in the near future. This year alone, fans have already been introduced to Wiccan, Speed, Patriot, and Kid Loki, while Kate Bishop and Ms. Marvel will join the MCU in the next two Disney+ series.
With the introduction of Hailee Steinfeld's archer, the Young Avengers has probably found its leader as Bishop seems to be the clear choice to lead the team. Now that most of the team has debuted in the MCU, perhaps it won't be long until some of these characters come face-to-face before any kind of larger team-up.
Hawkeye Is Bigger Than Expected
While Hawkeye's trailers paint it as an innocent holiday adventure, Jeremy Renner's solo debut has the potential to be a key piece of the MCU moving forward, especially when it comes to the mystery of Valentina.
If Loki has taught fans one thing, it's that Marvel Studios is more than willing to make its Disney+ series critical chapter its ongoing interconnected storyline. Marvel and Disney have a consistent history of delivering surprises in the MCU so don't be shocked if Hawkeye connects to plenty more future projects than first meets the eye.
The first two episodes of Hawkeye will premiere on November 24, exclusively on Disney+.