The first episode of Hawkeye got pretty bogged down in setting up the story the show was going to tell without quite establishing what kind of show it would be. But the nice thing about front-loading exposition is that once it’s out of the way, it’s out of the way, and a series can get down to business, as Hawkeye does with its second episode. The playful patter between Clint and Kate? Some further hints at the central mystery of who killed Armand Duquesne III? A little bit of action and a cliffhanger to make it hard to wait for the next episode? This second installment has all that, plus Clint Barton, a galaxy-caliber superhero, engaging in a not-so-incredible simulation of medieval melee in Central Park.
The patter comes first. Right from the start, Renner and Steinfeld have nice chemistry in their first real episode together. Kate’s an eager fan who’s a little bit starstruck about spending time with Clint Barton, her hero since childhood, but also confident enough to hold her own and push back when she disagrees with him (and she disagrees with him a lot). Clint’s a grumpy old hero not looking for an apprentice, but he can’t help being intrigued by his unexpected tagalong. Sure, he scoffs when she mentions that some people call her the world’s greatest archer, but she does have trophies to back up her claim. And while he’s annoyed to find himself by her side fighting the Tracksuit Mafia (again), he’s impressed at the way she holds her own. When he gives her his phone call and tells her not to use it, he knows she won’t listen to him.
But first, he has to make sure she survives. After Clint and Kate flee to what she believes to be the safety of her apartment, and after Kate introduces Clint to Pizza Dog, they find the Tracksuit Mafia has followed them and would very much like to have a few words with Kate. Or, failing that, they’d like to burn down her apartment using Molotov cocktails. (A side note: This wasn’t entirely clear last week, but Kate apparently lives in a converted break room above the pizza restaurant whose product Pizza Dog adores.)
Clint and Kate escape, though not without putting up a fight, then retreat to Kate’s aunt’s place, a cramped and cluttered place with intriguing artwork including some lovely sketches and a poster for an old sci-fi movie. It’s a nice space, especially for New York, but it’s not exactly the luxury to which Kate’s grown accustomed. Is this aunt a poor relation? Maybe, but she does have a colorful wardrobe that Kate makes her own.
While Kate settles in, Clint sets out to recover the Ronin suit they left behind by disguising himself as a firefighter and returning to Kate’s now “crispy” apartment. The suit’s missing, but a little bit of detective work leads Clint to investigate members of NYC LARP, a bunch of live-action roleplaying enthusiasts that includes Grills (Clayton English), a firefighter who took the Ronin suit from the scene in an attempt to show up in a kick-ass costume for once. Clint knows where he has to go next but also that it will have to wait.
First, he has to send the kids back to Laura. Sending them off goes smoothly enough after a brief moment in which Nate seems to be lost, but Lila knows something’s up thanks to the cut on her dad’s forehead. She asks only that he keep his word and come home for Christmas, but she’s worried he won’t be able to. Shortly after that, Clint escorts someone else to safety, Kate, who insists on visiting her mother at Bishop Security, where she works as CEO. Getting there involves walking through Times Square (complete with a shot of the Disney Store, of course) and conversation about Clint’s “branding” spurred by one of New York’s cosplayers, a bow-toting hero hanging out with a bunch of Avengers. But it’s not Clint. It’s Katniss from The Hunger Games.
“Your whole thing,” Kate tells him, “is that you’re low-key. It’s hard to sell.” She’s speaking as the world’s number-one Hawkeye fan but also as a demographically desirable Gen Z consumer, adding, “People don’t want the cynical, cool thing anymore. They want sincerity.” It’s a fun bit of self-awareness that addresses Hawkeye’s second-tier pop culture status (and, to some extent, Jeremy Renner’s). He’s definitely an indispensable part of the Avengers but, archery freaks like Kate aside, is he anyone’s favorite Avenger? So far, Hawkeye has believably depicted Clint’s level of celebrity. He’s a big deal. A lot of people recognize him. But a lot of others just don’t or don’t seem that impressed. Sure, he’s a big deal superhero, but he’s no Tony Stark.
Much of the rest of the episode is given over to the two duels Kate and Clint engage in separately. For Kate, it’s between herself and Jack, who’s hanging out in Eleanor’s office when Kate shows up to discuss the previous night’s events and insists Kate join them for dinner. This, naturally, leads to sword talk and an impromptu fencing contest that Kate knows (and eventually proves) Jack is throwing to her. It’s all quite shady. Also shady: that Jack has a monogrammed butterscotch in his pocket, just like the ones Kate saw at Armand’s house before finding his body — a body bearing the wounds of a sword. Hmm …
Elsewhere Clint attends a LARP. It’s the series’s comic highlight so far because it’s the last place where Clint and his cynical cool want to be. But he can either wait until the LARP is over at midnight to confront Grills and reclaim the Ronin costume or he can suit up and fight. Watching Clint walk through the gauntlet of LARPers searching for his target is a bit like watching someone play a video game on God Mode. There’s just no contest. And there’s no contest when he finds Grills, or wouldn’t be if Grills didn’t want to use their meeting as a chance to get some status in the LARP community. Clint obliges with a frown on his face. But Grills gets his moment (“This has been, like, the best day of my life”), and Clint gets his suit. Everybody wins, even if Clint “loses.”
As the episode draws to a close, their troubles deepen. Kate has to worry about what’s up with Jack and an appointment at the police station she’s agreed to keep the next day. Meanwhile, Clint lets himself be taken by the Tracksuit Mafia to find out who’s behind them. It’s, as he tells Laura, who seems used to his adventuring and well-versed in his strategies, a “little catch-and-release.” That catching part goes well enough, and he’s just getting to the release when Kate crashes through the skylight. The night ends with the two of them duct-taped to amusement park rides as the biggest member of the Tracksuit Mafia goes to tell his boss he has them both. And it’s … someone we’ve never seen before. As the comic books say, “To be continued.”
• Okay, if you’ve followed the lead-up to this show, you know a little bit about who that mysterious woman is. She’s Maya Lopez, a.k.a. Echo. To say more about the character would probably be a spoiler but, while you wait for the next episode, take a moment to read about Alaqua Cox, who’s playing her. She has an interesting story.
• When Kate used her arrows to hit the fire extinguisher, was anyone else reminded of “The Cartridge Family,” the Simpsons episode when Homer buys a gun and uses it to perform ordinary household tasks (badly)?
• Tony sold Avengers Tower? Did we know this?
• The poster in Kate’s aunt’s house is for Creature of the Dark Galaxy starring Moira Brandon. Is she Kate’s aunt? We never learn the aunt’s name, but Moira Brandon has some ties to the Avengers in general and Hawkeye in particular.