Clint has a bad habit of getting into fights before he even says “hello,” and as the third episode of Hawkeye drew to a close, it looked like a habit set to continue. But not so. As the fourth episode, “Partners, Am I Right?” kicks off, not only is Jack surprised to recognize the home invader he’s holding at sword point, he’s kind of thrilled. Is he a bad guy or a fanboy?
Can he be both? So far, Hawkeye has played coy about Jack’s agenda. Sure, he seems fishy, and if you’re looking for a murderer who likes to use swords, Jack has to be a prime suspect, especially when the victim is his own uncle. What’s more, as Clint learns later in this episode, Jack’s the CEO of a company apparently laundering money for “the Big Guy,” the still-unnamed (but possibly Kingpin-shaped) antagonist at the heart of many of Clint’s troubles. But there’s something about the guy that makes it hard to peg him down as a villain. Maybe it’s the smile? Maybe it’s the mustache?
For Kate, it’s what Jack does for Eleanor that makes her kind of like him against her instincts. He makes her dance and laugh with his twisted aphorisms. We’ve not seen anything of the years between the loss of Kate’s father and the present day, but they don’t seem like an era filled with dancing and laughing. Maybe Jack’s bad. But for Eleanor, he’s clearly done some good.
Not that Eleanor’s life is worry free. Like Jack, she’s both baffled and delighted that Clint Barton, world-famous Avenger, would be at their apartment. She’s a Hawkeye fan — despite his branding issues — but not a fan of Kate being put in danger. As Clint makes his exit, Eleanor takes him aside to remind Clint Kate’s not a superhero. Then she drives the point home by touching a sore spot — the death of Natasha Romanov — in an effort to stress how mad she’ll be if Kate gets hurt.
Clint hears her and takes it seriously. He’s never wanted to put Kate in danger, but Eleanor’s comments, as hurtful as they are, remind him of how much danger she’s already in just by tagging along on his adventures (adventures at least partly tied to his career as the pitiless Ronin in the years after the Blip and the disappearance of his family).
Fortunately, Clint’s family returned, even though it’s still unclear if he’ll make it back to them for Christmas. That’s good for Clint for many reasons including, as we learn this week, that Laura also helps his investigations by supplying intel from his home base. (She’s his wife and his Alfred.) That intel includes info on the location of the “Rolex” that’s found its way out of the Avengers compound, though it takes a while for Laura to track it down.
In the meantime, after Kate shows up at her aunt’s apartment with Pizza Dog (and pizza), the two Hawkeyes enjoy some holiday merriment together, which gets merrier once they decide to use the frozen daiquiri packets Clint has taped to his wounds for their original purpose. They loosen up, talk about the case and the pros and cons of boomerang arrows (Pro: They come back. Con: They come back), and Clint tries to teach Kate how to use a coin as a weapon. Then things take a darker turn when Kate asks Clint about the best shot he ever took. It turns out it’s the one he never took, the one intended for Natasha, the unlikely best friend he saved only to lose.
Then the talk gets even darker when Kate asks him if he was Ronin. It’s tough for Clint to discuss this part of his past, and the conversation soon turns to how little he thinks of himself as a hero. “My job has always been to hurt people,” he tells his No. 1 fan. “I was a weapon.” And that past she suggests is behind him? He sees it differently: “It’s tied to me.”
The best sequence we’ve seen yet on Hawkeye — or at least the best without car chases or fisticuffs — these scenes both deepen the relationship between Kate and Clint and take advantage of what a human-scaled superhero show can do. Could Thor get this introspective? Would Hulk do this much self-reflection without hulking out in anger? (Well, maybe in his current, more balanced state, sure.) Kate sees Clint’s issue as branding, but really Clint just wants to disappear. He’s uneasy with what he’s done and sees little of it as admirable, much less heroic. She gets that but also sees the bigger picture. He saved the world! More than once! Not everyone can say that. What do you call such people except heroes?
Action soon puts the contemplation on hold. Kate’s charged with tracking down Clint’s missing trick arrows by befriending the LARPers, especially the police officer who can retrieve them from evidence. Kate not only excels at this task, she comes out of it with a spiffy new purple costume (and some snickerdoodles). Clint needs intel, which he gets by threatening Kazi, the brainiest of the Tracksuit Mafia and the member most likely to sway Echo away from going after Clint as part of her quest for revenge.
That doesn’t quite work out, at least not in this episode. Clint and Kate track the stolen Rolex to an apartment building then stake it out from a nearby rooftop, where Clint gives Kate a lesson on the most effective ways to break into a building without anyone noticing it. She naturally ignores this but successfully finds the Rolex and a notebook suggesting Clint’s family might soon be a target, but not before triggering a silent alarm. Turns out this is Maya’s place, and she’s not too happy that Kate has broken in. They fight. Meanwhile, Clint’s also fighting Maya across the way, or at least a masked baddie he assumes to be Maya who’s later revealed to be Yelena Belova, the Black Widow assassin we met in the movie Black Widow. (That Florence Pugh would be reprising her role hasn’t been much of a secret, but Belova’s arrival still comes as a shock to Clint.)
Clint tries to lose Kate, first by dropping her off a roof (knowing she’ll land safely because he understands such things), then by telling her to go home. She says she understands the risks. Clint disagrees. They began the episode playfully bantering about whether or not they’re partners. By the episode’s end, this has become a much more serious question.
• Clint and Laura speak German when they don’t want the kids to know what they’re talking about. There has to be a story there, right? We really don’t know much about Laura at all, come to think of it.
• Kate uses another of her aunt’s movie posters as a dry-erase board (that doesn’t really work as such). It’s for A Chance of Love, which looks like a sophisticated ’50s romantic comedy. Interesting career. (She also has a “Thanos Was Right” mug. But would that really be something people could joke about? Or at least the sort of people who like novelty mugs?)
• It’s good to see Grills again.