Hawkeye is picking up steam as its Christmas finale draws closer. A classic Marvel villain continues to be teased in small doses, while Black Widow’s Yelena Belova has made her grand entrance and Clint Barton and Kate Bishop have begun to act like a real team—at least until Kate nearly dies, a clear wake-up call to the danger Clint’s been putting her in.
“Partners, Am I Right?” is the shortest episode of Hawkeye yet, running at a brisk 40 minutes, but it packs in a lot of development to Clint and Kate’s relationship. It begins with Clint denying that they’re “partners” to Kate’s mom and Jack Duquesne after the latter find the two archers snooping around their penthouse, and it ends with Clint rejecting the same notion to Kate again, telling her that their Christmas adventure is over. But the moments in between find Clint beginning to trust Kate, as he finally reveals the truth about his dark past as Ronin.
Before everything goes sideways by the end of the episode, Kate helps make up for this whole Ronin mess that she’s gotten Clint into by spreading a little holiday cheer. That means bringing over some Christmas movie classics (including Tim Allen’s The Santa Clause), a tinsel tree with lights, a pair of Christmas sweaters, and even an outfit for the one and only Pizza Dog:
After getting a private lesson in how to turn quarter-sized objects into weapons, Kate asks her idol an innocuous question: “Best shot you ever took?” His response doesn’t lead to the exciting story that she’d been hoping for, though, as he replies that the best shot he had was the shot that he never took at all—the one that would’ve killed Natasha Romanoff before she had a chance to redeem herself as an Avenger. The main lesson that Clint is trying to teach his overeager protégé is the idea that the superhero life is serious and, ultimately, “a game of managing loss.” Kate’s question unravels the tangled threads of Clint’s past even further still, with him recounting the devastating (though temporary) loss of his family during the Blip and admitting to being Ronin. “Everybody dealt with the Blip in their own way,” Clint explains. “I continued doing what I was trained to do.”
“Protect people,” Kate responds.
“Hurting people,” he says. “Investigating first, but in the end, my job has always been to hurt people.”
Hawkeye continues to examine who Clint Barton is by unpacking his trauma after the events of the Infinity Saga. This conversation between Clint and Kate is followed by flashbacks pulled directly from scenes in Avengers: Endgame—images of Clint with his family before and after the Blip, as well as his last glimpse of Natasha before she fell to her death on Vormir. Like other Marvel projects in Phase 4, Hawkeye is utilizing the MCU’s past in order to move forward. Everything in the MCU was leading up to the standoff with Thanos (who was right, according to a mug that Kate’s eccentric aunt owns). Now that he’s been vanquished, the franchise is forcing itself to recognize the lasting toll that saga had on everyone—from normal citizens to its heroes. And the main conclusion of this exercise isn’t a shocking revelation, but it’s a profound one nonetheless: half the world’s population disappearing and then reappearing is not an easy thing to move past.
The conversation about Natasha and the flashback to her death also sets up the arrival of Yelena Belova. As Clint and Kate attempt to steal back a mysterious Rolex from Maya Lopez’s apartment, Clint receives a surprise visit from a skilled, masked assassin while serving as Kate’s lookout. He quickly discovers that she’s no mere assassin, but rather a Black Widow—just like Natasha—and realizes that the situation has gotten a lot more serious than it was when they were dealing only with the bumbling Tracksuit Mafia bros. When Kate almost falls to her death in a fight that features Maya, as well, Clint can’t help but see Natasha falling on Vormir. Yelena and Maya both escape, and Kate survives, but Clint is left with the realization that he can no longer put this 22-year-old’s life in jeopardy. For now, the tale of two Hawkeyes has become a story for Clint to finish on his own.
Reintroducing Yelena Belova
It took more than half of the season for it to happen, but Yelena Belova has finally arrived. Ever since the post-credits scene in Black Widow teased the appearance of Florence Pugh’s Belova in Hawkeye, fans have been awaiting the return of Natasha Romanoff’s scene-stealing adopted sister—and her grand entrance did not disappoint. Belova has yet to utter a single line, and she wears a mask for the majority of the only scene she’s in, but the Black Widow’s trademark electroshock bracelets (now featuring a fresh new tint of red) quickly give away Belova’s identity as she comes seeking revenge on the man responsible for her sister’s death.
Of course, Clint didn’t kill Natasha. Belova only thinks that because Valentina Allegra de Fontaine told her so in that aforementioned Black Widow stinger. Fontaine’s reasons for wanting to take out a former Avenger are still a mystery, but she’s clearly left out some crucial contextual details surrounding Natasha’s death. Either way, Clint now has another adversary to deal with.
Though, even as Belova hits the ground running as a trained assassin attempting to carry out a hit, she shows evidence of not being a true villain. She ensures that Kate’s wire is secured to the roof before she tosses her off of it like a WWE wrestler launching an opponent out of the ring. When Kate later has the chance to take her out with an arrow, Yelena looks Kate in the eyes and subtly shakes her head. Calling back to the time Clint first set his sights on the Avengers’ original Black Widow and decided not to take the shot, Kate sets her bow aside and lets Yelena run free.
From the first time we see Clint in Hawkeye, the series has been leading up to this encounter with Yelena. The trip in the premiere to Rogers: The Musical brought back memories of Natasha, and the episodes since have either mentioned her by name or explored Clint’s survivor’s guilt in some capacity. Although Clint has yet to discover Yelena’s familial ties to Natasha, her arrival is yet another example of Clint’s past catching up to him. But the MCU’s new Black Widow may soon serve as an ally for Clint and Kate (after the archers inevitably get back together, that is) once Clint is able to reveal the truth about what happened on Vormir. And just like how Maya Lopez’s introduction in Hawkeye is teeing up a future story line in Echo, the show may soon provide some insight into what the future holds for Yelena in the MCU.
What’s With the Watch?
The events of Hawkeye can be traced back to a single, unsuspecting object: a vintage Rolex watch. It was first mentioned during the premiere, when Maya orders her Tracksuit minions to retrieve it from the black-market auction hidden beneath Eleanor Bishop’s charity gala. All the information we had on the Rolex at the time was that it was recovered from the remains of the Avengers compound. In the fourth episode of Hawkeye, though, we’re beginning to learn that it might play a bigger role beyond putting this Ronin story line in motion.
While the watch has been all but forgotten until this episode, it resurfaces when Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini) mentions it seemingly out of nowhere. After digging around on her own, she calls Clint to inform him that Kate’s prospective stepdad is the CEO of Sloan Ltd., a shell company for the Tracksuit Mafia. (In other words, Jack Duquesne is laundering money for “the big guy,” who we can only assume is the Kingpin.) Either this connection to Kingpin or the discovery of items being taken from the Avengers compound reminds Laura of the Rolex, and she breaks into German to ask about its whereabouts. When Clint and Kate follow another lead from Laura at the end of the episode to find the Rolex sitting in Maya’s apartment, Clint offers a brief explanation of its significance. “Belongs to someone I used to work with,” he says.
“Is that the whole story, Clint?” Kate asks.
“They’ve been out of the game a long time, but their identity is still attached to that watch.”
While it isn’t clear who the watch belongs to at the moment, or what it may be capable of, it’s obvious that it holds great importance to at least three people: Clint, Laura, and Maya—if not Kingpin as well, assuming that he’s the one who commanded Maya to retrieve it in the first place. Until this episode, not much has ever been revealed about Laura’s past; until Avengers: Age of Ultron, none of Clint’s Avengers teammates beyond Natasha even knew she existed. And yet, all of a sudden, Mrs. Barton is acting like a spy, digging up dirt on bad guys and busting out different languages to discuss touchy subjects.
Although Laura Barton exists as a minor character in Marvel’s Ultimate universe of comics, Hawkeye could be blending her with another character from the comics: Bobbi Morse, the Avenger known as Mockingbird. In the comics, Bobbi is an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. known as Agent 19 before she teams up with the Avengers. And though they later separate, Bobbi is also married to Clint Barton for a time. Bobbi already appeared in ABC’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a recurring character, but she has yet to arrive in an MCU project outside of the canceled TV series. (As always, it remains unclear, but unlikely, as to whether Kevin Feige considers the popular show to be a part of his precious MCU canon.) With that said, Hawkeye might have just given its biggest clue to Laura’s potential past life as an Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., with her being the most likely candidate to be the friend who’s been “out of the game a long time.”
On top of potentially giving Linda Cardellini way more to do, Hawkeye still has several mysteries to reveal as its penultimate episode already approaches. As the new Black Widow enters the picture at last, things have just gotten a lot more complicated for Clint and Kate.