This review contains spoilers for episode 4 of Marvel’s Hawkeye, ‘Partners, Am I Right?’, now available to view on Disney+. To remind yourself of where we left off, check out our review of Hawkeye episode 3.
Across his MCU career, Hawkeye has never had the chance to be truly vulnerable. Living alongside bigger personalities, even his most impactful moments in Avengers: Endgame provided little space for Jeremy Renner to explore Clint Barton on a deeper level. This solo series has, of course, been the opportunity to course-correct on that front, but it’s this week’s episode that really digs deeper into what it means to be Hawkeye. While it’s not quite as exciting as its predecessor in terms of archery heroics, episode 4 builds on the emotional heart of the Hawkeye series, and further bolsters its central dynamic in the process.
A substantial part of this episode is spent with Clint and Kate just hanging out. In terms of forward plot momentum, it means Hawkeye’s foot is off the gas a little this week, but this breather allows Clint to open up more than he’s ever done. Describing himself as a weapon (a nod to the Fraction/Aja comics run ‘My Life as a Weapon’) and someone who hurts people casts an unexpectedly dark shadow over our hero, and gives the impression of a man trapped by his own purpose. The grittier texture under his Avengers veneer is further reinforced by his meeting with Kazi, in which Clint sits menacingly in the back seat of a car while grilling his target. Typically it’s the villain in the back-seat in this scenario, and the reversal of this trope makes for an honest look at the more gnarly aspects of being a superhero.
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Despite that sharper edge, this isn’t a gloomy episode. Kate injects some festive cheer into their hang-out time, bringing Pizza Dog over to recreate the Christmas movie marathon that Clint should be doing with his kids. This gesture demonstrates the deepening understanding developing between the two, and their coin-flipping antics and slushie slurping adds another layer to their student/teacher dynamic. While Clint still asserts that they are not partners, their relationship is steadily building at a natural pace. At this stage we still get the humour of his frustrations, but his admiration of Kate’s skills and drive no longer have a reluctant sting. We see this in action as Clint cuts Kate free from her rope tether at the end of the episode; he’s not letting her go because she’s a burden, but because he genuinely cares for her.
That emotional core is what makes Hawkeye a success, but it won’t be what everyone is talking about this week. The trending topics will likely belong to Florence Pugh’s Yelena, who makes her not-so-surprising debut following the Black Widow post-credits scene in which Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine instructs her to kill Clint. While that scene had already made it obvious that Yelena would arrive eventually, her violent debut does a good job of holding back the reveal and casting a mystery over Clint’s assailant. She’s eventually unmasked, but the shot of her Black Widow tech firing a few moments earlier is a nice tease for who’s beneath those night-vision goggles.
Despite her Black Widow training, though, this isn’t quite Hawkeye’s best fight. Directors Bert and Bertie don’t quite hit the stylish highs they reached with Kate’s pole swing and Clint’s backwards archery from last week. That’s not to say it’s not an entertaining fight, though. The scene builds tension through confusion, intercutting the Maya versus Kate battle with Yelena’s blows, and making the fight more clear-cut as it builds to its unmasking finale.
By arriving right at the end of the episode, we’re left with no idea of how Yelena will fit into the show. Hopefully her story is one that intertwines into the wider plot, rather than a shoehorned side quest to ensure that Hawkeye has ‘relevance’ to the greater machinations of the MCU. One of Hawkeye’s strengths is its detachment from the wider Marvel universe, which has allowed it more of a singular focus, unburdened by cosmic forces or crossovers. Disrupting that without good reason could be detrimental to its aim.
Talking of side plots, Hawkeye made the right moves with Kate’s family this week by tying the Jack plotline directly into the core of the show. No longer a separate murder mystery arc, it is revealed that Jack has ties to the Tracksuit Mafia and its mysterious overlord (who, let’s face it, is probably Kingpin). By uniting those elements, Hawkeye’s purpose is honed, and it no longer feels as if it’s trying to maintain momentum across separate storylines. And with that, Hawkeye seems to have mastered pace better than most of the Disney+ MCU shows; with just two episodes left, the pieces are mostly in the right places to smoothly lead into a final conflict and conclusion.