The second episode of Hawkeye slowly builds on the foundation that the premiere set, but it still lacks any kind of intensity or hook to reel anything in. Clint and Kate are actually together now, but their relationship is, so far, mostly distant and cold. This isn’t surprising given Clint’s lack of interest in Kate personally and simply focused on his own personal mission. Plus, it’s realistic given the fact that the two very different archers just met, but it just hasn’t yet sparked anything overly persuasive about the two’s central dynamic.
While the capability of their chemistry is certainly there, it’s a stretch to say that we are currently experiencing it. Frankly, they do not share an abundant amount of screen time and when they do Kate is mostly on a fangirl, awkwardly-trying-to-impress level with Clint. Now that the two are in a significant predicament together, though, the stage is set for the banter and the natural relationship to take off. Kate’s inherent confidence—as highlighted by her dramatic crashing entrance into the tracksuit mafia’s warehouse—as well as Hailee Steinfeld’s obvious ability to bring the character to life, is poised to bring much of what’s needed to the table. But Hawkeye has yet to actually demonstrate it can pull their relationship off.
The episode is heavily focused on Kate’s hunch that Jacques is responsible for his uncle’s death and, probably more importantly, involved in a major underground criminal scheme. While Kate’s investigation and Jacques’ role in the overall story are likely key elements of the series, this episode spends too much time here. Yes, Kate’s character and primary drive has to be developed properly, there’s no argument about that. Plus, the narrative is clearly pulling from a lot of different and brand-new sources, and Episode 1 proved that this might be a significant burden for Hawkeye. But it’s currently coming at the cost of forcing a slow, lukewarm, and fairly mundane first couple of episodes needing to be redeemed and probably carried by the remaining four.
Clint’s side quest, while similarly dry and lacking much emotion or intensity, is still a bit more interesting. Notably, we get to see Clint take part in some LARPing in order to get the Ronin suit back. It’s silly, but it’s different. So far with Clint, it feels like the series is playing some version of “What Do the Avengers Do When They’re Not Being Superheroes?” Jeremy Renner definitely plays Clint low-key still, but if the audience looks at the character through the lens of a relatively washed-up, middle-aged, traumatized, exhausted, and “please let me go home” energy, Renner’s performance and Clint’s character is on point. As a side note, we’re introduced to a LARPer named Grills—anyone familiar with the Fraction and Aja Hawkeye run knows he might be significant.
The Tracksuit Mafia has a bit more spotlight this time around, and the “bros” are now proving to be the strongest comedic element of the series as of yet. Ronin’s past with the criminal group is particularly interesting, given the fact that the mafia at this point seems relatively goofy and low-level. The importance for Clint to settle things with them almost comes across as trivial—the globe-trotting organized crime murdering vigilante is hung up on…a group called the “Tracksuit Mafia”. Surely, there must be more behind the scenes, although Clint doesn’t seem to know exactly what. But the final moments of the episode peels back some of the menial tracksuit face.
The episode ends on by far the most intriguing note with the Alaqua Cox Echo reveal. Despite the fact that she almost exclusively does nothing, her presence—combined with the extra oomph of the cinematography and music—is presence at its finest. That short moment represents the punch and grip Hawkeye needs. It also teases that the series can pull it off, and perhaps the coming episodes will truly take everything up a notch. It’s more than suggested that a more aggressive storyline involving the Tracksuit Mafia (and likely more) is to come, but we are certainly not there quite yet.