Hawkeye Episode 4, Partners, Am I Right?, slowed down from last week’s episode to focus more on psychological themes and more investigative-type activity, in contrast to the action-heavy previous episode. While the episode’s slower and more character-based work is well-executed, the episode advanced the plot very little. With so many elements and unknowns still on the table, it begs the question of whether or to what extent the final two episodes of the series can succeed.
Episode 4 is generally dedicated to themes of family and loss, particularly the loss of Natasha Romanoff. Clint has his ongoing dilemma of trying to be there for his family at Christmas. This episode is pulling back on that further by delving into his psyche surrounding his time as Ronin after he lost his family in the Blip. There’s more recognition now about how his 5-year reversion into a hell-bent weapon affects who he is and his relationship to his family, even though Ronin is “dead” at this point.
It’s fun that his wife Laura can be so involved in what he is doing—it’s certainly a fresh change of pace than the usual keep-spouse-in-the-dark story. Still, we learn this episode that Maya is keeping tabs on Clint’s wife and kids, so Clint’s family situation seems like it could go beyond simply trying to return for Christmas. This should be a major issue for Clint, even though the episode ends before he can really react to it. He’s still dealing with the grief and consequences of losing his family once, so one can only expect that this news would be met with a wave of emotion, and likely, a reversion back into some violent and vengeful places out of fear.
Natasha Romanoff’s death is given more attention in this episode, too. There are brief references to her and her death every episode, but Clint finally gives a more formal statement on how he’s dealing with the loss by opening up to Kate about the “best shot he ever took” being the one he didn’t take when he was sent to assassinate the Black Widow. Through a brief and quiet moment with Clint, we get insight into his ongoing messy and dark psyche—he’s plagued by memories of the loss of his family and Nat, and it looks like it haunts him all too frequently. The focus on Nat definitely led up to Yelena’s brief cameo, but it further teases that a darker, more Ronin-like Hawkeye could be on the near horizon. Jeremy Renner is only getting better with these moments, and Clint’s subtle under-the-surface suffering is compelling
Perhaps the only person who can save him, if that happens, is Kate. On one hand, this is also Hailee Steinfeld’s and the character’s best episode in terms of charisma and performance. While the episode ends with Clint telling Kate that they’re done, common sense suggests that their partnership will return. Their relationship is built up extremely well throughout the episode, which is clearly in part to make the ending more dramatic. The two share their best banter and back-and-forths of the series between their interrogation by Jacques and Eleanor and Kate bringing Christmas cheer to Clint.
But while the two’s partnership/friendship/relationship looked stronger than ever, it was not free from the ails of the themes of the episode. Eleanor Bishop is the first to bring up Natasha’s death to Clint, pleading with him to leave Kate out of their investigation and not let her get hurt. Clint acknowledges that he plans to keep her safe, but he seems relatively unphased at this point. Kate’s confidence in and of itself likely makes it easier for the elder Hawkeye to feel comfortable with her involvement. It isn’t until Kate is thrown off of the roof of a building, narrowly surviving, that Clint reacts all at once. Between the parallel to Natasha’s falling death and his promise to keep someone’s child safe, his panic and emotion burst out, leading to his proclamation that his and Kate’s time together is over.
Another interesting part of their dynamic this episode is that Kate discovers that Clint was Ronin. It seemed like this would be a much bigger moment than it was—Kate was certainly a bit shocked and upset at the idea, but by the next scene she had moved on. Knowing her hero was the notorious vigilante assassin probably should have affected her more, but perhaps her infatuation with Hawkeye blurs her perception of the situation. That, or, it simply wasn’t explored enough.
Episode 4 was definitely slower than the previous episode, but it left all of its high-intensity moments for the end. The final, but relatively brief fight featured Clint, Kate, Maya, and Yelena Belova. Yelena arrived, as promised, and her hand-to-hand combat style made everyone else look incompetent and added a lot of strength to the scene itself. She says nothing, and we only see her face revealed right before she escapes. There’s also a nod to Clint’s introduction to Natasha when Kate refuses to take a shot at Yelena. Is a more personal friendship between the two being foreshadowed?
While Yelena’s appearance is undoubtedly exciting, it’s hard not to notice that the final two episodes of Hawkeye will have quite a few elements it needs to resolve or address. A quick list includes Yelena, Maya, Kazi’s likely attempt to persuade Maya to stop going after Ronin, the Rolex from the Avengers compound, the rumored BIG reveal next episode, the LARPers and the Hawkeyes’ new suits, Jacques’ role as a money launderer for the Tracksuit Mafia, the Tracksuit Mafia itself, Clint still getting home in time for Christmas, the Hawkeye mantle being passed down, clearing Kate’s name as Ronin, Clint’s family potentially being in direct danger, Clint’s psychological turmoil, and Lucky the Pizza Dog eating more pizza.
Overall, Episode 4 does well with its slower pace in terms of addressing overarching themes, including family and grief stemming from loss. It was important for Clint in this series to have moments where he lives within his own trauma, and some of that is definitely highlighted. The relationship between Clint and Kate gets more depth as well, between the growing friendship and partnership combined with Clint’s fear and guilt pushing her away at the end. Yelena’s introduction is exciting and promising, but the burden that the next two episodes carry seems at risk of being too much to handle effectively.