- Episode 4 (of 6), 'Partners, Am I Right?'
- Written by Erin Cancino and Heather Quinn
- Directed by Bert & Bertie
Spoilers for the first four episodes of Hawkeye follow. You've been warned.
Serialized TV usually has to walk an awkward tightrope between two, often contradictory forces. While every episode ideally needs to further the arc plot, it should also function as a distinct unit, with its own beginning, middle and end.
Bizarrely, Hawkeye episode 4 – aka ‘Partners, Am I Right?’ – doesn’t really deliver on either front. Yet it remains a wonderful continuation of a TV show that may be on course to be the MCU’s best so far – assuming it can stick the landing better than its predecessors.
In most TV shows, an action-light episode such as this would feel like filler, the talky instalment that allows showrunners to save their special effects budget for later in the run. Most TV shows, however, don’t have a central pairing as engaging as Kate Bishop and Clint Barton, and the writing team has earned the right to position their friendship (not that Barton would call it that) high in the storytelling mix. First and foremost, ‘Partners, Am I Right?’ is an episode about family, whether it’s the one we’re born with or the ones we build for ourselves.
Although the previous episode’s cliffhanger teased a duel between dodgy stepdad-to-be Jack Duquesne and Barton, the low-key resolution provided is far preferable – in this unlikely superheroic twist on meeting the parents, Eleanor Bishop’s confused “Why is there an Avenger in my dining room?” is the perfect summation of a wonderfully weird moment.
Hawkeye has already shown it can skip effortlessly between drama, comedy and heartfelt character beats, and the scenes in the Bishop townhouse are no different. Kate and Clint’s very different takes on their working arrangement – she thinks they’re equal partners, he still sees her as an over-excited kid – are played for laughs, but Eleanor’s protective instincts bring a more serious edge to the conversation. Indeed, “Let me clarify, she is not a superhero,” is how most parents would respond when their daughter brings an Avenger home.
Jack remains an enigma. On one hand, he’s the skilled fencer who made a beeline for Ronin’s retractable sword in episode 1 and – it’s now been revealed – runs a business that launders money for the Tracksuit Mafia. At the same time, his persona is that of a clown, his mangled aphorisms and comedically smooth manner suggesting he may not be the criminal mastermind Clint and Kate believe him to be.
Whatever the truth, the affection between Jack and Eleanor seems real, and their dance moves, while not necessarily what Kate wants to see, do open her eyes to the importance of family at Christmas.
With only three days left to the big day and Clint still stuck in the Big Apple, Kate’s ad hoc house party may not be quite the celebration he was planning with his kids, but it’s the thought that counts. The tasteless jumpers, cocktails-in-a-bag and coin-tossing tricks – surely they’re going to come in handy later… – turn out to be a fun prelude to some darker moments, as Clint finally lets his guard down.
One of Hawkeye’s biggest strengths remains its ability to reveal new layers of a character who was chronically underserved by the Avengers movies. Here we see the tragedy of a man who devoted his life to being a weapon for others, hoping he was being “aimed by the right people at the right targets”, and subsequently lost his entire family in the Blip, before watching his best friend sacrifice herself to save the universe.
Admitting he was the man in the mysterious Ronin suit is clearly a massive step, but the bigger moment is arguably when he tells Kate his greatest shot was the one he didn’t take: i.e. the one that would have killed Natasha Romanoff before she defected. It’s a shame Hawkeye and Black Widow’s friendship – one that allegedly defines both characters – was never properly explored on screen.
When the action does come, it’s worth the wait – a spectacular rooftop melée involving Clint, Kate, Maya ‘Echo’ Lopez, and a mysterious new assailant who isn’t the special guest star we were expecting.
While we’ll be waiting a bit longer for Kingpin/Wilson Fisk to make his (widely rumored) debut in the show, the arrival of Natasha’s ‘sister’, Yelena Belova, is an extremely welcome development. Her extremely professional moves are a reminder of just how much Kate has to learn, and make Clint realize it’s time to heed Eleanor’s advice and send his protegée home.
Who Yelena is working for – whether it’s herself or another, more shadowy benefactor – is one of the biggest mysteries of an episode that offers up rather more questions than answers, though.
What’s the relevance of the Rolex watch that’s suddenly become an essential McGuffin? Is Jack really integral to the Tracksuit Mafia? Or is Eleanor the true criminal mastermind? The “urgent” phone call she makes after Clint leaves the house suggests she knows more than she’s letting on….
As for bona fide answers? The unexpected return of those friendly neighborhood LARPers does, at least, explain where Clint and Kate are going to get their new-look Hawkeye suits. With Tony Stark no longer around to hand out sophisticated nanotech outfits, these are important things to consider.
In a brief, six-part season, an episode that does so little to advance the plot could feel like an indulgence. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are so watchable as Clint and Kate, however, that ‘Partners, Am I Right?’ remains another extremely fun outing for the MCU’s wonderful reinvention of Hawkeye.
On the flipside, it does feel like there’s still an awful lot of storytelling for the final two episodes to deliver, especially if both Yelena and Kingpin are to be integral to the story – and if Clint is going to make it home for Christmas.
WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki have all floundered in their final acts – hopefully Hawkeye can avoid a similar fate.
- It’s clearly an error on Jack’s part when he refers to Clint as Archer, but there is a character with that name in Marvel comics. Archer was a mysterious mutant from the parallel Earth-1191 (home of the time-traveling Bishop) who appeared in X-Factor comics in the ’90s. Also, DC’s Malcolm Merlyn (played by John Barrowman in the Arrowverse TV shows) goes by the name of Dark Archer.
- So, Jack is CEO for Sloan Ltd, the company that employs Kazi and also launders money for the Tracksuits. Could the business be connected to Walker Sloan, a scientist who appeared in 2011 videogame Spider-Man: Edge of Time, where he worked for the Alchemax corporation? Alchemax has popped up in various non-MCU projects, most notably in brilliant animated movie Into the Spider-Verse. There, Kingpin uses the business as a front for his dimension-splicing Super-Collider project. While Hawkeye exists in a different continuity to Into the Spider-Verse, rumors of Wilson Fisk/Kingpin’s appearance in the show suggest there may be a connection.
- Jack’s hero is Huey Lewis, lead singer of Huey Lewis and the News, the band behind hit Back to the Future theme song ‘The Power of Love’.
- On the poster for Creature of the Dark Galaxy in veteran actor (and Kate’s aunt) Moira Brandon’s apartment, her co-star is Luke Ballard. Luke Ballard is also the name of a digital artist who’s worked on various Marvel projects, so we’re guessing this is no accident. In the episode, we also get a good view of a poster for another Brandon project, A Chance of Love.
- The selection of DVDs Kate brings along for her Christmas movie marathon includes The Santa Clause, Die Hard, Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
- Festive staple It’s a Wonderful Life appears on the TV after Kate masters Clint’s neat coin trick.
- Clint can be seen drinking from a “Thanos was right” mug – given his experiences as Ronin during the Blip, this is a particularly strange choice.
- The one-eyed Pizza Dog is played by Jolt. As on-set photos show, both her eyes are in full working order, so the visual effects team used CG to remove the left one digitally, as director Rhys Thomas told TechRadar ahead of the show's release.
- Although Clint scoffs when Kate mentions boomerang arrows, the unlikely weapons have made several appearances in Marvel comics. Back in the ’60s, Hawkeye used them against Iron Man, while Matt Fraction and David Aja’s 2010s run (a massive influence on the TV show) also brought them back.
- The radio station playing festive hits is 107.6, Light FM. A real-life Lite FM brands itself as “New York’s Christmas Music Station”, though its frequency is 106.7. An intentional change for rights reasons, or simply a typo in the script?
- Kate Bishop’s Лайка t-shirt is a direct lift of a design the character wears in the comics. Лайка translates as Laika, the name of the first dog in space.
- As widely reported, Florence Pugh reprises her Black Widow role as Natasha Romanoff’s ‘sister’, Yelena Belova.
- Clint Barton is clearly in Yelena’s sights. This would seem to tie in with Black Widow’s end credits sting, where Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (played by Julia Louis Dreyfus in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Black Widow) offers Yelena the chance to “take a shot at the man responsible for your sister’s death”.
- In official MCU continuity, Hawkeye is set around eight years after the events of Black Widow. We don’t yet know what Yelena has been doing in the interim, so there's a strong possibility she spent five of those years snapped out of existence by the Blip. Whether or not we get answers in Hawkeye, it seems the mystery will be solved eventually, as Marvel Studios boss Kevin Feige has confirmed : “You will find out [whether or not she was dusted]”.
New episodes of Hawkeye stream on Disney Plus every Wednesday.
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Richard is a freelance journalist specialising in movies and TV, primarily of the sci-fi and fantasy variety. An early encounter with a certain galaxy far, far away started a lifelong love affair with outer space, and these days Richard's happiest geeking out about Star Wars, Star Trek, Marvel and other long-running pop culture franchises. In a previous life he was editor of legendary sci-fi magazine SFX, where he got to interview many of the biggest names in the business – though he'll always have a soft spot for Jeff Goldblum who (somewhat bizarrely) thought Richard's name was Winter.