SPOILERS FOR HAWKEYE EPISODE FOUR AHEAD!
Hawkeye is doing an awful lot of meandering and walking in circles for a show that only has two episodes left in its first season and about a dozen subplots and mysteries currently ongoing, none of which is any closer to a satisfying resolution now than they were last week. And rather than checking items off the list in preparation for the finale, Hawkeye just keeps adding more, clarity and coherency be damned. One-upping last week’s Kingpin tease, this week it’s Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) who enters and exits again just as quickly, apparently realizing that she’s so far removed from the actual plot that there’s no reason for her to be here.
Of course, I’m sure Hawkeye will find some role for her to fill in the finale, because you don’t hire Academy Award-nominee Florence Pugh for a single action sequence in which she’s only unmasked for roughly twenty seconds (well, you shouldn’t; I wouldn’t put it past Marvel to do so, though). But unless it’s revealed that she’s somehow connected to Kingpin or is also going after the mysterious Rolex wrist-watch that everybody and their mother suddenly wants, I feel pretty confident that her only purpose is to continue the storyline set up in the Black Widow post-credits scene.
And that’s great and all, and I am interested to see where that story goes, but…can it wait until after we’ve finished the story that’s actually going on right now? Leaving aside the fact that Yelena will mean nothing to people who haven’t watched Black Widow or its post-credits scene, in-universe she still has no personal significance to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) or Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) either, so she’s just another mystery for them to add to their steadily growing pile.
Perhaps the even greater issue is that with all these story threads hopelessly tangled up together like Christmas lights, the writers and directors can’t seem to decide on just one that takes priority over any of the others, even for a single episode. The aforementioned Rolex wrist-watch that is so crucial to this episode’s final action sequence, and which Kate recovers from Echo (Alaqua Cox)’s apartment after a harrowing home intrusion? This is our first time even seeing the damn thing again since episode one, and we still have no clue how it connects back to the plot.
Just for fun, let’s play along with the mystery being built around this wrist-watch, which actually does seem to have personal significance for Clint at least. He claims it belongs to an old colleague of his who’s been off-the-grid for a while, and that it could blow their cover if it fell into the wrong hands. Whoever sent Echo and the Tracksuit Mafia to specifically locate this watch in episode one (probably Kingpin) is presumably also aware of this, and there’s a strong chance that Echo now knows the wrist-watch’s secrets, having been in possession of it for a while.
But does the wrist-watch’s original owner have any relevance to the narrative of Hawkeye, or is this another tease for future MCU storylines? My immediate assumption was that the watch belonged to Steve Rogers, because the question of where he went in the aftermath of Endgame is not only hotly debated among fans but apparently in-universe as well, something that we saw in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier. I’ve also seen it theorized that the watch belonged to Bobbi Morse, better known by her alias Mockingbird in both the comics and in Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., or to Laura Barton (Linda Cardellini).
The latter theory is intriguing, because from a storytelling and thematic standpoint it makes more sense for the wrist-watch’s owner to be Clint’s wife, running from her own past as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, than for it to be a completely new character to the MCU like, say, Mockingbird (much as I want to see the latter character return, played by Adrianne Palicki of course), or a character we likely wouldn’t ever see on Disney+ to begin with, like Chris Evans as the elder Steve Rogers.
But I also have a hard time believing that Clint wouldn’t have returned speedily to be by his wife’s side if he suspected she was in that much danger, or that Hawkeye will turn out to be centered around a character who has only appeared in the show on the other end of phone conversations, or that someone of Kingpin’s high status would go to such great lengths to try and find one retired S.H.I.E.L.D. agent – unless Laura is in possession of some highly-classified information. And if that’s the case, then what is the point of everything else going on in this show?
While Clint has an obscure connection to this wrist-watch, a personal connection with Echo and through her a tangential connection to Kingpin, it’s Kate Bishop whose sprawling subplot feels like the heaviest baggage that this slim series has to carry. Even though the murder of Armand Duquesne has been completely forgotten, and Kate has yet to do any real sleuthing into her soon-to-be stepfather Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), we’re constantly being reminded in casual tones that Jack is possibly a murderer, probably the Swordsman, and definitely a corrupt and shady businessman regardless.
Meanwhile, Vera Farmiga’s Eleanor Bishop is taking a long time to properly materialize into the criminal mastermind that we all know she is behind her warm and friendly façade, and it’s starting to get a little embarrassing for both Farmiga (she’s doing the best she can with this role, I’ll give her that) and especially for Hawkeye‘s writers, who seem to think they’re being very clever by using Jack as an obvious red herring and an ineffective distraction from Eleanor’s evil antics, when in fact the only real question at this point is whether Eleanor murdered Armand herself or got Jack to do it for her.
The link between these tales of two cities is Kingpin, who stands in Colossus fashion with one foot in the dark and treacherous underworld in which Clint operates, and with the other in the glittery high society and intrigue into which Kate was born. But my fear that he would overshadow the entire series as more and more of him was gradually revealed each week proved to be unfounded, as he’s entirely absent from this episode. Now I find myself longing for any character who could bridge the gap between Hawkeye‘s split narratives.
At the very least, we still have Clint and Kate themselves…well, at least until the end of this episode, when Clint decides to send Kate away and reject her help because now and only now, after being beaten half to death by the Tracksuit Mafia and stealing a car and jumping off a bridge together, he’s finally decided that it’s too dangerous for Kate to continue playing at being a superhero. There’s a touching moment where Clint nearly loses Kate in similar fashion to Natasha Romanoff that helps sell the big dramatic break-up, but we all know they’ll reunite in the finale to take down Echo, or Eleanor, or Jack, or Yelena, or all of the above.
In the meantime, I fear that without the light-hearted banter between Clint and Kate, Hawkeye might not work as well as it has up until this point. Kate on her own has proven to still be every bit as entertaining as she is when paired up with Clint (she’s the one with the Pizza Dog, after all), but Renner’s Clint sucks the joy and energy out of even comedic moments, and without Kate to keep him on his toes, I fear he’ll be back to the same old routine.
And I mean that in more ways than one. Clint’s got the precious wrist-watch now, and the Ronin suit and sword that he came for in the first place. But after this episode, his objective has changed from evading Echo and the Tracksuit Mafia to stopping them once and for all. And although theoretically it’s to save Echo herself from straying down the same path that Clint took after Infinity War, I can’t help but wonder if this mission will dredge up any of the bloodlust and reckless desire for justice that powered Clint while he hid behind the Ronin mask for five years. Maybe what Echo needs is to see firsthand what she could easily become.
Yelena is the wild-card in the middle of all of this, because she’s on her own totally separate misguided mission for vengeance against Clint, and she seems a lot more ruthless than Echo – based on what we’ve seen from her character in Black Widow, and on how she handles herself in battle here, during the epic four-way fight that caps off the episode. Hilariously, she and Echo land a few blows on each other, neither realizing that they share a common goal. Echo is soundly defeated, which is a little unfortunate. So far she hasn’t had that awesome action beat I think we all want from her, and that I know Alaqua Cox can deliver.
But after her incredible introductory scene, Yelena spends a few seconds onscreen out of her spider-eye mask (which I’m extremely happy to see in live-action, although it doesn’t look quite as good as it does in the comics) before vanishing into the night. And even though I love Yelena, I don’t feel satisfied by this random tease that could just as easily have been inserted into any other episode or cut completely for all the difference it makes. It’s merely a reminder that Yelena is going to appear later, probably in a post-credits scene where this sort of story development ought to have happened anyway because it has nothing to do with this story.
Hawkeye is an advent calendar of character reveals and plot twists, but all the boxes have been opened at once, without rhyme or reason. Hopefully the show remembers that it has just as many boxes to close now, and that it’s running out of time to do so.
Episode Rating: 6.5/10