“Thor: Love And Thunder” Drops An Electrifying 1st Teaser Trailer

I’m truly sorry to all the straight guys out there who missed the memo, but Thor belongs to the gays and the girls now. And before you come at me like “what memo? I didn’t get a memo!”, well, you did, you just didn’t realize at the time that Cate Blanchett strutting around in a black bodysuit and antlers throughout the entirety of Thor: Ragnarok meant that the straights had officially lost custody of the franchise. It’s okay though, you had your shot, you gave us those two depressingly heteronormative Thor movies that nobody liked or watched, now it’s time for you to move over and let Taika Waititi show you how it’s done, AGAIN.

Thor Love And Thunder
Peter Quill and Thor | gameinformer.com

Waititi has been on a roll recently, and it’s in no small part thanks to the loyal queer fanbase he’s amassed. A fourth season of his extremely pansexual paranormal comedy series What We Do In The Shadows has already been shot, and will likely release later this year. The first season of HBO Max’s Our Flag Means Death, a show about queer pirates in the 18th century which Waititi produced and stars in, has been dominating the streaming charts. And Thor: Love And Thunder is only a hundred days from release, and looks to be another surefire hit for Waititi and Marvel with its colorful 80’s aesthetics, zany new characters, and heavy focus on romances – including some queer ones.

There are at least three canonically queer characters in this film, and of those three, King Valkyrie is the one whom we know for a fact will be confirmed as queer onscreen. Technically, actress Tessa Thompson has been playing her as bisexual since her debut in Thor: Ragnarok, but explicit evidence of her bisexuality was left on the cutting-room floor because apparently it distracted from vital exposition…which sounds an awful lot like an excuse to me, but thankfully, King Valkyrie will return in a much larger role in Thor: Love And Thunder, and Thompson has stated as far back as 2018 that her character “needs to find her queen”.

Unsurprisingly, there have been several willing volunteers for that position already, including Jaimie Alexander (the MCU’s Lady Sif) and Brie Larson (whose Captain Marvel is heavily implied to be queer as it is). But in the brief glimpse we catch of King Valkyrie in the first teaser trailer for Love And Thunder, she appears to be merely daydreaming of her many suitors. Dressed in a fashionable black pinstripe suit, she leans back in the throne of New Asgard and zones out while being heckled by ambassadors from other nations. I confess, I’m actually interested to learn more about how New Asgard interacts with the world (i.e. do they participate in Eurovision?), but I would have liked to see her in a less formal setting for this trailer, perhaps even on a date.

Then there’s Korg and Peter Quill, and in both cases the comic versions of these characters are canonically queer while the MCU versions are not…or at least, not yet. To be fair, Quill was only finally confirmed as bisexual in the comics within the last two years, so it’s not like the Guardians Of The Galaxy movies released in 2014 and 2017 had any precedent for making the character bi (not that that should have stopped them, obviously). But now that such a precedent exists, it’s impossible for me to watch this teaser and simply ignore or overlook the implications behind Peter Quill’s subtly flirtatious interactions with Thor.

If only it weren’t equally impossible to be optimistic, given Disney and Marvel’s track-record when it comes to LGBTQ+ representation. Trust me, I desperately want to read way too much into Quill and Thor’s dialogue in this teaser, and the recent reports that Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 3 filmed scenes in a gay bar, and the tweets about Quill being bi that Guardians director James Gunn liked last year, but I can’t, or at least I don’t want to, because at the end of the day Quill is a male action hero in a franchise where male action heroes are designed to be salivated over by straight men specifically.

Also, with Chris Pratt continuing to attend and defend an evangelical church that supported the torture of LGBTQ+ people under the guise of “conversion therapy”, I’m not sure if I actually trust him to portray Peter Quill’s bisexuality well, nor do I think it would be received well by the bisexual community regardless. Yeah, it would be cool to have a lead male character in a Marvel movie be revealed as bi, but is it worth it if we have to put up with Chris Pratt either complaining bitterly about it, or worse, using it as a flimsy shield against criticisms of him and his homophobic church? I think I might rather just keep the two queer male action heroes we currently have in the MCU proper.

As for Korg, the friendly rock-giant has previously appeared in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, but what’s never been mentioned – even in passing – is the fact that he’s a gay character in the comics. I believe there’s a slim chance that this will be remedied in Thor: Love And Thunder through some off-hand line of dialogue, although Waititi has already confirmed that Korg will not have a love interest in the new movie.

I mentioned that there at least three canonically queer characters in Love And Thunder, and we’ve now gone through all of those – but there’s a few more that I want to talk about, because we know from the teaser trailer that Thor will visit Mount Olympus, the domain of the Greek gods, and…well, if you know anything about Greek mythology, you know where I’m going with this. For those who don’t know, the Greek gods were unapologetically pansexual, long before the word even existed. That includes Zeus, who is set to make his MCU debut in Love And Thunder, portrayed by Russell Crowe. There’s a quick shot of him in the teaser trailer, dressed all in gold and holding aloft a lightning-bolt while addressing the gods of Mount Olympus.

Thor Love And Thunder
Jane Foster | polygon.com

Unfortunately for Zeus and probably 99.9% of everyone assembled in that crowd shot, the antagonist of Love And Thunder is none other than Gorr the God-Butcher, who has made it his mission to slaughter every deity from every pantheon, no matter how minor. But even if Zeus doesn’t make it out of this movie alive (and let’s be honest, he probably won’t), there are theories and credible rumors that his son, Hercules, will live to fight another day. Granted, there were also rumors he was the lead character of Eternals, which turned out to be…not true, but he’s the type of character I could easily envision first appearing in a Love And Thunder post-credits scene, clambering out of the rubble of Olympus and turning dramatically towards the camera.

He’s also bisexual in the Marvel Comics – and no, before you ask, I’m not referring to the parallel universe version of Hercules who dated a parallel universe version of Wolverine back in the mid-2010’s, I’m actually referring to the Earth 616 version of Hercules (i.e. the main version of the character) who recently started dating Noh-Varr and was implied to have slept with Northstar as far back as 2010. That Hercules.

So we’ve established that most of the supporting cast in Love And Thunder is, if not canonically queer, then at the very least potentially queer. But what about Thor himself? What about Jane Foster? Do they both just give off intense amounts of bisexual energy, or is there more to it than that?

To the best of my knowledge, neither character is queer in the comics, and while this should probably go without saying, the MCU versions of the characters have never been depicted as queer either. They were written to be star-crossed lovers in the first two Thor films, although it was never entirely clear why – Natalie Portman appeared to be bored out of her mind every time she had to act alongside Chris Hemsworth, and Hemsworth just looked uncomfortable and indifferent. But at the time, every other male action hero in the MCU had an intelligent girlfriend to counterbalance “his brawn with her brains”, and Thor apparently needed one too.

Natalie Portman wisely got out of the franchise before a male director could kill off her character for shock value, and the in-universe excuse for her absence in Thor: Ragnarok was that Jane broke up with Thor somewhere along the line, and it was messy, and they don’t talk to each other anymore. I don’t think they’ll get back together in Love And Thunder, either. There will probably be some romantic and sexual tension between them still (although Portman and Hemsworth need to put some effort into delivering on that front), but I feel pretty certain that by the end of this film the two characters will part amicably, as friends or frenemies, after finally acknowledging and owning up to their mistakes.

There’s a distinct possibility that Jane will also become Valkyrie’s queen, which could be interesting; we know next to nothing about her, so who’s to say she’s not bisexual? That could be something she discovered after breaking up with Thor, or it could be part of why she chose to break up with him in the first place. Thor has been on a journey of self-discovery these past few years, so he can certainly relate.

In fact, Thor might be able to relate on multiple levels. In that aforementioned flirty moment with Peter Quill, it’s Thor who repeatedly tries to lock eyes with Quill while he’s talking about…looking people you love in the eyes. Quill breaks eye-contact and clarifies that he wasn’t talking about himself, leading to an awkward and very intriguing moment in which Thor bites his lip, looks off to the side, and mumbles “What? Just listening”. It might just be a joke that uses homoeroticism as a punchline, which would be disappointing, but fans got very excited about the idea of Thor having a crush on Quill.

(That being said, the claim that was going around social media yesterday that “Thor is canonically pansexual in the comics” is totally false, and I don’t know where that originated but I couldn’t find any source for it. You want to headcanon him as pansexual, be my guest, but don’t go around saying that he is and praising Marvel for it or attacking other people for saying he’s bisexual).

Thor Love And Thunder
Thor | thedisneyblog.com

So is Thor: Love And Thunder about to be the gayest movie that Marvel has ever made? You’d better believe it. Is the bar for mainstream LGBTQ+ representation depressingly low? Absolutely. Is this a textbook example of fans (like myself) creating the representation we seek, and doing Marvel’s job for them? Possibly. I have a limited but not insubstantial amount of faith in Taika Waititi to give us representation onscreen, or at the very least to tell us what he wasn’t allowed to show us, and I hope Marvel’s promises regarding better LGBTQ+ representation aren’t entirely empty, but it’s difficult not to be cynical, and I understand the benefits of being cynical.

I won’t say “wait to see the movie”, because I hate that studios are able to lure fans into the theater on the promise of representation alone, but for now I guess let’s just hope for the best.

Trailer Rating: 9.5/10

Vibrant First Trailer For “Ms. Marvel” Offers A New Look At Kamala’s Altered Powers

I have long been sick and tired of those people on social media (you know the ones) who seem to have nothing better to do in their lives than trash adaptations they feel are “bad” or “unfaithful” (usually for racist reasons), only to immediately turn around and idolize Marvel Studios for always “respecting the fans” and “honoring the source material”, but today I want to talk about them. Because now Marvel has released the first trailer for Ms. Marvel, an original series coming to Disney+ this June, and those people…those people are real quiet all of a sudden.

Ms. Marvel
Kamala Khan | wusa9.com

And I’m sure it has something to do with the fact that a lot of them were never gonna watch Ms. Marvel in the first place, because the concept of a brown Pakistani-American Muslim girl saving the world is just a little bit too much for them to handle, but we all know in the end most of them will cave and watch – and don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’ll complain about the show bitterly, but I’ll be very surprised if any of them call it out for being a “bad” adaptation even though, in this case, I think there’s a very convincing argument to be made for why this is, if not an bad adaptation (that word is strong, too strong for me to use in good faith before the show has aired a single episode), then at least a problematic one.

And it’s not like this is the first time Marvel has done this, either, but there’s always an excuse for why it’s okay in their case. To cite just one example out of many, Wanda Maximoff’s Romani and Jewish heritage, which is pretty integral to her character, was erased when she and her twin brother Pietro were introduced to the MCU in Age Of Ultron. The excuse at the time was that Marvel needed to give them both completely new backstories to avoid getting into trouble with 20th Century Fox, but Disney now owns Fox and has yet to fix or even address this problem. For some, it’s ceased to even be a problem, and that’s kinda sad.

With Ms. Marvel, the problem isn’t the casting of Kamala Khan. Newcomer Iman Vellani is instantly charismatic, leaning heavily into the side of Kamala that is colorful, quirky, and so wildly imaginative that, in the first half of this trailer at least, she’s surrounded by animated thought-bubbles and doodles like she’s in a comic-book herself. Obviously, that’s not the only side of Kamala’s character that this series ought to be exploring, but it’s the only one that this trailer really hones in on – and Vellani seems particularly well-cast as Kamala the fangirl, fan-artist, and fanfic-writer who desperately wants to be a superhero but is still shocked and slightly terrified when her wish comes true.

But here’s the problem. In the comics, it’s important – I’d argue crucial – to Kamala’s character arc that her superpowers, when they manifest, are neither pretty nor cool at first glance. She can’t fly, or glow, or shoot laser-beams from her eyes. Instead, by what seems like a cruel twist of fate, she discovers that she’s a polymorph with the ability to rearrange the molecules in her body, allowing her to stretch, shrink, grow, flatten, expand, and contort into various shapes. This is a big deal because when she realizes that she can use this power to look like different people, she initially chooses to take the form of her favorite superhero – Captain Marvel.

Kamala in the comics is deeply scared that unless she looks like the conventionally attractive white superheroes she’s grown up idolizing, people not only won’t see her as a superhero, but won’t even trust her to save them in a life-or-death situation. It’s really important to her character arc that her powers are something she could either choose to embrace or to be ashamed of, and that she chooses to embrace the parts of herself that might alienate other people – knowing full well that it means giving up her one shot to be what the media says a superhero “should” look like – because the “brown girls from Jersey City” deserve a superhero who looks like them.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | ewwnews.com

But no, let’s give her a cute clip-on bracelet that glows and shoots sparkles instead.

I have no trouble understanding why this choice was made, so you can all save your prepared excuses. I’m obviously aware that elasticity is a weird superpower, one that tests how far audiences are willing to suspend their disbelief even when well-executed. Pixar’s The Incredibles proves that even back in 2004 it could be done in animation, but the live-action Fantastic Four movie that came out a year later conclusively proved that special effects technology had not yet caught up to the comics in regards to elasticity. Seventeen years and two more Fantastic Four movies later, that conclusion has yet to be refuted.

(Speaking of the Fantastic Four, I do not believe there is any truth to the theory that Kamala’s powers were altered so that Mr. Fantastic will stand out more when he makes his MCU debut, as this has never been a problem before. If there’s enough room for two archers named Hawkeye and at least eleven Eternals with slight variations on the same cosmic energy-based powers, I think Ms. Marvel and Mr. Fantastic could have peacefully co-existed in the same universe without anyone getting confused).

My issue, and the issue which many fans of Kamala Khan have with this change, is not that Kamala’s powers are different, but that changing them to be pretty and cool and “cosmic”, as Kamala excitedly whispers at one point in the trailer, fundamentally alters who she is. Her new powers, instead of causing her to question why she doesn’t look or feel like a superhero (and ultimately leading her to the realization that it’s the superhero media she consumes that put those doubts in her head), have the exact opposite effect – allowing her to live her dream-life as an easily merchandisable action figure on sale now at a Disney store near you!

And I’m sure that Ms. Marvel will have a sweet message about the importance of being yourself, but you can count on Disney to take a middle-of-the-road stance on pretty much everything, no matter how inoffensive it may seem. Be yourself…to a point. Don’t ever be so accepting of your differences that you accidentally step outside one of the studio’s target demographics – that would be radical.

Eh, maybe the cynic in me is just wary of all of Disney and Marvel’s attempts at representation following recent events. Trust me, I really want Ms. Marvel to surprise me, and I’d like nothing more than for there to be a twist near the end of the series where the magic bracelet is broken or lost or stolen by an antagonist, but it turns out that Kamala has actually had her comic-accurate polymorphic abilities the whole time and chooses to use those instead of the cool sparkly powers that her bracelet gave her. But at the end of the day, it’s easier to sell clip-on bracelets than Terrigen crystals that unlock latent Inhuman powers in humans, so I doubt any of that will pan out.

Unfortunately, the situation with Kamala’s powers isn’t the only controversy overshadowing the new series, though it might well be the most easily remediable in the long run. Amongst the supporting cast encircling Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel we have Yasmeen Fletcher, a Christian actress significantly lighter-skinned than her character, Nakia Bahadir, who has been portrayed in the comics as a fairly unambiguously brown hijabi Muslim girl, and Zenobia Shroff, a non-Muslim Indian actress playing Kamala’s Pakistani Muslim mother. Several other casting announcements have additionally been criticized for perpetuating the trend of colorism in Hollywood.

Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel | ign.com

I won’t lie, seeing the Ms. Marvel (2014) #5 comic-book cover recreated so faithfully on the first poster for this series and then again in the trailer itself was exciting, but the similarities can’t end there. I mean, they can – Marvel can technically just give us a completely different version of this beloved character and expect us to be okay with that, but it’s disappointing that they can get away with it so easily and that a lot of fans will brush aside any criticism as illegitimate or mean-spirited, even when it comes predominantly from the Muslim fans and fans of SWANA (Southwest Asian & North African) descent whom this character was originally made to represent.

Trailer Rating: 7.5/10

“Hawkeye” Episode 5 Finally Opens The Show’s Big Mystery Box

SPOILERS FOR HAWKEYE EPISODE FIVE AHEAD!

Today is an exciting day for fans of the short-lived but successful Marvel Netflix shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders, and that other one. If you mourned their abrupt cancellations, which happened in quick succession between late 2018 and early 2019, then the reveal that Vincent D’Onofrio’s iconic Kingpin is home for the holidays will come as a welcome Christmas miracle, regardless of how easy it was to predict (thanks in large part to D’Onofrio’s Twitter activity over the past few months). And if you’re hoping to see more Marvel Netflix characters pop up in the MCU, well, Hawkeye just opened the door.

Hawkeye
Ronin | gadgets.ndtv.com

But…there is a caveat. Until we see more of the MCU Kingpin than a grainy photo taken from a considerable distance (frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to say with certainty that it even was D’Onofrio if his name wasn’t listed in the credits), we still have no clue whether any of the events and storylines from the Marvel Netflix shows will make their way into the MCU canon, or if Marvel president Kevin Feige has handpicked a couple of actors he likes and has simply chosen to discard everything else and disregard the Netflix continuity. He would be well within his rights to do so, and it would be in Disney’s best interests not to give any attention to their streaming rival.

With the little we are given to mull on before the Hawkeye season finale next week, we can at least be certain that Kingpin is not in prison, so either he found a way to obtain his freedom after the events of Daredevil season three (which to be fair, would likely have happened anyway if the show ran for another season), or Daredevil is not canon. The answer will speak volumes about how Marvel plans to utilize other characters and actors from MCU-adjacent TV shows including Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which drifted so far astray from the MCU canon in its last two seasons that a soft reboot approach may be the only viable option.

Oops, I found a way to make this about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. again. My bad. But I can assure you that the meta mystery of what is and is no longer canon to the MCU is probably more interesting than the actual mystery unfolding throughout Hawkeye, which at this point is actually four or five separate mysteries all frantically jostling for screentime in a six-episode series. Even with a couple of story-threads loosely intertwined in this episode to provide the illusion of cohesion, our eyes are still led to the characters and subplots that keep bouncing in and out of the story like pinballs.

I was thoroughly prepared for Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to fall into that latter category, right alongside the vintage Rolex watch of indeterminate origin that has already ceased to be relevant and the embarrassingly blatant red-herring wrapped up in the name of Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), a comics character with a long and illustrious history who deserved better. But where Dalton can do little with what he’s given except be charming (and to his credit, he does that so well that it’s been clear from the outset he’s not a criminal mastermind), Pugh is given a supporting role in this episode that she utilizes excellently.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova | diraxe.com

As a temporary comedic foil to Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), Pugh’s Belova fits snugly into the show – providing the same kind of chipper, light-hearted banter that Kate liked to bounce off of Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) before the two parted ways at the end of episode four, and giving Kate a much-needed opportunity to assume a more stoic stance for once. Pugh’s Russian-ish accent still needs work (although the inconsistency of it might be part of what makes this performance so endearing), but whether she’s rambling on about hot sauce or mapping out her first sightseeing trip through NYC, her Belova is an absolute delight.

And although her comedic moments are some of the highlights of this week’s episode, they wouldn’t be nearly as funny or as vaguely uncomfortable if Pugh weren’t simultaneously conveying in quiet undertones that Belova is still very much a threat. She matter-of-factly states that she’s going to kill Clint Barton one way or another, and if I trusted Marvel to actually follow through with that, I’d believe her. They’ve been getting bolder in the past year, but I don’t think they’re at the point of casually killing off original Avengers in a holiday-themed Disney+ series…yet.

If Clint does make it out of this alive, it’s not going to be for lack of trying on the part of his enemies. We learn that Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga), Marvel’s least-surprising surprise villain since WandaVision‘s Agatha Harkness, was behind the hiring of Yelena Belova to kill Clint, and meanwhile Kingpin hasn’t even unleashed the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal. Echo (Alaqua Cox) and the Tracksuit Mafia are also out there, but Echo takes on Clint a third time in this episode and again walks away soundly defeated. I’ve been disappointed in some of the decisions Hawkeye has made with her character, but it’s starting to get really frustrating.

And with the revelation that Echo’s desire for vengeance is being aimed at the wrong person anyway, her storyline feels increasingly pointless except to introduce the character and establish what will presumably be the through-line of her own Disney+ series. It’s accurate to the comics that Kingpin gave the order to have Echo’s father murdered, not Clint Barton as Echo had believed for much of her life – but there’s no emotional weight to that reveal, for the audience who still doesn’t know the MCU versions of these characters all that well (or in Kingpin’s case, at all).

There was one flashback to Echo’s childhood in episode three, focused on her relationship with her father – but no scenes or lines that established the largely one-sided bond of trust and loyalty that formed between Echo and Kingpin after the death of her father, nothing to earn the dramatic reveal in this episode that’s framed as if it’s heart-wrenching and instead comes across as hollow. Hawkeye has been so busy poorly keeping Kingpin a secret, it forgot that this part of Echo’s character arc is dependent on knowing something – anything – about their relationship.

I feel sorry for Cox, because she clearly deserves a story that can actually focus on what she and her character need. Some of Marvel’s mystery boxes have been disappointing or mishandled (the Power Broker reveal in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier comes to mind), but this is the first mystery that’s clashed with the rest of the story to this degree, and it’s not hard to see why. Even leaving aside the fact that it hasn’t exactly been easy to figure out what the main mystery is with so many going on, they’re all thematically estranged from Hawkeye‘s early ruminations on what it means to be a hero, and the dangers of putting people on pedestals.

Hawkeye
Echo and Ronin | tor.com

Hawkeye feels like it ought to have been the story of the Ronin legacy that haunts Clint Barton, and the fact that this episode is actually titled Ronin would seem to reflect that. But instead of building on that foundation, the show has instead tied itself into knots chasing random Rolex watches and Kingpin Easter-eggs. I’d say the finale could sort it all out, but honestly I think there’s a stronger chance that Yelena Belova kills Clint Barton on Christmas Day.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

With Episode 4, “Hawkeye” May Have Bitten Off More Than It Can Chew

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.

Hawkeye
Clint Barton and Kate Bishop | leisurebyte.com

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.

Hawkeye
Jack Duquesne and Eleanor Bishop | tvinsider.com

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
Yelena Belova | gadgets.ndtv.com

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