Whilst not as unashamedly action-packed and raucous as last week, episode four of the surprisingly joyous and enjoyable Marvel/Disney Plus Hawkeye series is another scintillating forty minutes of assured, vibrant, clever storytelling with a killer ending likely to leave most fans screaming in frustration, desperate to see where we’re headed next. Advance critics of the series whined that Hawkeye was the “dullest” of the Avengers crew and they couldn’t see the point of an entire series being devoted to him. Hopefully, the scales have dropped from their eyes by now; the series not only adds fascinating layers of humanity and poignancy to Clint Barton, the most reluctant of heroes but paves the way for his spiritual successor Kate Bishop, lively, self-assured but entirely and wilfully dismissive of the dangerous new life she is carving for herself. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld are a match made in TV heaven; Renner’s Barton is tired, battered and bruised and – as this episode makes perfectly clear – still psychologically damaged by the death of Natasha Romanoff and Steinfeld’s Kate is a delight, bursting with youthful exuberance and brio, idolising her hero even as she starts to realise that he is flawed and fractured.
‘Partners, Am I Right?’ – what a title! – dips back into the series’ larger storyline as Kate introduces Clint to her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) and her would-be new husband Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton). Eleanor is besotted with her new beau and their relationship seems so sweet that Kate seems to thaw to him in this episode and even though we learn that he has some financial links to the Tracksuit Mafia Gang, Jack still doesn’t seem like a bad man. Eleanor is worried that her daughter is involved with Hawkeye and thus “an Avengers-level threat” and tries to warn Barton to keep Kate out of whatever he’s involved with. Kate’s having none of it though and, as our aggravated archer tries to soothe his battle scars with packs of frozen food, Kate turns up at his apartment armed with a pizza and Lucky the pizza dog. In a charming and well-judged sequence – the calm before the storm - Kate finds out more about Clint’s past and specifically the secret of Ronin and also the beginning of his connection with Natasha. Clint sees something in Kate and tasks her with recovering his arrows with the help of episode two’s comedy LARPers while he tries to persuade one of Lopez’s goons to call off her vendetta against Ronin. Naturally, things don’t go quite to plan when Clint and Kate discover that a Rolex watch stolen by the gang during the auction in Episode One is transmitting a tracking signal. Here Kate discovers that the watch is in the possession of Lopez who is keeping notes about Clint and his family and before Kate can escape she is attacked by Lopez and Barton ambushed by a mysterious masked assassin equipped with familiar zapping technology. Long-time fans will know exactly where this is going and the reveal is another punch-the-air Marvel moment.
Despite Clint’s constant insistence that he and Kate aren’t partners, it’s quite clear that they are by now, their fates indelibly intertwined. There’s no turning back for either of them as Clint realises that the stakes have become personal and he has perhaps the most important battle of his life to fight.
Hawkeye impressed us from the off and as each episode rolls by it seems to be getting better and better, bolder and more confident, its characters increasingly textured and relatable even in their own heightened ‘comic strip’ world. Leaving Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki – and, possibly, WandaVision – in the dust, Hawkeye is pretty much exactly what we wanted from Marvel’s foray into live-action TV and hopefully will serve as a quality template for future series. Two weeks left; we have a feeling that our best Christmas presents are yet to come…
Hawkeye streams on Disney+ with new episodes every Wednesday. Read our previous reviews here: