After a week of speculation, the latest episode of Hawkeye, titled "Partners, Am I Right?" didn't reveal the identity of Maya's mysterious uncle, a.k.a. "the big guy." In other words, the installment didn't feature a certain actor from the Marvel-Netflix shows. But that doesn't mean the hour wasn't without its guests: Black Widow's Florence Pugh made her long-awaited appearance as Yelena in the final scene of the episode.
Actually, let's get it out of the way now and talk about her scene: While Kate infiltrated Maya's apartment looking for the Rolex from the Avengers Compound (more on that in a bit), Yelena sneak attacked Clint on a nearby roof, clearly following up on the tip Julia Louis-Dreyus' Valentina Allegra de Fontaine gave her at the end of Black Widow. Of course, Maya catches Kate snooping around her pad and it's not long before the two women join Yelena and Clint on the rooftop. (How Kate gets there, stalling while crossing a zip line, is admittedly hilarious.)
Clint and Kate versus Yelena and Maya sounds good on paper, but the execution here leaves a little to be desired. Whereas last week's exciting car chase was set during the daytime, which made the sequence exponentially better, the four-way fight in today's episode takes place at night and you can only sort of tell what's going on the entire time. Not only that, but the decision to keep Yelena's identity secret for most of the brawl was a misstep. Clearly, the creative team sort of hoped Pugh revealing her face at the end before she escaped would be surprising, but it definitely wasn't for anyone who saw Black Widow's end credit scene or keeps up with casting news for the series. Seeing Pugh's face while fighting Clint from the beginning would've made the entire sequence more interesting.
Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in 'Hawkeye'
But here's the thing, "Partner" wasn't just about this fight and Pugh's guest-appearance. Picking up where last week's episode left off, the hour does a good job of adding more layers to Kate and Clint's partnership/friendship/whatever Clint wants to call it. This was the episode where I realized I cared about this relationship because of what was being shown on-screen here and not just because of my affection for the comic book version of these characters.
"Partners" starts immediately where "Echoes" left off, with Jack holding Clint at sword point (with his own sword!) In truth, part of me expected Clint to recognize Jack as his childhood mentor, which is how the two characters are connected in the comics. Thankfully, that wasn't the case, and what ensues is far funnier. Short story shorter: It turns out Eleanor is also home, and she and Jack sit Clint and Kate down for a light-hearted and funny interrogation about what's going on. I really liked how directors Bert and Bertie used a sword to divide the two parties sitting at the table. And while Eleanor is impressed that an Avenger wants to work with her daughter, she's also worried about Kate's safety and asks Clint to keep her out of it. (Did Eleanor know Clint was a parent because she's good at recognizing one of her own, or has she been researching the bow-and-arrow-wielding hero for a nefarious reason?)
After the questioning ends, Clint leaves the apartment and immediately asks his wife Laura to research Sloan LTD. Laura calls back shortly after and informs him that Jack is the CEO is Sloan, which is a shell company laundering money for the Tracksuit Mafia; however, he's not the aforementioned big man. That's not the only piece of info we gain from their exchange though. Both the speed with which Laura acquired this information and her suspicion that all this drama with the Tracksuit Mafia is actually about the Rolex from the Avengers compound strongly suggests that Laura was once a field agent like Clint. The evidence for that theory increases when Clint tells Kate that the watch could burn the identity of someone close to him. I love that this show is fleshing out Laura's backstory, but I hope it does more than that and actually allows Laura to see some action.
Before Clint and Kate try to steal the watch from Maya, though, the duo celebrate Christmas together. Remembering that Clint was missing movie night with his kids, Kate shows up to her aunt's apartment — where we find Clint, the human Avenger, wrapped in frozen vegetables to heal his sore muscles — with DVDs and pizza. What transpires is yet another delightful sequence that fleshes out Kate and Clint's dynamic. I loved their banter about a boomerang arrow, which is a reference to the Fraction/Aja Hawkeye run, and Kate betting Clint that he couldn't split an arrow with another arrow, which is a reference to when the characters met for the first time in Young Avengers Presents #6.
However, their fun-filled night turns serious when Clint tells the story of how he met Natasha for the first time and, slightly more importantly, Kate realizes that Clint was Ronin. Jeremy Renner brings a lot of pathos to the entire scene. I liked how the writing, direction, and Renner's performance made you feel Clint's guilt for what he did as Ronin, but didn't get bogged down in it. There was very much a sense of, "Yes, that happened and it was bad, but now Clint just has to move on and do better from here." That also came through in Kate's reaction. Sure, she's shocked when she puts two and two together, but this doesn't suddenly ruin how she feels about her idol.
Anyway, this night of fun and revelations, combined with Clint meeting Elenaor, ends up backfiring on Kate. Clint has truly started to care for Kate. So after the aforementioned rooftop brawl ends, Clint pushes Kate away and tells her to scram because he's worried about her safety and doesn't want to see her get hurt like Natasha did. Of course, we have two episodes left and know she won't stay out of the action.
A side-plot of the episode: Episode 2's LARP adventure wasn't a one-off. Clint tasks Kate with asking his new LARPer friends for help recovering all of his trick arrows, which the NYPD confiscated after the car chase. In exchange for their assistance, Kate promised to help the LARPers acquire material to build better costumes and, hopefully, design new suits for her and Clint.
I'm choosing to believe that the LARPer's bag being labeled "Bombshell" is a reference to NBC's Smash, which featured a musical about Marilyn Monroe called Bombshell.
Kate's fall off the roof mirroring Natasha's death in Endgame was a bit much for me, but it was still effective.
"Everybody dealt with the Blip in their own way. I continued doing what I was trained to do…Hurting people," another sign of Clint's self-loathing.