Episode Analysis Hawkeye: Partners, Am I Right?
Why Hawkeye's fourth episode worked so well, how MCU Clint compares to his comics counterparts, and still more about Rogers: The Musical.
Note: The following contains spoilers for all of the MCU including through episode 4 of Hawkeye as well as for details of Hawkeye in the 616 and Ultimates universes. Proceed at your own risk.
That was actually a good episode!
I'm not trying to be snarky or damning with faint praise here but we're ranking against the first two episodes where there was so much up in the air it wasn't possible to fully judge if the eps were good or bad. This was more like episode 3 where it was self-contained enough that it can be judged on its own. Plus we're getting more hints and details that are letting us backfill information about the story being told, which is nice.
To be honest there isn't too much to dig in to this ep so I'm going to take shameless advantage of that to also talk about versions of Hawkeye as they relate to the MCU as well as to get back on my Rogers the Musical bullshit again because a new interview came out and reader, I have THOUGHTS.
But episode first!
Hey Look, Character Development
When we look at this ep not much happened plot wise. But that's okay, because what did happen was character development. And, unlike some shows we could mention (cough) the scenes actually, yanno, developed the characters. Kate sees Jack as possibly not being a total asshole, Clint and Kate bond, we get insight into Clint's trauma after the blip, and so on.
I particularly liked how the show finally stuck the landing on giving us a view into Clint's emotions and thoughts. As with last week's episode I'm not 100% sure that the heavy lifting here is being done by Renner's acting so much as it is the script, score, and editing but hey whatever gets us there.
As I've said before I'm not trying to be a hard ass on the guy who's been nominated for Oscars but freeze frame on any scene with him and it's Renner doing Renner face. I'm not saying he's got to go full commedia dell'arte on it and aim it for the cheap seats (please god no) but at least some variation on "scrunch your eyes and look uncomfortable" would be nice.
That being said I thought this ep was better, and I do think we at least got some variety with the scrunching which worked with the rest of what the ep was doing to sell the concept of why Clint's not walking around with a song of joy in his heart. There were also some clever choices, such as giving the audience a reminder about Natasha's death by using those clips as Clint having PTSD style flashbacks about it.
Other smart choices I liked are how the show is continuing a leitmotif of mirror revelations about people. Last week it was Clint seeing Kate as extraordinary while Kate saw Clint as human. This week it was Kate seeing Jack as having redeeming features while she learns that Clint has a dark side.
The parts with Jack and Kate's mom are also why I believe this ep strengthens previous episodes. As I mentioned with the first two eps it was too early to tell if things were badly written and/or plot holes or if they were deliberate red herrings on the murder mystery. We don't have those answers yet but with things like Jack coming off as more of a doofus while Eleanor has more secrets it at least adds weight to the theory that a random butterscotch wasn't actually meant to crack the case wide open.
Semi-related, I also appreciated that we got more insight into Laura. Not just because it's nice to see Laura get fleshed out beyond the concept of being Clint's sandwich-making wife prize but also because it addresses a pet peeve of mine which is that there is no way Laura was running any kind of so-called farm by herself. Yes a single person can be in charge of a farm but you need people to actually work the fields or handle the animals or whatever the fuck type of farm the Barton home was supposed to be. So I like that on top of Laura having new layers we also got confirmation that yeah, this is a bullshit farm that truly is just a pretend thing so the Barton family can hide out there. (And hey, props to Tony for figuring that out as soon as he arrived at the place back in Age of Ultron.)
There were things which didn't work for me. For example Kate talking to the LARPers in the park was just weird. I get where they're going with it and how we're obviously headed towards a canon fulfillment of many a cosplayer's fantasy that they will be asked to use their "There's a convention in two days and I only just got the best idea for a costume and I have to get it done!" creation skills to pinch hit for making an actual costume for a hero . But the vibe of the scene of Kate asking for help did not come off like the LARPers actually wanted to help so much as the one cop LARPer being "Oh sure I'll help you tamper with evidence! Come on down to the police station to get the arrows from me in what is in no way a trap to arrest you!"
Also why bring up that Kate is a person of interest to the police not once but twice (the previously and then later when Kate's listing outstanding problems that need solving) if not to tie that in to when, yanno, she's talking to a police officer?
Also also why would the LARPers even trust Kate to begin with? They have nothing to confirm that she is connected to Clint. She's just some random person who walked up and started asking favors. And why is Kate promising to help them in return with costumes? It was a plot point that she lost access to her credit cards. She doesn't have enough money on hand to split the check with Clint at a diner but she can stock the LARPers up with as much worbla as their hearts desire? Not that the status of Kate's bank account makes or breaks the story but it was set up as part of the tension between her and her mother so it's sloppy for the show not to pay attention to it.
I realize I'm not talking much about Yelena here but that's because she only came in at the end and I figure we'll have plenty to talk about with her next week (assuming we see more of her next week). I will say, though, back on the points in the plus column for the episode is how the fight choreography made it clear that Yelena and Maya weren't working together even if they did have a common goal to kick Clint Barton's ass. It was also nice continuity that Yelena, who had been raised as a killer from childhood, would see no issue with putting a gun on Kate since in Yelena's eyes Kate could be deadly.
Also, and I did double check this to be sure, they did a good job of establishing that what stood out to Clint was that this was a Black Widow and not that it was Yelena. They cut in a reaction shot of Clint when he sees Yelena use her Widows' Bites on Maya because seeing the Bites is what tells him this is someone from the Black Widow program. But later when Clint takes Yelena's mask off we don't get a reaction from him and instead we cut to Kate's point of view as a way to let us in the audience get the reveal of the character. This is all nice background work to lend support to the idea that Clint doesn't know who Yelena is specifically, he only knows what she represents (or what he thinks she represents.)
So yeah, on the whole a good ep even if it had some head scratching moments. And the character development gives me a nice segue into talking about something I kept meaning to get around to, which is the various versions of Clint.
MCU Clint, Ultimates Clint, and Hawkguy
I've mentioned before that one of the problems with MCU Clint is that the popularity of the Fraction and Aja Hawkeye run created confusion as to who MCU Clint actually is. As I discussed, the popular version of Clint is Hawkguy from Earth 616, but that version didn't come out until after the 2012 Avengers movie. The Clint who inspired the guy Jeremy Renner is playing is the Ultimates version.
I wanted to talk about this more because as I scan social media for people's reactions to the series I see some folks who react to glimpses of things MCU Clint does like that confirms the Hawkguy version. "Clint just did blah di blah, that's a reference to when he and his brother did bloo blee when they were carnies!" kind of a thing. And it's not that I care what version of Clint people prefer (I'm a Hawkguy girl myself) or what they want to head canon about MCU Clint or even root for as a character reveal (again, I would be thrilled if they retconned MCU Clint into his Hawkguy version no matter how much it broke MCU continuity) but I feel like it might be worthwhile for people to temper their expectations? Or at least understand what's going on?
Because here's the thing: while the Hawkeye show is obviously taking heavy inspiration from the Hawkguy comics (seriously, fucking pay David Aja already) it is still using Ultimates Clint as the start point.
And I think part of the problem there is that, since Ultimates Clint wasn't actually popular, a lot of people don't realize just how much MCU Clint is based on him. Like this isn't just that Ultimates Clint had the better costume, though he did. It's details down to things like he had a wife named Laura, three kids with C, L, and N names, and the last kid was a different gender name based on somebody Clint worked with and was close to. (Callum, Lewis, and Nicole after Nick Fury in the Ultimates, Cooper, Lila, and Nathaniel after Natasha in MCU). Even the random bit where Clint calls Laura in Age of Ultron is based on a habit Ultimates Clint had before every mission.
Likewise when MCU Clint talks about his past to Kate in tonight's episode, though it is not explicitly stated with something like "Hey I used to be an Olympic archer and then I moved on to SHIELD's Black Ops Division" Clint saying that he was nothing but a weapon pointed at the right people ties far more closely to that Ultimates backstory than the Hawkguy backstory of having worked in a circus, done some crime, and then tried to come clean.
I harp on this not because I need to micromanage people's preferences but because I feel like it's important to remember so that Hawkeye the show isn't being judged unfairly. Yes, Hawkeye the show is absolutely trying to bring in Hawkguy elements and bless them for it. But you cannot get MCU Hawkeye to tie directly to 616 Hawkguy and nor should you try. The start points are vastly different. Yeah, MCU Clint has had about two hot minutes of screen time in the ten years of MCU continuity so that leaves a lot of wriggle room for things like saying he was getting hearing loss this whole time. But by the same token that small amount of screen time puts even more weight on what facts about his character we are told. Renner signed up for the job based on the brief of a character with the Ultimates foundation. As we saw with Clint talking about his past tonight, that's not getting thrown away. Tweaked, maybe, but not abandoned.
So as we go into the home stretch of the series I want to be clear that if nothing else these reviews aren't going to judge the fish that is Hawkeye the show by its ability to climb a tree, so to speak. And I hope people out there watching the show are giving it a fair shake and likewise not condemning it because it doesn't hew to Hawkguy's canon.
Though it is, of course, fair to judge the show on its own merits and if it made wise decisions in what it did and didn't choose to keep from the Hawkguy run. For instance switching the point of view on the boomerang arrow conversation did not work for me. In the comics it's Clint defending the concept of the boomerang arrow with the famous line "Because boomerangs." Which yes, is a funny thing to say. But what it also did, when combined with a later scene, is establish that while Clint might sometimes seem silly he actually has wisdom and experience that nobody else can bring.
And I get that you can still keep a later reveal that a boomerang arrow has use but when you give the line to Kate it changes the impact. We already know Kate is the one with lesser experience who brings confidence and out of the box thinking to the table. We've had multiple examples of it. They don't need to shoehorn in her thinking about boomerang arrows just to get the additional "That's a reference to a thing I know!" points.
I'll be honest, I suspect that the change here was a combination of them knowing that people would want the "Because boomerangs" line in the show as much as they'd want the Tracksuit mafia boys to say "Bro" and they couldn't wrap their brains around how to reconcile Hawkguy with MCU Hawkeye.
Because one of the issues with Hawkguy is that, in both fandom and the actual comics, many people didn't get that what Hawkguy represented was a Clint struggling with being weighed down by life. It's never spelled out that he has depression but he sure as hell gives a great impression of somebody for whom the world feels flat and not like something he can fully interact with.
Yes, Hawkguy had moments that made him come off as not the sharpest person in the room but having a hard time thinking quickly can be a symptom of depression (ask me how I know) and anybody can look bad when they're in a standoff with Tony Stark over which one of you can program a DVR to record Dog Cops.
But what happened was that many people saw this and Flanderized Hawkguy Clint into being unintelligent and incompetent. So much so that some writers in other comics tried to course correct by saying that Clint only pretended to be incompetent either as a cover so people would deliberately underestimate him or as a way to get out of doing work. Which of course misses the point in the whole opposite direction, which hey is doubly ironic when we're talking about a character who is known for never missing his target.
So what I suspect happened is that whoever had the job of bringing "because boomerangs" into the MCU didn't get the nuance that the line, like Hawkguy himself, only seems to be silly but in fact has a hidden depth and worth to it. So they threw it over to Kate so it would be "Silly idea that surprisingly turns out to work" and not "idea that was incorrectly judged to be silly because you only saw it on the surface."
I mean I know some people were thrilled to hear "because boomerangs" regardless of who said it but hey, why are any of us here on this specific site if not to dissect things down to the nth degree of meaning?
Speaking of which, Rogers the Musical!
I'm Back on My Musical Bullshit Again
A friend of mine linked me to this interview with the writers of Save the City about the making of the song. And first up let me freely admit I have no end of smugness about the times I guess what went on in the creation of something only to be proven right by behind the scenes insights. In this case, that the in-universe knowledge presented by the song made absolutely no sense and had no thought behind it and oh look! The writers of the song likewise had no idea what MCU canon is!
Don't get me wrong, it amuses the crap out of me that the writers basically created a song out of a combination of Plato's Allegory of the MCU and those "Here's what my dad thinks the Avengers are called" memes. "If there's one thing we know about Tony is that he never shut the fuck up about shawarma, huh?" No, no. Bless your hearts, no.
Now to be fair to them some things are misrepresented by the article. It's not that these two are so stupid they think the star of Rogers the Musical is not, as for example, Steve Rogers. It's that in the song the majority of the lyrics are sung by New Yorker #1, aka Adam Pascal. For their incredibly narrow viewpoint they are correct that Adam is the lead.
But there are other things which both amuse the shit out of me and again get me ranting like someone just told me about Billy and the Cloneasaurus.
Because look, if you're going to do a song that walks the fine line between sounding exactly like a Broadway musical while still winking at the theater nerds in the audience, you absolutely want to get the folks behind Smash to do it. And as I've said before, I think they did a great job! But there are certain aspects where I'm just like guys, guys.
Case in point, throwing in Ant-Man is not a good example of how Broadway musicals about real people futz with reality. Alexander Hamilton having five million kids named Hamilton Not Appearing In This Musical is futzing with reality. The only accuracy is that Georges Seurat made a painting you might have heard of is futzing with reality. Telling New Yorkers that a giant fucking dude they never noticed was involved in an event that happened right outside the god damn theater would not happen.
People, not to suddenly channel Rudy Giuliani here but 9/11 was a thing. Anybody who needs to write about how New York City would react after an event where things came out of the sky, destroyed buildings, and killed thousands doesn't have to do the god damn homework. Reality even gave you the answer on how a successful musical could address the topic!
Would a musical play fast and loose with facts? Of course. But believably. They'd argue that Spider-Man was there having thwipped over from Queens! Or Doctor Strange pretentious twatted over from his Sanctum! Or they'd argue that Steve did more than he did, or less than he did depending on the bias of the musical. But they would never, ever try to tell New Yorkers that somehow somebody other than Steve, Thor, and Hulk heard Tony whisper "shawarma" but nobody noticed entire swarms of ants eating Chitauri faces off, or whatever the fuck the musical tried to say Scott did.
(Also come on. You pull in an extra Avenger for a musical and make zero Turn off the Dark references? What is this, meta humor amateur hour? Sheesh.)
As always, things which don't fit anywhere else.
- Props to TBQ Krewe member SpoolofLies for pointing out that Yelena's outfit references her time as Super-Adaptoid. We'll have to keep watching to find out if this is part of her story arc or just a wink from the costume department.
- Additional props to TBQ Krewe member Bitty_Kaboom for linking me to this Tik Tok of someone doing name signs for Captain America, Captain Marvel, and Shang-Chi. (And also the Shang-Chi actor at Avengers Campus signing right back, which is nice).
- Turns out the reason why the actor playing young Maya looks so much like Alaqua Cox is that Darnell Besaw is Alaqua's cousin. Props to Darnell for doing so well on her own first acting job, especially since she had to learn ASL for the part.
- The menorah in the background of one of the scenes at the aunt's apartment coupled with the mezuzah spotted in episode two furthers the theory that Kate's aunt is Jewish. Given that Eleanor seems to be all in on Christmas my guess is that Kate's dad was Jewish and the aunt is his sister. This would also tie with Hailee Steinfeld's own father being Jewish while her mom is Christian. (Though Brian D'Arcy James is Catholic, for whatever that may be worth.)
- That being said, why is Clint still staying at the aunt's apartment? He can afford a hotel and would know how to check in under a fake name if the idea is that he needs to remain under cover.
- The aunt's mug said Thanos Was Right. Harsh. Also a nice way to reinforce Clint's self-hating mindset.
- I did like that Clint's best shot was the one he gave Natasha to reform. But I'll admit when he said his best shot was the one he didn't take my mind immediately went to when we met him in Thor. Whoops.
- "I don't want anyone else to die" doesn't really pair well with "This is the final warning" since... what? You'll threaten him again, Clint? What exactly is the implied consequence here?
- That being said "Can I have my gun back?" "Yeah, what do you think?" was funny. They should do more moments like that, especially since it's a type of humor that works with Renner's acting style.
- On the whole I liked the fight scene with Clint, Kate, Maya, and Yelena. But one bit which didn't work was the use of a ringing sound after Kate fired that one arrow. Reason being it's kind of a thing that one of the participants is Deaf and uses that to her advantage when she fights. I get that the arrow did more than just affect people's hearing but they needed to sell that better than they did. As it was it looked like Maya decided to walk away for no reason.
- Speaking of arrows, I don't get what the point is of saying Clint has limited trick arrows? I'm fine for trick arrows needing special shafts since sure why not. But he has to get the arrow heads back? That makes no sense. Presumably he's got to do things like refill them with putty or Pym particles or whatever the fuck, so if he's got the refill kits why can't he just make new arrows while he's at it? Don't get me wrong, I do like when they address that as an archer Clint has a limited ammo supply compared to somebody like Tony with his arc reactor powered weapons. But it makes no logical sense that as a concept after missions Clint had to run around to all the secret spots he shot people from and try to get the arrows back. And before you argue that Clint is retired and thus doesn't use his arrows enough to need to keep in touch with someone who can supply them, remember he packed the trick arrows for a fun trip with his children. These things aren't gathering dust in the attic, he's still using them enough to risk putting them through baggage check.
- For those keeping track, this episode was directed by Bert and Bertie and was written by Erin Cancino and Heather Quinn. Heather doesn't have much of a resume but Erin's written for Grey's Anatomy and Scandal so that might be why this episode was better at handling showing the inner thoughts and emotions of characters than the others have been.
And that's all for now. See you next week!
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