While the MCU has its fair share of big, memorable action set pieces, some of the best scenes in this universe are when the characters are allowed to slow things down. Sure, people love the airport fight in Captain America: Civil War or the “Avengers Assemble” moment in Avengers: Endgame, equally beloved are the shawarma end credits scene in The Avengers or the team trying to lift Thor’s hammer in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Sometimes, it’s the smaller, quiet moments that have the biggest effect.
The Disney+ Marvel shows exist largely to flesh out the characters that haven’t had their time in the spotlight through the films, but the way these shows are doing this is by slowing things down in ways that the films can’t. For example, WandaVision can spend an entire episode with a charming take on The Dick Van Dyke Show, Loki can center an episode around Loki and Sylvie just getting to know each other, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can dedicate plenty of time to the problematic friendship between the two title characters. After the last action-packed episode of Hawkeye, “Echoes,” this week’s episode, “Partners, Am I Right?” takes the opportunity to slow things down and shows how charming and moving the MCU can be in its quieter moments.
The core of what makes “Partners, Am I Right?” maybe the best episode of Hawkeye so far is Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) trying to save the holidays. She and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) drink a bunch of wine coolers, watch some Christmas movies, and discuss the pros and cons of boomerang arrows. In the first three episodes, Hawkeye’s best moments came from watching the dynamic between Steinfeld and Renner and having them play off each other, and it’s that charm and humor that makes this episode excel.
But it’s in these smaller moments that we get to truly see what makes these characters tick. Even though we’ve seen over the course of many years just how much Clint has lost, including his family during the blip and Natasha Romanoff, having Clint sit down and list these losses is surprisingly effective. “Partners, Am I Right?” makes it very clear that Clint is holding Kate at a distance because he fears that she will become another tragedy on his watch like Natasha. Kate’s mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga) says early on in the episode that “being good isn’t always good enough to keep you alive” about Natasha, and it seems throughout this episode that those words have haunted Clint even more so than in the previous episodes.
Yet even though it’s the quiet moments that the MCU can do so well, it’s the quiet moments that Clint wants to avoid. He’s made mistakes in the past as Ronin, mistakes that he’s trying to clean up that if aren’t handled, could hurt his family. Even though Clint is dealing with the weight of his past actions, these aren’t moments that he wants to relive. Yet as we see here, when he turns his hearing aid off, all he’s left with is the silence, and the reminders of losing his family and Natasha. Even though Natasha said it was ok for him to let go in Avengers: Endgame, it’s still something he has to work through. Near the end of “Partners, Am I Right?” this past comes back to haunt him once more, as, during a rooftop fight, he sees Kate fall off the roof. When he realizes she hasn’t fallen to her death but has been saved by a rope, he cuts her down and cuts their partnership short. In Clint’s mind, it’s understandably better to cut Kate loose, instead of teaching her based on the mistakes of his own past.
While Kate has shown that she can hold her own in this partnership, she has sort of treated this adventure with Clint as an opportunity to live out the dreams she’s has a kid. She doesn’t seem to realize the danger until she’s right in the middle of it, and while she has no problem with falling off a roof, getting cut down, then climbing the stairs to join the fray again, it’s like she doesn’t quite understand the consequences of her actions. It’s that kind of act first, ask questions later attitude that caused her to ruin her college’s bell tower in the show’s first episode, but it’s also the kind of attitude that allows her to sneak into the apartment of Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) by utilizing her inherent charms.
But “Partners, Am I Right?” also does an excellent job of showing what Kate stands to lose through her actions. Around the same time that Kaye learns that Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton) is laundering money for the Tracksuit Mafia, we also see just how happy Jack makes Eleanor. If Kate does her job effectively, it means a possible end to her mom’s joy. Clint’s losses have mostly been in-the-moment surprises, but Kate will likely have to actively make the choice to hurt her mother in order to complete her mission, which is arguably even more difficult.
Of course, the big surprise-that-isn’t-too-much-of-a-surprise of the episode comes in the reveal of Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), who is trying to kill Clint due to his supposed involvement in Natasha’s death. With only two episodes left of Hawkeye, that seems like a lot to get into this late in the game, but if “Echoes” could pull off the introduction of an entirely new villain in its opening minutes, it seems like Hawkeye will be able to do Yelena justice in Clint and Kate’s story.
Even though “Echoes” proved that Hawkeye could do almost an entire episode-length action scene that is surprising and exciting, “Partners, Am I Right?” reiterates just how great the MCU can be when it slows things down and allows the viewer to spend time with these characters in their down moments. Trick arrows and big villains are fun, but sometimes you just want to relax with some wine coolers taped to your body while watching It’s a Wonderful Life.