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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

The best Barton Christmas ever: Episode 3 of ‘Hawkeye’

The first two episodes of “Hawkeye” made us suspicious that we might finally be out of the MCU’s era of terribly written dialogue and cheesy, basic plot. Episode 3 confirms we were, in fact, correct. Thank you, Clint Barton.
Marvel Studios
Clint and Kate ride the New York metro together after narrowly escaping the Tracksuit Mafia. Kate’s face says it all. (Marvel Studios/Hawkeye)

I had a blast writing a weekly review column about “WandaVision” back at the beginning of this year. I considered doing it again for “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”—but that show objectively sucks.

“Loki” almost got me, but it was summer and I was lazy. And “What If…?” came the closest of all, until I realized its unserialized nature meant I wouldn’t really have a throughline connecting each weekly installment. That, and I’d probably just say the same thing every week about how bizarre the animation looks. Playstation called; they want their facial expressions back.

It still blows my mind, then, that as someone who once called Clint Barton “everyone’s least favorite Avenger,” I’m now choosing to write multiple hundreds of words about him. Every week. During finals season. If that’s not a big enough endorsement for the show, then I don’t know what is.

For the first time since “WandaVision,” which was itself the first time in a long time this had occurred, MCU writers seem to have broken away from a disturbing trend in which they cram as much “witty banter” as possible into short, snappy “conversations” for “entertainment value.” Note the number of quotes in that sentence. This constant banter is one of the main reasons MCU haters continue to exist, and I honestly don’t blame them when it comes to this specific problem.

The cafe scene is an excellent example of why Renner and Steinfeld’s on-screen dynamic works so well. Again, facial expressions are everything. (Marvel Studios/Hawkeye) (Marvel Studios)

Time for a case study: the cafe scene in episode three of “Hawkeye.” Clint and Kate Bishop have just gotten his hearing aid repaired after escaping the Tracksuit Mafia (I cringed a little just typing that), and they’re discussing their next course of action. While the dialogue in this scene occasionally falls into the banter trap or enters more general superhero cliché territory, it generally feels like a normal, natural conversation—which is somehow asking a lot from Marvel writers. Oddly enough, the car chase scene immediately preceding it conveys the same vibe, even though Clint can’t even hear what Kate’s saying.

Ironically, his hearing impairment is what clued me in as to why I think Jeremy Renner kills it during these scenes: he delivers his lines like he’s imagining himself someplace else. Not that he wishes he were elsewhere, but that he really is elsewhere, watching himself converse with Kate from, say, the other side of the room, and casing the whole joint as he does so. When he can’t hear her, he truly is in his own world, and when he can, that sensation still bleeds through. Maybe this means his spy training paid off? Or maybe my standards are just too high.

Either way, Clint has a remarkable sense of spatial awareness that Renner channels wonderfully, as though acting for him is more like being in a simulation. Which, I guess, it kind of is.

It’s a good thing dialogue is a strong point in this episode, because it lacks in a couple of other major areas. The stunts are a little like what a group of six-year-olds might imagine if they were to do parkour on the local playground. Tracksuit boss Maya’s backstory montage is more than a little basic, though her tragedy does give some much-needed context to what Clint was up to during his Ronin years, and she is a much better villain than Karli. Lastly, the Christmas obsession is—predictably—still annoying. At one point in the car chase, Clint drives through a Christmas tree lot because guys it’s the holidays can’t you tell that it’s the holidays this is a Christmas show.

We can ignore these shortcomings to focus on what episode three, largely due to Renner’s on-screen excellence, nails: characterization. In one key scene where Clint’s still deaf and Kate helps him talk to his son over the phone, we realize that not once has Clint hesitated to drop everything for Kate, a complete stranger. He doesn’t have a moral dilemma montage, or even an “I have to choose; her or my kids” moment. He just helps her, because that’s what he feels is right, even if it means missing the best Barton Christmas ever.

A mock-up for a Hawkeye costume that Kate designs. She’s a true artist. (Marvel Studios/Hawkeye) (Marvel Studios)

These emotional moments together continue to build on their great dynamic I emphasized in episodes one and two. Trust fund baby Kate is extremely idealistic, always with her head in the clouds, while Clint is constantly looking over his shoulder, both literally and figuratively. Unlike Sam and Bucky, who are both annoying, and Loki and Sylvie, who are both annoying, Kate and Clint even each other out and meet in the middle. They may not be a perfect team, but they’re an effective one. Plus, they’ve both got jokes, and not in the banter way.

I’ve made it as far as I can without mentioning the specter in the room: Natasha Romanoff, aka the Black Widow. We feel her presence in the first two episodes, when we see an actor portraying her in “Rogers: The Musical” or when Laura (we love you, Linda Cardellini) mentions her. But she isn’t truly present until now, when Clint says that she’s the one who killed Ronin.

This may seem like an offhand deflection of blame at first, but really, Clint is admitting that Natasha is the one who brought him back from the brink and gave him hope again when all seemed lost after the Snap—just as he once did for her when he recruited her to SHIELD. Black Widow “killed” Ronin, but Natasha Romanoff brought Clint Barton back to life.

And we couldn’t be happier to have him back. Tune in next week for episode four.

Episode three of “Hawkeye” is now streaming on Disney+.

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About the Contributor
Andrew Kolondra Jr.
Andrew Kolondra Jr., Former Life Editor

Andrew (AJ) Kolondra Jr. ('22) majored in English and classics in the College of Arts and Science. He frequently reviews television and movies or covers local events and festivals in and around the city. As a South Florida native, he spends as much time as possible outdoors — more often than not at Centennial Park. He can be reached at [email protected].

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