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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 4 of ‘Hawkeye’

The specter of Natasha Romanoff hovers over episode four, revealing some trauma we always knew had to be there, buried deep within Clint’s psyche. If only there were a familiar musical motif to remind us of her?
Marvel Studios
After Elizabeth Olsen and Paul Bettany’s on-screen magic, MCU shows have struggled with chemistry between their leads. Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld have got it, though. (Marvel Studios/Hawkeye)

Natasha Romanoff never got a proper goodbye. When she sacrificed herself for the soul stone in “Avengers: Endgame,” we got one artificially emotional scene where Bruce throws a bench into the lake at Tony’s cabin and Steve sheds a single tear. That’s it.

The summer blockbuster “Black Widow” honestly wasn’t a fitting goodbye for Natasha either. Despite the fact that she’s literally the main character, her film served a different function for the MCU: introducing her sister, Yelena Belova, as a Phase Four mainstay that we could expect to see a lot more of in future installments.

More than two years too late, episode four of “Hawkeye” is the handwritten goodbye letter to Natasha that we’ve been lacking for so long—or at least, the beginning of one.

Kate Bishop is annoying in the fun way, which causes her to butt heads with Clint sometimes. But we know an emotional resolution is on its way. (Marvel Studios/Hawkeye) (Marvel Studios)

Naturally, Clint Barton is the one holding the pencil, folding the envelope and licking the stamp. Or rather, turning up the music to play a familiar motif that we haven’t heard in a while. It’s an absolutely devastating one, only played twice throughout the MCU’s long history: once when Thanos kills Gamora in “Infinity War”—this track is called “Even for You”—then again when Natasha dies in “Endgame”—this one’s titled “Not Good.” Vormir really has a bad rep.

This specific motif is some of film score composer Alan Silvestri’s best work, with aggressive brass and drums behind a soaring strings section and a heart-stopping, breath-holding, my-eyes-are-just-watering choral ensemble. I’m man enough to admit that I cried more during Natasha’s death than Tony’s in “Endgame” (even though I like him more), and I attribute that entirely to Silvestri’s method of infusing the already emotional theme with darker anxiety, deeper sacrifice and softer relief the second time around.

And now, the third and fourth. The motif first returns after a pleasant yet unremarkable (like most of this episode) montage of Clint and Kate bonding over Christmas activities in their safe house, when Kate dampens the mood by asking about Clint’s “best shot.” We already know it’s the one he didn’t take—i.e., his decision all those years ago to save Natasha from the Black Widow program, rather than assassinate her as was his mission—but Kate doesn’t. Silvestri’s motif is incorporated into the soundtrack just subtly enough as to not detract from their moment, while also reminding us of how deeply Clint was affected by not just Natasha’s sacrifice, but also her presence in his life. I’m reminded here of something I wrote last week about how she saved him from Ronin just as he once saved her.

I, a fool, thought this would be it, until the theme appears again later. During a fight scene, Kate is thrown off a roof and dangles above the sidewalk, Clint desperately holding onto a rope that he could use to pull her back up. He’s frozen, obviously reliving that moment with Natasha atop Vormir’s peak, and the motif plays again, this time more noticeably. It’s strange; returning to a theme that holds such intense emotion didn’t induce tears like it did for Natasha. This time, with the new context of Clint’s promise not to let Kate get in harm’s way, I felt it in my chest, and that strings section rang in my ears like Clint’s hearing aid. In my notes, this manifested as “oh f*ck.”

The Vormir/soul stone motif plays as Kate hangs above the sidewalk with Clint holding on to her rope. As far as trauma goes, we’re right back on Vormir with him. (Marvel Studios/Hawkeye) (Marvel Studios)

In the episode, it manifests as Clint’s unspoken character motivations finally emerging from the fog. We can now confidently say that his hesitation to accept Kate as his partner doesn’t come from his dadisms, his desire to stay under the radar or even an “I work alone” complex. Instead, when he yells at Kate—“You’re not my partner”—we can fill in the blanks: “Because Natasha is, and she’s dead, and it’s my fault. And I can’t replace her.”

Perhaps the reason Clint’s invocation of Vormir hits so hard is the confusing apathy surrounding Natasha’s death. Fans (it’s me, I’m fans) initially gave that scene a hard time because neither Clint nor Natasha had received sufficient development in the form of a solo movie pre-Vormir. Given that fact, why should we care that they fought to sacrifice themselves for each other? Now, post-Vormir, they’ve both had their moments in the limelight, so revisiting their relationship weighs more heavily in our minds.

Nothing truly noteworthy happens in the moments that the Vormir motif isn’t gracing our ears, but here’s a highlight reel of three major redemptions. First, Vera Farmiga redeems herself as an actress in the opening scene, during which she establishes Kate as the first Marvel hero with mommy issues (just kidding, that title definitely goes to Thor, but at least Eleanor Bishop is still alive). Then, we learn Laura Barton (again, we love you, Linda Cardellini) knows about her husband’s Ronin years and doesn’t really seem to care. This is the exact type of sensitive information MCU writers love to play with, drawing it out into grandiose “big reveal” scenes that pack as much cliché as possible into a really tight space. But they don’t do it here! Lastly, the LARPers gain three empathizability points when Kate decides to fully embrace their weirdness. Getting “Onward” vibes from the lesbian cop though.

LARPers and mommy issues aside, this is where Clint signs that goodbye letter, but I can’t imagine he’ll put it in the outgoing mailbox anytime soon. There’s more trauma to be unpacked, and we can’t wait to see where it takes him—and Yelena, who’s returned just in time for some fun. Tune in next week for episode five.

Episode four 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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