“Hide and Seek,” the second part of Hawkeye’s premiere twofer, takes one step forward and two steps back. It’s a big improvement in the acting department, but it’s also a meandering drag with a silly sidequest for Clint and plodding melodrama for Kate. And it gives us our first indication that we’re in for some more disappointing villains.
Clint helps Kate escape the gang trying to kill her. A fire spoils Clint’s Christmas plans with his family. Kate gets to know her future stepfather better. Clint’s past as Ronin comes back to haunt him.
The opening moments of “Hide and Seek” are a quick getting-to-know-you sequence for Clint and Kate – followed by a Molotov cocktail-induced fire – but it feels a bit off. Kate isn’t as starstruck as she should be when meeting the man around whom she modeled her whole life. Initially, she’s shocked to be in his presence, but she very quickly becomes familiar with and, at times, annoyed by him. It isn’t that this shouldn’t happen, but it should be much more gradual. It should also be a disappointment; like the previous episode’s title suggests, Kate should be disheartened that her hero isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Instead, it’s just another mundane event, like ordering a pizza that isn’t up to snuff. (It would also help sell her disillusionment if she didn’t text him over and over like an obsessive fangirl the very next day.) Like with some of the other Marvel Disney+ series, this is probably due to the short run of episodes. They’ve only got six hours to get this story out, so the character development has to be fast-tracked.
But that problem cuts both ways. Clint spends about half of “Hide and Seek” at a LARP game in Central Park looking for his missing Ronin costume. This could have been an amusing five minutes, but it goes on and on, dragging into multiple scenes. I know they thought it would be hilarious to see Hawkeye at one of these games, and it initially is; watching him cut through a bunch of guys who have no idea they’re playing with a highly-trained assassin is funny. But instead of ending it when he gets to his target, it enters the next phase of the joke that never ends. It’s also a little hard to believe that, after making the point that Clint is a celebrity now, only one person in this huge crowd recognizes him. (At least at the fire in the beginning, he has one of Marvel’s patented invisibility hoodies before disguising himself as a fireman.) Much of this would have been time better spent developing Clint and Kate.
Thankfully, Kate is more fun to be around in “Hide and Seek” because Hailee Steinfeld gives a much better performance than she did in “Never Meet Your Heroes.” Maybe it’s putting her opposite Jeremy Renner, but she suddenly becomes lively and expressive. It works when she’s away from him, too; her scenes opposite Vera Farmiga flow in a way they didn’t in the first episode. Farmiga is also better; this is far from one of her top-tier performances, but at least she looks like she’s awake. Learning a little bit more about them helps; Kate works for her mother’s security firm, where Eleanor plans for her to have a career. I wonder if this is her way of protecting Kate from the uncertainty she faced with her father; Eleanor is providing Kate stability, so she’ll never be in the position the Bishops found themselves in when Kate was a child. But Kate has too much of her father in her, and she doesn’t want a life planned out for her. I hope they get into this more because there’s a lot of interesting ground they can cover.
Unfortunately, “Hide and Seek” is more interested in Kate reacting to her mother’s impending marriage to Jack Duquesne, a fellow rich person whom Kate knows is up to something sinister. The setup isn’t bad; it’s tried and true, but that’s because it works. The problem is that Jack is a dull character, and actor Tony Dalton’s performance is goofy. I understand he’s trying to give Jack an innocent-looking façade to mask his villainy, but it’s too broad. Hawkeye is fairly light in tone, but it isn’t absurdist or anything, and Jack doesn’t fit. It’s even more jarring because Eleanor sees nothing wrong with him, and he’s clearly off, so she looks like an idiot. They don’t even seem to be attracted to each other for any reason beyond the story needing them to be. If their marriage is going to be a major plot point, it would help to know what she sees in him.
Jack is endemic of a problem these Marvel series have had following WandaVision: lousy villains. Aside from Jack’s bumbling shtick, “Hide and Seek” gives a name to the tracksuit-wearing thugs who menaced Kate and tried to rob the auction in the first episode, and it is… the Tracksuit Mafia. That’s the best professional writers could come up with for the underworld crime ring that brought Hawkeye out of retirement. Apparently, Clint ran into them during his Ronin days, but for some reason, they’re still standing while the Yakuza has been decimated. And, as expected, they’re a bunch of idiots who can’t fight and are portrayed as beneath Clint’s attention. The final reveal of a mysterious leader could pay off when she has more screen time, but for now, these lame-os aren’t cutting the mustard.
Different aspects of “Hide and Seek” work to varying degrees. The one-eyed dog (who, I imagine, is from the comics) is kind of cute, although I don’t get why he’s there yet. Kate’s meta-rant about sincerity vs. cynicism is kind of funny, and I agree with her (not that there isn’t room for cynicism in the genre, but it’s okay to be a fun, earnest superhero story too). As much as the LARP sequence annoyed me, I liked the conversation between Clint and Grills at the end and how, despite his insistence that he wants to be left alone, Clint will go out of his way to make someone happy. But my favorite scene, without a doubt, is when Clint calls home and talks to his wife. I’m a fan of having healthy, adult relationships presented in these kinds of stories, and seeing Clint and Laura talk to each other like rational people in a functioning marriage is a relief. There’s no chiding or complaining, no hectoring the stupid man who needs to be kept in line; just lighthearted banter, talking about the kids, reassurances that they love each other. That this is the best moment in a superhero action show probably isn’t a ringing endorsement, but like stocking stuffers, sometimes you find a piece of candy while sifting through the socks and gag gifts.
“Hide and Seek” is a draggy episode made up of stringy connective tissue rather than interesting story points. The villains are jokes, and the subplots are boring, but the performances are markedly better than in the previous episode, and there are some endearing moments here and there.