Clint Barton’s trauma is always on his mind. If you need evidence, just look at the constant flashbacks to Natasha Romanoff’s sacrifice on Vormir throughout Hawkeye. The tragic Avengers: Endgame moment, with Clint grasping Nat with one hand until she lets go, has been seen constantly.
But in Episode 4 we see something rare in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even rarer in the Avengers: healing. It was a subtle moment, but it’s clear Clint’s making progress with the help of two key women in his life.
Episode 4 saw Clint and Kate mesh as partners. First they had a tense sit-down with Jack and Eleanor, then they celebrated Christmas together, and finally they rounded off their adventure with a little espionage and hand-to-hand combat. But still, in quiet moments alone, it was clear Clint continues to grieve for his best friend.
Towards the end of the episode, Clint is leading Kate through a heist to pilfer the Rolex from the Avengers auction when he’s suddenly confronted by who he thinks is Echo. But he’s mistaken: the masked stranger is actually Natasha’s sister Yelena Belova.
Kate comes to the rescue but nearly falls off the building they’re on, and is saved only by a carefully attached tether. Clint rushes to make sure she’s okay, but when she begs him to pull her up, he cuts the wire and tells her to flee.
This mundane moment is actually one of the most telling we’ve seen in all of Clint’s screen time. It’s clear Clint projects his guilt in losing Nat on Kate, and he’s punishing himself by not letting himself go home for Christmas. When Kate dangles below him, it’s a near shot-perfect recreation of the scene on Vormir.
But now the roles are reversed. Instead of Clint begging Nat to stay and her letting go, Clint cuts the line and encourages Kate to leave. It might not have been the most convenient moment, but this symmetry gave Clint what he’s long been looking for: catharsis. Once again faced with the situation that’s been haunting him, this time he’s able to release his partner.
The introduction of Yelena adds another aspect. Before, Clint was projecting all of his guilt, anger, and care onto Kate, which led to him lashing out at her for things that weren’t her fault. But with Yelena introducing herself in a fight, his anger is transferred. In a way, Yelena’s mission is exactly what Clint’s been craving. He wants someone to punish him for letting Natasha perish and, by fighting her, he’s working through those emotions.
Now, there are two women in his life, each representing a different part of his relationship with Nat. Kate represents the camaraderie and friendship that he misses, while Yelena represents the self-loathing and survivor’s guilt he suffered. In that moment, he let go of the good things to allow himself to wrestle with the parts he’s been afraid to confront.
In the final two episodes of Hawkeye, this confrontation will hopefully be enough for Clint to let go of everything that’s keeping him back. Natasha let go on Vormir so Clint could be with his family, and Clint let go of Kate to spare her from his baggage. Hopefully, by being the person to make that choice, he can come around to Natasha’s point of view.
Regardless, the interaction between Yelena and Kate, the next generation equivalent of Black Widow and Hawkeye, will inspire healing in Clint and show that, even when Avengers pass, they live on in the lives of those who remember them.
Hawkeye is now streaming on Disney+.