THE PERFORMERS | Hailee Steinfeld and Florence Pugh
THE SHOW | Disney+’s Hawkeye
THE EPISODE | “Ronin” (Dec. 15, 2021)
THE PERFORMANCES | You were probably thinking, “Whaaat?! This is crazy. Kate Bishop is going to have dinner with the enemy?”
And yes, Kate’s most unexpected “Girls Night In” with Yelena Belova was crazy. Crazy good, loaded as it was with winningly delivered dialogue that was every bit as delicious as boxed mac-and-cheese smells.
Steinfeld up until this point had shouldered almost the entirety of comic relief for this Marvel series, meeting Jeremy Renner’s grizzled veteran superhero with the sass and spark of an eager up-and-comer. But with Pugh’s arrival as Black Widow‘s Yelena — who was bubbling with enthusiasm over both hot sauce and seeing the Empire State Building (while in the same breath making it clear that she could kill you) — Steinfeld served as the straight(er) man for much of this delightful and at-times hilarious nine-minute sequence.
“I mean, you’ve gotta see the tree…. There’s a Christmas market at Union Square. I’m not quite sure those are the right fit for the blood-thirsty vigilante type.”
Pugh, meanwhile, went all in with Yelena and her Russian-by-way-of-House of Gucci accent, to a degree she hadn’t on the big screen just yet.
“The super-powered reindeer, Rudolph? He is SO weird.”
“You kill me?? Again, Kate Bishop, you are so funny. That’s hilarious. That one is the funniest.”
The formidable frenemies’ dinner was not all fun and reindeer games, though. When the topic turned to Clint (namely, Yelena’s intention to kill the man she believes responsible for her sister Natasha’s death), the ladies very quickly got very serious as they exchanged different POVs on why this onetime Avenger should be allowed a pass for his own very red ledger.
“You are so fond of him… it tells me you don’t know who he really is,” Yelena observed, as Pugh leaned forward and quieted her voice to a chilling coolness. But Kate stood by her mentor, with Steinfeld really selling the stance: “He is not perfect — nobody’s perfect — but he is good.” The two then reached an impasse and the two-hander ended, far, far too soon for our liking. So entertaining was their repartee, we aren’t sure if we were left wanting them to really duke it out, or curl up on a couch to Disney+ and Chill.
It has been noted that this is the new Hawkeye/Black Widow dynamic we have to look forward to in the MCU. To which we say: How soon can we advance order our tickets? (And can we smuggle mac and cheese into the theater?)
HONORABLE MENTION | Finding a gun hidden inside his childhood home, The Rookie‘s Tim was ready to accept the fact that his father years ago got away with murder. But the truth proved even more complicated — Dad actually had “broken a half dozen laws” to cover up his mistress’ killing of her abusive husband — and the unpacking of that teed up Eric Winter‘s best work to date. Opposite a fierce James Remar, Winter explored Tim feeling betrayed by his father’s selective condemnation of abuse. When Dad argued that his ways made Tim into the man he is, Winter shot back, “I am the person I am today in spite of you!” After wishing dad not well with his illness, Tim insisted to Lucy that he, with his own demanding ways, is not like his father. When a reassuring Lucy pulled the tough guy into a needed hug, Winter quietly conveyed every feeling Tim had cycled through in those honest few minutes.
HONORABLE MENTION | Kathryn Hahn was the heart and soul of The Shrink Next Door, even as she shared the screen with powerhouses Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell. In the series finale of the Apple TV+ mini, Hahn adeptly navigated both the tender side of siblings Phyllis and Marty’s relationship, and the hostile aftermath of their 27-year estrangement. The actress unleashed a typhoon of emotion as Phyllis confronted Marty for trying to get back into her family’s life with a diatribe that was both gut-wrenching and fiery. When she screamed, “You’re dead to me… I never want to hear from you again!” we felt the hurt plastered all over Marty’s face. But after seeing how Ike ransacked her brother’s life, Hahn switched gears to exude pity and vulnerability, as Phyllis admitted to feeling abandoned by Marty. With all of its complicated familial dynamics, the episode was the perfect showcase for Hahn to display both her comedic and dramatic talent.
HONORABLE MENTION | Since his Yellowstone debut, Finn Little has made a big impression. And in Sunday’s “Keep the Wolves Close,” he did it again, toggling between vulnerable and tough beyond his years with a seamlessness and authenticity that was heartbreaking. When Carter, flowers in hand, approached mother figure Beth to apologize for the infraction that’d landed him in the barn, his portrayer carried himself like a walking bruise, someone so accustomed to being beaten down that it was a wonder he still got up. Once rejected, Carter switched gears, with Little revealing the hurt that his character would’ve sworn he was hiding. Finally, after Beth asked what Carter’s dreams were, the bitterness that crept into Little’s tone spoke more about the troubles the boy had seen than even the dialogue did.
Which performance(s) knocked your socks off this week? Tell us in Comments!