Episode 4 of the Disney+ series saw Pugh's return as Yelena Belova, who was first introduced in 'Black Widow.'
As Hawkeye settles into the back half of its six-part limited run on Disney+, the series is delivering on fans’ biggest expectations while introducing plenty of new juicy theories and big questions that’ll need to be answered over the final two episodes. And while there’s plenty to dig into with episode 4, which saw Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) and Kate Bishop’s (Hailee Steinfeld) burgeoning partnership tested and possibly severed, “Partners, Am I Right?” finally introduced Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) into the mix as the budding duo’s number of enemies continues to grow.
While speaking to ET, directors Bert and Bertie, who helmed episodes 3 through 5, break down the Black Widow Assassin’s return and that epic fight scene involving Clint, Kate, Yelena and Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox).
Given the series takes place after the Blip in a post-Avengers world, Hawkeye is formally connecting the storylines established in both Avengers: Endgame with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and the events of Black Widow, which saw the introduction of Yelena, who was recruited by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) to hunt down Clint and avenge her sister’s death.
“To bring her story into this was such a dream come true,” Bert says, before Bertie adds that they saw Black Widow before it came out and were privy to how the stories would come together while preparing to film the episode. “So, being a fan of Florence and what she had done with Yelena’s character, [it] was very exciting.”
When it came to working on episode 4, both directors had nothing but praise for Pugh, who they say came in with a strong command and understanding of her character and what she wanted to do with her new storyline. “Watching her decision-making and being really brave with the character not only was inspiring, but also just a lot of fun,” Bert says, joking, “What’s great about her is she’s batsh*t crazy. She’s like us!”
Bertie adds that while Pugh had strong ideas, it was a collaborative process the whole way through. “For instance, we'd chosen a certain outfit for her to wear, but she was like, ‘I get that. But also, this is Yelena we’re talking about,’” the director recalls. “She was so good at choosing things for great reasons.”
Late in the episode, as Clint and Kate attempt to retrieve the Rolex stolen from the Avengers compound, the two find themselves besieged by both Yelena and Maya on the rooftop across the street from the latter’s apartment. While the fight starts off with Clint paired off with Natasha’s sister and Kate going fist-to-fist with Maya, they eventually all come together with Clint unsure who he’s fighting as all three women battle it out.
As Bert points out, “they were all after something else,” which they strived to make sure was apparent onscreen. “We always believe a fight scene is so much stronger when there’s a story running through it,” she continues.
“It was about being in the moment with the characters,” Bertie says, before explaining how they took advantage of the fluid style of choreography to simulate another one-shot sequence as the camera shifts back and forth between the fighting pairs. In the process, they also wanted to ramp up “that confusion from Clint’s point of view.”
The directors praised all four actors for their physicality and ability to bring the fight to life. “Jeremy loves being involved in it,” Bert says, before adding that “the stunt team was quite surprised” by what Steinfeld could do on set. Additionally, “there was this one moment where we were going to swap out Florence with a stunt person and she was like, ‘I can do that.’ And she did it and it was incredible.”
She adds, “Having actors that are so able and so capable and so willing to be part of the physicality of it means that we can keep my cameras on them for longer and keep the audience in the action for longer. So, it was a gift to us."
The fight ends with a noticeable pause between Kate and Yelena, before the latter eventually escapes. Kate pulls an arrow on Yelena, who discourages her from releasing it with a silent nod. Bertie, who says Pugh has such a presence as Yelena, explains it’s a “look of warning, like, ‘Don’t mess with me.’ But also, there’s something a little bit deeper where you feel like this isn’t the end of their story together.”
New episodes of Hawkeye premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.