'Hawkeye': Hailee Steinfeld on the Season Finale and Kate's Heroic Evolution (Exclusive)

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Hawkeye wrapped up its six-episode debut season on Wednesday, with a finale that featured big fights, even bigger revelations, and plenty of implications for the future of the Marvel universe.

For Hailee Steinfeld, who made her Marvel live-action debut in the series as Kate Bishop, aka Hawkeye (not Lady Hawk), the season was a true roller-coaster ride, as her character went from idolizing Jeremy Renner's Clint Barton -- also aka Hawkeye -- to working alongside him to shake off the dangerous Tracksuit Mafia, their boss, and a Black Widow, all while protecting some very important secret identities.

"There's a lot of depth here, and the stakes are incredibly high," Steinfeld told ET of the season in a recent phone interview.

When asked to name her favorite moment from Hawkeye's first season, Steinfeld narrowed it down to two that perfectly crystallized her first adventures in the MCU.

"The car chase in episode 3... with Jeremy and myself, we had the absolute time of our lives," the actress raved. "I had a moment where we shot the first take and I literally just was like, 'Yeah, this is absolutely why I did this. This is being part of the MCU.'"

"It was just so amazing, because this show is so beautifully balanced with these grounded characters and these very human emotional conversations, and of course, in the perfect MCU fashion, the car chases and the wild stunts and fight sequences," she added. "That was one of the first moments I had where I felt like, I had been in this very character-driven world, and then we were thrown in the middle of this car chase, and it was just the most epic thing."

Steinfeld's other favorite scene was a highly anticipated face-off that became instantly beloved by fans -- when Florence Pugh made her return as Yelena Belova, appearing in Kate's apartment to warn her off of trying to stop the Red Room-trained assassin from killing Clint. Or, as Steinfeld remembered it, "their little girls' night in over some mac and cheese and hot sauce."

"That was some of the most fun I've had working and Florence is incredible in that scene," she marveled. "That was really special, and fun to play through."

After her uneasy sit-down with Yelena, however, Kate received the news that shook up her world in the finale: proof that her mother, Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), had been working with one of the biggest big bads in Marvel history, Wilson Fisk, aka the Kingpin, whom Vincent D'Onofrio returns to play after portraying the menacing mobster in Netflix's Daredevil series.

"I remember reading that and feeling very scared for Kate, but having this confidence that even though it's been a very short period of time, Kate has grown a lot," Steinfeld recalled of her reaction to the reveal. "And I felt like she, in this moment, is at least more capable now than maybe she was a few days prior, in terms of protecting herself. And she does still have an Avenger by her side to help protect her."

"But I think before jumping to any conclusions of feeling sorry for her, I was scared for her in that moment," she continued. "She's been doing anything and everything she can to protect her mom, and comes to find out she might be somebody that she needs to be protected against."

So, after her holiday heroics and a trial-by-fire look at Avenger life, does Steinfeld think Kate Bishop is ready for more superhero adventures in the future?

"She, I think, is forced into the reality of what it means to be a superhero. It's not all jumping from buildings and making people smile," the actress noted. "There's, as she says, collateral damage that that can go along with it."

"But that doesn't stop her," she added. "I think it throws her and it alters her outlook, but it doesn't stop this burning fire within her to ultimately help people and protect people. She knows she's capable of that. And I think that that alone can take us anywhere."

Hawkeye season 1 is streaming now on Disney+.

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