I wasn’t looking for a new couple to ’ship. I really wasn’t. But by the time the credits started rolling on Joss Whedon’s Avengers, I knew I was a goner. The relationship between master-assassins-turned-SHIELD-agents Clint “Hawkeye” Barton and Natasha “Black Widow” Romanoff intrigued me from the start (from the interviews and pictures alone, I gleaned theirs might be a story not so very different from my beloved Kara/Lee from Battlestar Galactica), but the reality was so much better. Long story short, I ’ship it like FedEx, and you should too.
***Warning: From this point forward I’ll assume all reading this have seen the movie. So, you know, MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***
I know what you might be thinking: But Avengers is an action movie! There “ain’t at lot of time for kissin’”—Joss said so! Plus...Black Widow and Hawkeye are friends! Partners, even!
Well, yes, all of this is true. And yet. It’s *also* true that, if you look closely, there are several signs (at least 5) that if they’re not already head over heels for each other, Clint and Natasha are very likely hurtling toward resolving all that delicious UST in some as-yet-unannounced future film.
Let’s break it down:
1. They only have eyes for each other.
A convincing argument can be made that the entire narrative of Avengers is driven by Natasha’s determination to get her brainwashed
man partner back. Whether or not you subscribe to that analysis, it cannot be denied that from from the get-go, from the moment Natasha hears those three little words from Agent Phil Coulson (“Barton’s been compromised”), she is a woman possessed. Her primary focus for the first two-thirds of the film is Clint—finding him, beating the Loki out of him, helping him level out. Even in scenes where she’s ostensibly talking strategy to bring down Loki, she’s got Clint’s profile pulled up on a computer screen and/or she takes the first opportunity to remind the others that Loki has “one of ours” (never mind that the trickster god actually has at least three SHIELD agents under his control). Her hypervigilance with regard to Clint doesn’t end with his leveling out, either; she fights right beside him in battle, whispers into his ear in Central Park as they see Thor and Loki off, and stares his way for almost the whole post-credits shawarma scene.
Clint is similarly attuned to Natasha when he’s in his right mind, and maybe even when he’s not. Loki sure does seem to know a lot about Natasha in that interrogation scene and asks her almost right off the bat if they’re in love (what did Clint tell him?). We also get a few great glimpses of this in the latter half of the film. The first is right after Natasha’s kicked his ass in hand-to-hand combat but before she’s knocked him out—Clint starts to come to, but Natasha can’t be sure he’s really back—when he simply says “Tasha?” in THAT VOICE. And later in the recovery room, though he’s still reeling from what Loki put him through, Clint’s quick to notice that his partner doesn’t sound like herself (“You’re a spy, not a soldier, and now you want to wade into a war...why?”) and asks what Loki did to her. (And the way he says “Natasha” when she doesn’t immediately fill him in? U guise??? SWOON. But I digress. Again.) As with Natasha, his focus doesn’t end there, as Clint watches her back in battle, sticks close by in Central Park, and props his foot up on her chair as only he could (seriously, look at their body language here and tell me they’re not at least in lust) in the post-credits shawarma scene.
2. He made a different call and she owes him a debt.
One theory among shippers, and one I happen to share, is that Clint Barton fell in love with Natasha Romanoff right from (or at least close to) the start, when he disobeyed his orders to assassinate her and “made a different call,” as Natasha puts it, referring to the fact, we assume, that he brought her over to SHIELD instead. But what actually drove him—love, compassion, or something else entirely—matters less than the result, which is that he did save her, and that at the very least it was obviously the beginning of a beautiful friendship...with lots of potential for more.
The way Natasha manipulates Loki for information on Clint (and despite her ultimate act in that interrogation scene, there can be little doubt that she is, in fact, there primarily for Clint, as it’s consistent with all of her actions up to this point) is just as telling as Clint’s decision to take a chance on the deadly Black Widow once upon a time. Forced to deal in honesty to play the god of lies, Natasha’s recounting of how she came to work for SHIELD is the truth. But her evasions of Loki’s many prying questions and comments (“What will you do if I vow to spare him?” and “Your world in the balance and you bargain for one man?”), suggest that her feelings for Clint are not up for discussion. Which in and of itself must mean there’s something there, right? Not to mention the fact that this “debt” she feels she owes Clint for what he did for her hardly explains what happens *after* she finds him and (surely) repays that debt...
3. They’d rather fight each other than make love with anyone else.
When the time comes for someone to take Clint down, Natasha is the first to answer the call, despite being shaken from a near-death experience at the hands of the Hulk, and they’re well matched, so the fight itself is HOT. (Check out a clip of the full Hawkeye/Black Widow fight scene on fellow shipper hawkwardfan’s Tumblr for a refresher.) Need I say more? I think I’ll just leave it to actor Jeremy Renner, who has said about the possibility of his Hawkeye hooking up with Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow: “I wouldn’t discount that. … I think they’d just as much get after each other in bed as they would slice each other’s throats while they’re at it.” (EW clearly agrees.)
4. He knows what it’s like to be unmade and she’s been compromised.
As if the two didn’t have enough of a bond going into the movie, Clint and Natasha open up to each other yet more midway through in that epic recovery room scene as Clint levels out. The level of comfort between them is obvious when they’re alone; it’s in the way they look at each other, talk to each other, even sit next to each other (far closer than strictly necessary, for the record). Johansson and Renner’s chemistry is a big part of this, of course: a lot of what makes this scene so intense is what you have a feeling they’re *not* saying. Which is not to say that their conversation is not still pretty loaded (thanks, Joss!):
Clint: Have you ever had someone take your brain and play? Pull you out and put something else in? Do you know what it’s like to be unmade?
Natasha: You know that I do.
Clint: Well, if I put an arrow in Loki’s eye socket, I’d sleep better, I suppose.
Natasha: [smiles a bit] Now you sound like you.
Clint: [looks at her] But you don’t. You’re a spy, not a soldier. Now you want to wade into a war. Why? What did Loki do to you?
Natasha: He didn’t, I just...[she pauses, looks away]
Natasha: I’ve been compromised. [Clint nods, looks down.] I got red in my ledger; I’d like to wipe it out.
If there was a wealth of understanding between Clint and Natasha before, you get the sense by the end of this scene that there’s nothing they can’t or won’t share with each other. The brainwashing Natasha went through as a young Red Room recruit is one of the darkest aspects of her past (and presumably that comics backstory is what Joss is referencing here), and now Clint’s made it clear that he now understands exactly what she went through—here is another piece of shared history that no one else could touch. And moments later, Natasha’s vague response to Clint’s probing question about what Loki did to her (“I’ve been compromised”) and his immediate acceptance of it demonstrate yet again that they speak their own language, and they like it like that. Clint and Natasha seem almost an island unto themselves in this scene, and it just further goes to show that there’s something a-brewin’ there.
What happened in Budapest may be staying in Budapest for now, but the bantery (some might even say flirty) exchange in Avengers between Clint and Natasha in the heat of battle certainly won’t:
Natasha: [in the middle of a firefight, bullets flying everywhere] It’s just like Budapest all over again!
Clint: [incredulously] You and I remember Budapest very differently.
Unsurprisingly, exactly what went down in Budapest is a hot topic with Clint/Natasha fans, and it’s easy to see why. After all, what on earth could have happened that they’d have different memories of the same mission? What possessed Natasha to bring it up when she did? And is this what these two bring out in each other, when no one else is around and Clint hasn’t just been brainwashed? (If so, sign us up for more!)
So there you have it—5 very compelling reasons to believe that the Black Widow and Hawkeye absolutely, positively want to jump each other’s bones, if they haven’t already. And I didn’t even go into the fact that they actually drove off into the sunset together at the end of the film and barely touched on how the way they ate shawarma together should hardly be legal (guys, there *were* other people at the table with you).
What do you think? Are you feeling the Clint/Natasha love, or do you remain unconvinced? Who’s ready to talk their next appearance—will it be Captain America 2 or a spinoff film, as some are speculating, or will we have to wait until the recently greenlit Avengers 2 for another fix of our favorite master assassins?
Update 4/8/14: I have a theory about Hawkeye and Black Widow in Avengers: Age of Ultron! Read all about it in my post Avengers 2 Speculation: Are Black Widow and Hawkeye an Item?
Update 4/9/13: Captain America: Winter Soldier has begun filming! Scarlett Johansson's Natasha will play a big part, but so far Jeremy Renner has not joined the cast as Clint. Boo. Maybe Hawkeye'll be on vacation or medical leave? Time will tell...
Update 3/4/15: The latest Avengers 2 trailers seem to be hinting at not Clint/Natasha but rather a Natasha/Bruce romance. Is this just misdirection, or was I TOTALLY off-base in assuming Hawkeye/Widow would be an item? Only time will tell. Personally, I'm hoping Entertainment Weekly's Anthony Breznican is right that she's just being protective of him, but that moment in the farmhouse with her in a robe does seem pretty intimate... Aaaahhh, can't the movie just come out already?!
Heather Waters is a production associate at H&H and a 24/7 fangirl. Tweet her @redline_