This article contains spoilers for Marvel’s HAWKEYE episode 4, as well as potential spoilers for future episodes and the wider MCU.
With two episodes left, Hawkeye has a lot of ground left to cover. The two archers not only have to get Clint home to his family by Christmas, but they also have to contend with the Tracksuit Mafia, Echo, probably the Kingpin, a murder mystery, Black Widow, and whatever surprises are going on with Kate’s mother and Jack. There’s a lot on the show’s plate, but one mystery that’s been there since the beginning is that of the watch.
For much of the show, it’s been shoved into the background, but here’s the gist of it: after Thanos blew up Avengers HQ in Avengers: Endgame, some black market folks rummaged through the wreckage to find some stuff worth auctioning. While the narrative has focused on the Ronin gear and sword, there was also a watch discovered. It was a Rolex that the Tracksuit Mafia was sent to specifically steal away from the auction. As it is right now, only three people understand its importance: Hawkeye, Laura Barton, and whoever is behind the Tracksuit Mafia (probably the Kingpin).
Clint describes it as something that should have been destroyed years ago. Its existence also acts as evidence that will blow the cover of somebody he used to work with. When Laura talks about it, she speaks in German, which may be a hint.
So…who does the watch belong to? I’m not going to pretend like I have any idea how the watch will expose someone who is undercover, but I can at least speculate on the owner’s identity.
For many, Captain America is the first immediate suspect. As the Marvel Cinematic Universe is in a transitional phase and the Avengers are pretty much defunct at the moment, there isn’t much mystery about most of the members. Steve Rogers has remained the biggest question mark, especially with how vague they were about him in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The jokey cover story is that he’s living on the moon, but society basically acts like he’s dead and buried.
Maybe the watch exposes where Old Man Steve really is right now. Of course, that doesn’t exactly line-up with the timeline. Steve Rogers didn’t go on his Rolling Stones Retirement Tour until after Thanos blew up the compound. This would only make sense if you go with the idea that Steve went back in time and grew old in the main timeline (while keeping is mouth shut and keeping his existence a secret), which isn’t really how Endgame’s time travel works.
But hey, at the auction the watch was lot number 268. Uncanny X-Men #268 is a well-remembered Captain America team-up issue, so maybe.
Laura not only seems to know her stuff, but she’s the one to bring up the watch’s existence to Clint. What if the watch belongs to her? We really know nothing about Laura, especially since she’s based on an Ultimate Marvel character with only a couple appearances to her name. Not once have they ever really talked about how she met Clint or what she did before they were married.
It’s very possible that Laura would have some kind of ass-kicking spy background, whether she was part of SHIELD or a Natasha situation where she and Clint were enemies turned friends. If the watch could allow the wrong people to know where she and the rest of the Bartons live, it would go with Echo’s list of Clint’s family members.
Okay, so hear me out. This one’s so crazy it just might work.
Our mysterious Swordsman has been a target of Kate’s from the beginning. She’s been so non-stop suspicious of his actions all this time that there has to be more to it. He’s an absolute red herring, but one with a secret. He’s still an exceptionally-skilled doofus who isn’t showing all his cards.
In the comics, Jack joined the Avengers as a mole. Perhaps in the MCU, he might be treacherous in a different way. Maybe he and Clint did recognize each other, but kept quiet. The connection to the Tracksuit Mafia? His relationship with the also-suspicious Eleanor Bishop? All undercover work. He’s just trying to play it cool in front of the determined, young woman who knows he’s hiding something.
Also, it isn’t until after Laura namedrops Jack to Clint that she brings up the watch situation. He may have been all about yoinking that Ronin sword, but that Rolex might be what he was really after at the auction. If he was Clint’s old coworker, it would be a neat way to tie into their comic history of mentor and protege.
Knowledge is power. The big bad behind all of this REALLY wants that knowledge.
Going with the idea that this is indeed Wilson Fisk behind everything, he could have easily just taken part in the auction. It was a black market affair and he could have just bid on the watch himself or through a proxy. No, he was desperate for this evidence.
When you think about major Marvel characters who are undercover, there’s nobody bigger than Nick Fury right now. The real Nick Fury is off in space, working with Skrulls. For some time, the Nick Fury on Earth has been the Skrull Talos in disguise. That is the kind of information you do not want to get in the wrong hands.
Secret Invasion is coming to Disney+ somewhere down the line, so the secret of Nick Fury is relevant. If someone like Fisk can expose this conspiracy (well-meaning as it appears to be), crazy shit could go down and could even cause an intergalactic incident.
The MCU has recently been on a tear when it comes to cherry-picking. Netflix Marvel comes with a lot of baggage, but we appear to be getting Daredevil and Kingpin in the MCU proper. While the X-Men and their concepts may be reintroduced over time with new actors, Ryan Reynolds is still set to be Deadpool. Spider-Man: Far From Home made sure that when it came time to introduce J. Jonah Jameson, he simply had to be played by JK Simmons.
Agents of SHIELD started off as a show that tied into the MCU, but its intended importance dropped off quickly. It ended up becoming its own thing and lasted for seven seasons. A very respectable run, but by the time it was all over, nobody expected any of the MCU movies or Disney+ shows to bring up any of its characters.
Well…except Phil Coulson. Clark Gregg’s agent has been iconic to the MCU ever since test audiences agreed that he should get more time in the first Iron Man. Even though he died in Avengers, Gregg not only reprised the role of Coulson in Agents of SHIELD, but in Captain Marvel, What If…?, and that one crappy Spider-Man cartoon.
With Agents of SHIELD, Coulson was resurrected, died, and came back again as a Life Model Decoy. The show ended with him no longer tied to SHIELD, traveling the world by himself. Gregg has always appeared to have a real zest for playing this character and I wouldn’t doubt he’d welcome another go.
Same cherry-picking idea as Coulson, but with more of a Hawkeye flavor. Adrianne Palicki played Bobbi Morse on Agents of SHIELD for a time before getting written off in hopes of getting a spinoff. Said hopes were dashed and she only made a couple guest appearances afterwards.
In the comics, Hawkeye and Mockingbird were married and regularly fought together as a duo. That is definitely something that’s not in the cards for the MCU, but Mockingbird is very much a major part of the Hawkeye mythos and her former SHIELD status would make her a former colleague of Clint’s.
Bobbi and her on-again-off-again ex-husband Lance Hunter had to drop out of SHIELD in order to keep their teammates from being exposed. I’m not sure why someone would go through the trouble of blowing up a black market auction in order to get intel on Mockingbird’s whereabouts, but if there was ever a show to reintroduce her, it’s this.
This one is a complete shot in the dark, but it’s part of a theory that I can’t let go of. Yes, the watch did belong to Captain America. Just…not Steve Rogers.
In the film Black Widow, the Red Guardian boasted about facing Captain America in combat. He acted very sure about it, even when someone brought up that Rogers would have been frozen during the time. Some people figured that Red Guardian had fought Isaiah Bradley. Me, I think he took on William Burnside, the infamous “Commie Smasher” Captain America of the 1950s.
As it goes in the comics, as a way to explain the existence of Captain America’s 1950s adventures despite the retcon that he was frozen during the time, Marvel claimed that the Cap of that era was a fake. William Burnside recreated the super soldier serum, but didn’t do the process completely right, which drove him insane. The government froze him in order to keep his exploits under wraps. He was released eventually and became a regular foe for the real Captain America.
At one point, Captain America relieved him of duty and gave him a new civilian identity. Now, if something like that happened in the MCU and the watch could somehow expose that, I could definitely see why Hawkeye would want to keep it under wraps. We just dealt with a psycho Captain America being revealed to the public. Lord knows we don’t need another one.