As Clint and Kate recover, separately, from their recent battles, it’s become clear that they both have unresolved problems that will involve their families and could endanger their loved ones. As Yelena Belova stalks Clint for the role she believes he played in Natasha’s death, she has time to offer some ‘friendly’ words of warning and unexpected advice to Kate …and Clint makes time to confront Echo and try to explain some context regarding her father’s death.
But who are the people who are really pulling the strings and what will the implications be when some home truths are finally uncovered?
There’s a solid argument to be made that while not being the perfectly-balanced entry between humour and drama that we saw a few weeks ago, this fifth episode of Hawkeye – entitled Ronin – is one of the most major jigsaw puzzle-pieces in the developing MCU. Leaning into the drama side of the equation, it’s very much a set-up for next week’s finale (and we still have to see that big Christmas tree stunt from the trailer!) and what lies beyond.
We’ve seen the Thanos-snap or ‘Blip’ from several different perspectives now. There were the heroes being dusted in front of us in Avengers: Infinity War (before arriving back as an army in Avengers: Endgame), Monica Rambeau being reconstituted as she’s waking from a ‘sleep’ in a WandaVision flashback and here we now see a ‘return’ from a living, awake, perspective of Yelena Belova (Natasha Romanoff’s sister and the most active member of the defunct ‘Black Widow’ program). It might take the viewer a moment to realise what’s happening, but for Yelena, it’s a room simply seeming to change around her as five years pass in a swirling instant. It’s effective, different and quite chilling in a disorientating way. We also get confirmation at the episode’s end concerning who paid Yelena to kill Clint. There’s some confusion here as most people thought she’d been directed by Julia Louis Dreyfus’ Valentina in the end-of-credits sequence for Black Widow, though Yelena sends Kate a message saying it was someone much closer to home… so we’ll see how that power-scheme goes.
With its Yelena flashback and scenes of Kate Bishop returning home to tend to her wounds and wounded pride, it’s actually a good ten minutes before the episode remembers the title of the series and catches up with Clint Barton himself. He’s not a happy camper… bruised and battered, the attempt to clear up the mess in New York involving Kate, the Ronin persona, the Tracksuit Mafia and the mystery of the Avengers Compound watch is unravelling and Barton realises that it’s impacting every aspect of his life – professional and personal. Clint continues to suffer from the PTSD and physical stresses of his past decisions and that ultimately leads him to a commemoration plaque dedicated to the Avengers who saved New York. Removing his ear-piece he has a quiet ‘conversation’ with Nat, another one of the show’s literally quieter, intimate moments that resonate as much as the action – which also includes Clint and his wife agreeing on the doing of the ‘necessary’. He decides to take Ronin to the battlefront, confronting Echo/Maya’s lackies and engages in an impressive close-quarter combat scene before he wins that round. In an ASL exchange between them, he doesn’t deny that he killed Maya’s father, but he points out that it was Maya’s ‘Uncle’ who instigated the deaths, by placing her father in the location, deliberately making sure he’d be killed – likely to gain fuller control over the training of Maya herself, thereafter. Maya might not be convinced, but she’s starting to have doubts and to ask the right questions, which, hey… bodes well for her own series.
The episode keeps our two heroes apart for a good two-thirds of its running time, each of them dealing with recent events in their own way and slowly moving things forward in their own way as well. Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate remains the right combination of needy and intuitive, trying to be both a supportive daughter but realising her skills can be of use. Renner is the solemn, stoic figure even as things start to unravel and with more to do Florence Pugh’s Yelena has some fun being simultaneously dangerous and faux-mundane (definitely a Killing Eve / Jodie Comer vibe there). If you’re heading to a multiplex this weekend, then Yelena’s comments about the ‘new’ Statue of Liberty might resonate. Supporting players like Vera Farmiga’s Eleanor Bishop also get some key moments (and, like many, I totally called the fact that she was behind some of the recent problems, rather than her beau, Jack.
It was, perhaps, the second worst secret involving Marvel cameos this week, but the arrival – even if was just in a blurred photograph – of Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin, was still a consequential pay-off to a lot of on-screen teases and off-screen fan theories. The identity of Hush’s ‘Uncle’ and the ‘Fat Man’ was fairly obvious to those who know their Marvel lore, but there should be no mistaking the scale of the connective tissue at work here. Marvel’s first modern attempt to bring their street-level heroes to the television screen, via the Netflix deal, was quite the critical success, but was then brought to a halt by Marvel’s decision to bring most of their stories ‘in-house’. That meant the likes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist had a singular ‘Defenders‘ team-up and then were effectively Thanos-snapped out of potential canon by the ending of their shows. To now bring back Vincent D’Onofrio’s acclaimed villain certainly implies that viewers can take some of those on-screen Daredevil stories as being part of the ongoing MCU. Even if Kevin Feige decides to not fully endorse every moment of such shows as specific, it certainly has the feeling of re-tying some significant loose-threads into a tapestry and coupled with Feige confirming that if *cough* Matt Murdock aka Daredevil does return to the MCU he will be played by series star Charlie Cox, then it is clear widescale connective plans are a’foot.
All the tapestry-threads are intriguing in their own right, but with one singular episode left it seems unlikely that everything will dovetail into anything like a firm resolution, so the advent adventure will likely resolve some aspects and set-up others. That balancing act will require a deft touch if the show is to eb completely satisfying (and it’s a final obstacle that has hobbled some of the also-rans thus far), but it’s been a great ride so far, one that could have benefitted from maybe another couple of episodes to fully develop, but Hawkeye has proven quite the on-target production so far.
Best advice, watch this and Spider-man: No Way Home this week for the bigger picture…
- Production Design / VFX8