Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga) is a pragmatist, and it now seems she’s been working for Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) for a very long time, willing to lie and kill for him – even if it was just to pay off her late husband’s debts. But the ‘Kingpin’ doesn’t take her decision to prioritise her daughter, Kate, ahead of her ‘duties’ lightly and decides it’s time to end their working relationship for good. If that also means killing Kate Bishop and Clint Barton, then the Kingpin sees that as a bonus – avoiding further complications in reminding New York ‘…the city belongs to me…‘
With Christmas underway, the parties are starting, but the Rockefeller Center is about to be rocked as many conflicting parties converge. There’s Kate and Clint, Fisk and Eleanor, Yelena Belova (on her own mission to kill Clint), the Tracksuit Mafia and a vengeful Maya Lopez (Echo) all ready to make their stand.
Can Clint and Kate make it out alive, never mind home for Christmas?
And so this is Christmas… Disney+’s Hawkeye arrives just in time for unwrapping presents and gives audiences a crowd-pleasing ending – of sorts. In a week where Marvel is spreading its multimedia net and also drawing closer its many properties, Hawkeye boasts something for everyone and if it feels a little rush, what it delivers, it delivers well.
We open on Wilson Fisk and that’s just one of the significant slings and arrows to come. The presence of the Kingpin is a double-edged sword of Ronin proportions. There’s no doubt that in Netflix‘s Daredevil, Vincent D’Onofrio’s portrayal was the Marvel equivalent to an epic-psychopath of Hannibal Lecter proportions – a man of influence and power who could terrify with words and stance and whose undeniably horrific acts of vitriolic violence were made all the more shocking by their sudden lack of containment. The build-up to Kingpin’s return has been methodical, a drip-feed of hints and innuendo and his first direct scenes after the confirmation of his return lived up to the hype. However some of the later scenes fell into more oblique ‘bad-guy’ territory. There’s no problem with the Hawaiian shirt (taken from some the comics) or even the apparent down-sizing of his environment (D’Onofrio has offered that the Kingpin’s fortunes were affected by the Blip/Thanos-snap and the gangland boss was in the process of working his way back up) but in the process of a few minutes, he’s hit by a car, takes several arrows to the chest and blown up and seems to have barely a scratch to show for it – without real explanation. Anyone not familiar with the ‘big man’ would likely have wondered what all the fuss was about. It’s like having Lecter discussed at length and then, when eventually appearing, performing Matrix-like kung-fu, thus not leaning into innate, powerful and proven strengths – all for the sake of spectacle. It’s not D’Onofrio’s fault… he still has a commanding presence throughout, but even with some of the character’s ultimate fate withheld (deliberately happening just off-screen to ensure he can be used again if needed) it feels like a mis-step and unnecessary choreography… one which we can only hope is forestalling and foreboding for the upcoming Echo series or future plans (perhaps both now that Charlie Cox is back in the frame as Matt Murdock / Daredevil?).
The fight sequences prove solid set-pieces. Putting aside that Yelena should technically have wiped the floor with a far less experienced and far less ruthless Kate Bishop, one can guess that she was holding back – this latest incarnation of the Black Widow learning something from her sister and not wanting to kill unless absolutely necessary (or for pure revenge). Equally Kate should have been no match for the Kingoin’s brute strength even if he too seemed far too resistant to her weapons. However good a lot of the episode was, it still lends weight to the ‘could have done with one more episode‘ to avoid the feeling that things were being tied up well, but too fast. The inevitable Widow/Hawkeye confrontation was fun but a tad too brief and still leaves the weight of ‘why?‘ hanging as to why it happened at all. How was Yelena so easily convinced that Clint killed Natasha – surely not by the simple whisperings of Valentina (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in the Black Widow credits scene, providing no real proof to the allegation? Nat held Clint in the highest regard (and vice versa) and even without direct knowledge of the specifics, it would have been far more reasonable for her to seek him out and demand answers, rather than have a Plan A to kill him, perhaps only asking questions before her kill-shot if applicable. There were multiple times Clint should have spent less time to convince her of his position and more asking why she even believed he was the cause of her demise at all? It would really only take a scene or even a few sentences to make that important explanation, so why not include?
Technically, the huge-scale confrontation at Rockefeller Center (some filmed on location, other more destructive parts on a convincing blue-screened sound-stage in Atlanta) is magnificent and a tribute to the production department. Jeremy Renner had to be stuck up a tree (or have the illusion of such) and the toppling of said spruce was convincing. Yes, the array of trick arrows is absolutely silly, but the kind that will have you laughing at the absurdity and punching the air with satisfaction – a great blend of the comic-askew source material with the more nuanced tone of the series. The LARPers come into their own (complete with a knock-off Avengers theme) and Tony Dalton’s Jack Duquesne gets to show the true Swordsman he is.
There are those who are musing about continuity with the revelation about the Avengers Compound watch and that Clint’s wife Laura (Linda Cardellini) is likely ‘Agent 19’ of SHIELD – a character that comics aficionados will know was the alternative identity of Bobbie Morse, aka Mockingbird in the comics. Die-hard fans will point out that we’ve already had Bobbie Morse in Marvel projects before (played by Adrianne Palicki in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD that ran on ABC. Given that Agents of SHIELD‘s latter seasons completely ignored the existence of the Thanos Blip / Snap, it would already seem obvious that they couldn’t have been in the current, mainstream MCU-continuity, so all’s good in that department.
The last few minutes will likely have brought a smile to viewers, the episode devoting the end-credits treat to a full-on version of the Rogers: The Musical sequence first glimpsed in the opener. You’ll likely hate yourself for loving it quite so much and coming to the inevitable realisation that someone, somewhere, in a position of influence is watching and saying ‘Hey, we should do this for real!‘. Immediately corny and instantly classic, it’s a great seasonal send-off, even if there’s also a voice in the back of your head wondering if the minutes of screen-time could have been well used in tweaking the pace of the preceding episode.
Ultimately, then, a huge enjoyable experience that largely hits its season-ending targets – certainly one of the best of the modern Marvel / Disney+ offerings and the best characters, but one with the usual pacing problems that Marvel seem to have been plagued by in the last year and will need to address going forward. Equally, the MCU continues to be fickle about accountability, with some characters having to pay for their crimes (we’re looking at you Eleanor Bishop) and others (Clint’s time as vigilante Ronin) largely walking off into the sunset having found personal redemption.
But in a week where Spider-man swung again, Hawkeye held its own and, yes, it does seem the best presents come with a bow.
- Production Design / VFX10