Hawkeye recap: A tense girls night tees up an exciting Marvel return
Well, thank the Celestials this wasn't another Mephisto situation. After weeks of speculation, Hawkeye's episode finally confirms what many fans have suspected (translation: vocally hoped for): Maya's uncle, the oft-referenced "Big Man," is none other than Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, played by Vincent D'Onofrio, who reprises the role from Netflix's Daredevil. Did Hawkeye pull a Batman v Superman and reveal via a cell phone photo? Yes, but this wasn't nearly as creatively offensive or lame as watching Bruce Wayne watch a bunch of video files because the revelation has emotional ramifications for several characters. That being said, "Ronin" is just an okay episode. There are some good characters moments, but the action scenes were kind of underwhelming.
The road to the big Kingpin reveal begins with Yelena. Hawkeye's fifth episode opens with a flashback to 2018 when Yelena and a friend tried deprogramming a Black Widow named Anna. Following a choppily edited fight, Yelena and her partner discover that Anna wasn't brainwashed and has been working as a hired assassin for someone (odds are it's Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.) Unfortunately, Yelena can't get any more information about this cushy new job because the snap happens and she fades to dust, only to reconstitute herself five years later in a pretty cool visual. Hilariously, Anna, failing to read the room, immediately starts pitching her on becoming a gun for hire as soon as she returns, but Yelena has one thing on her mind: Finding Natasha.
From there, the episode returns to the present-day action. In the wake of being rejected by Clint, Kate returns home dejected and finds a very sympathetic Eleanor waiting for her. Even though Eleanor does a pretty great job of comforting her daughter, I definitely spent the entire sequence waiting for the other shoe to drop because parents can rarely be trusted in superhero stories. Plus, Eleanor didn't react when Kate revealed what she learned about Jack, nor when Jack was arrested later in the episode.
After her mom's pep talk, Kate heads back to her apartment to collect her things. To her surprise, Yelena is there waiting for her with some boxed macaroni and cheese and jokes! The ensuing girls' night scene, which is how Yelena referred to it, was truly the highlight of the episode for me. Honestly, I'm finding it hard to pick my favorite Florence Pugh line reading, from her woo girl-ish and extended "hi" when she first comes face to face with Kate, to "Are you really not hungry? That fight was so long" and so many more. Both Pugh and the direction do a great job of lacing these comedic likes with an air of menace, which doesn't go unnoticed by Kate. But short story shorter: Yelena tells Kate she's there to kill Clint because he's the reason her sister Natasha is dead.
The big revelation of the scene, though, is how it answers one question about the Black Widow end-credit scene: Why did Valentina task Yelena with killing Clint in the first place? When I first watched that scene, I assumed Valentina wanted Clint dead for her own purposes, but during this Hawkeye conversation, Yelena reveals that someone hired her to do it. The implications — which is confirmed at the end of the episode — is that someone came to Valentina looking for an assassin to take out Barton, and thus Valentina likely doesn't have a personal stake in his death outside of getting paid. But anyway, before Yelena dives out the window, Kate suggests she consider who and why someone point her toward Clint.
After taking stock of the messy situation, Clint decides to make a drastic step. Jeremy Renner's performance makes you feel Clint's fear and remorse as he talks to an imaginary Natasha (a truly poignant moment), calls Laura to fill her in on his plan, and retrieves the Ronin suit from its hiding place.
Rocking the Ronin suit, Clint heads to meet Maya. A boring hand-to-hand fight that fails to further highlight Maya's mimicry skill ensues. Eventually, Clint unmasks himself and reveals that Maya's boss, the Big Man, is the one who sent him to kill her father. Betrayal! Maya doesn't believe him and tries to attack him again, but Kate fires off an arrow that saves Clint, allowing all parties to escape. From there, Kate and Clint head to Grills' apartment to regroup.
Elsewhere, Yelena tails Eleanor through the city. At first, you think she's doing it because she wants to leverage Kate into helping her find Clint, but that's not it at all. It turns out she decided to take Kate's advice and figure out who exactly hired her. As the episode ends, Yelena sends Kate a photo of Eleanor, the person who hired her to kill Clint. And that news hits Kate like a brick, especially after the tender moment she had with her mom earlier in the episode. But Eleanor isn't alone in the photo; She's with the Kingpin, the man Clint's been worried about this entire time. (TL;DR: Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin, is a corrupt businessman and criminal mastermind who tried to control of New York for two and a half seasons on Daredevil.)
In other words, "Ronin" confirmed two fan theories: Eleanor, and not Jack, is the crooked one, and Kingpin's involvement in the story. Honestly, I think both reveals work because we saw them coming. It's clear that the decisions made in previous episodes were intentional and the show was playing fair with the audience. Furthermore, as I said before, these twists have emotional ramifications for multiple characters on the show because several of them learn the call was coming from inside the house.
Kate and Maya are probably the people who are most affected by this new information. Eleanor is the person who Kate should trust the most in the world and now Kate will be forced to contend with the knowledge that maybe she doesn't know her mom as well as she thought. Not only that, but it must be especially devastating to learn that your mom put a hit out on your idol. Similarly, finding that out your uncle had your father killed and manipulated you into seeking vengeance on the man he had do it will probably be devastating for Maya, but that's also quite a twisted plan that only a mastermind like Kingpin could come up with. Of course, all of this raises several questions: How is Eleanor connected to Fisk? Who approached who about killing Clint? If it was Eleanor, why does she want Clint dead? Also, what is Fisk's endgame?
Of course, I'm mostly excited about the finale because I want to find out how Hawkeye is incorporating Kingpin into the story and the MCU. (Yes, I realize I'm begging for a bunch of exposition that I'll turn around and complain about next week, and I'm fine with that.) The big question is, will Daredevil's three seasons be treated as canon or is Hawkeye going to introduce a new version of the character played by the same actor? When we last saw Fisk in Daredevil's series finale, he was on his way back to prison because he wanted to save his wife Vanessa from being arrested. Assuming Hawkeye does treat Daredevil as canon, I'm eager to find out what Fisk has been up to since Daredevil ended. Also, it's worth noting that he's not the only Marvel-Netflix character coming down the pike. MCU showrunner Kevin Feige recently confirmed that Charlie Cox's is the MCU's Daredevil/Matt Murdoch, implying that his return is imminent.
All of this being said, I am worried about Hawkeye's last episode. For one, none of Marvel's Disney+ shows have had particularly strong finales. Furthermore, Hawkeye's ender has so much to accomplish and I'm worried things might feel rushed, especially if the runtime is as short as most of these installments have been. But I hope they manage to pull it off — and incorporate a collar-stay moment.