As far as penultimate episodes go, Hawkeye 1×05, “Ronin,” doesn’t miss. It stands as a testament to the fact that character-driven beats can bring the spectacle to a street-level superhero drama. Marvel Studios often forgets this in its race to do the biggest, best thing, but Hawkeye takes the lesser followed path to slow-burn excellence.
Hawkeye always has an opportunity to revert to the classic Marvel way in its finale, much like WandaVision did. However, we’re choosing to air on the side of optimism. It’s the holiday season, and this show never ceases to remind us of such. Alternatively, that backdrop sets a ticking clock in the background of every scene.
That urgency leads Clint Barton to some expected places in “Ronin,” but it leaves plenty to be desired in next week’s episode. Likewise, plenty of the other recurring characters play their parts to a tee on this week’s episode. Their certainty that their covers won’t be blown instills confidence we won’t confront another Ralph Bohner situation in the finale.
Yelena Belova Is Here to Stay
One person who has no problem showing her hand is Yelena Belova. Florence Pugh continues to stun in this role. It’s a privilege to watch her breathe life into the years lost for Yelena because we learn in “Ronin” that Yelena was blipped. That cold open is one of Hawkeye‘s most devastating and beautiful sequences.
It’s reminiscent of a similar one from WandaVision 1×04, “We Interrupt This Program,” when Monica comes back to find that her mother Maria passed away during the lost five years. It’s a tragic way to start the episode with a gut punch that grounds you in the visceral emotions of these characters.
Just like Teyonah Parris, Pugh plays this moment so wonderfully. It’s utterly heartbreaking that Yelena’s first thought is Natasha when we all know her sister’s fate. The loss of Natasha rightfully looms over this entire series, and Yelena’s grief compounds those feelings. It drives this episode from the cold open like Maya’s does in “Echoes.” But Hawkeye doesn’t stop there!
“Ronin” drops little reminders of Yelena’s family throughout her dialogue and her appearance. Her makeup in the cold open honors her mother, Melina. She mentions Alexei when she encourages Kate to enjoy the macaroni and cheese. And Natasha, well, her presence is felt through every single word and minute change in her demeanor.
Those details (even the mac & cheese) reference Yelena’s past, as seen in Black Widow, but they also speak to her future in the MCU. She is the future of the Black Widow mantle as much as Kate is the future of the Hawkeye one. That’s why Pugh’s appearance on this show is more than a guest spot. She is a part of the larger narrative in a meaningful way.
A New Era of Hawkeye and Black Widow
That’s why Kate and Yelena’s back and forth over the pot of comfort food is such a dynamic scene. It’s eerily calm and mundane, but we can feel all the tension bubbling just under the surface. Of course, Hailee Steinfeld and Florence Pugh are Academy Award-nominated actresses, so it’s no shock that they bring their A-game to this scene.
It’s a conversation that juggles so many topics with the kind of ease that can come from someone who thinks she knows Clint Barton and someone who possibly knows Natasha Romanoff better than Clint. Kate and Yelena’s back and forth is like a tennis match, and you can pinpoint the moments when Yelena pokes holes in Kate’s perception of Clint.
This scene is an excellent way to build a shaky foundation for the two characters to build from the ground up. Though the reveal at the end of the episode is a personal gut punch for Kate, Yelena’s decision to pass it on to the young archery bodes well for their future. There is simply no way that Hawkeye is the last time Kate and Yelena interact.
Yelena is the shot that Kate didn’t take, and the MCU already established that to mean something — everything.
Clint and Nat’s friendship being cut short stings a little more in “Ronin” because of Clint’s confirmation that he knows of Yelena. This bit of information proves there are conversations, family dinners, and late nights on the job that we missed with Clint and Natasha. The MCU has the opportunity to ensure we don’t miss as much with Kate and Yelena.
Reputations, Remorse, and Revenge
Despite Hawkeye‘s unfathomably great pacing, it is still up against the MCU’s previous issues with that element of storytelling. Hawkeye tries its best to fill in gaps and make up for lost time with the Avengers’ archer. In most ways, it succeeds in spades. However, in others (and no fault of its own), it may not stick the landing.
It wouldn’t be as much of a concern if we knew we would see Clint Barton’s story continue after Hawkeye, but that is not certain despite his forthcoming new suit.
There have been plenty of scenes that let us get to know Clint more than the movies could’ve ever allowed, but there hasn’t been much resolution on the Ronin front. We’re getting answers about his time as Ronin, but I want more emotional payoff for Clint. We know Clint is remorseful of his time as Ronin, yet he’s still running from total accountability.
Clint’s speech at the Avengers Assembled plaque is incredibly touching. “But I do my best every day to earn what you gave me” is a heartfelt line that could theoretically work if Clint or Yelena said it. Hence, the two have a commonality through their shared love for Natasha. That’s why it’s perfect for Yelena to be the one who blatantly points out all the double standards Kate holds for Clint.
Of course, Yelena would know about being a weapon, having been a Widow for most of her life. Yelena owns up to her mistakes, having been used as a weapon, and is trying to do good with the second chance she has. Clint is trying to do the same.
Hopefully, this means Hawkeye is building up to a conversation between Clint Barton and Yelena Belova. This show knows that pullings its punches doesn’t make it the weakest in Phase 4’s docket. Instead, it demonstrates Hawkeye‘s ability to harness meaningful character work that comes across as epic as a hand-to-hand combat fight.
Who’s the (Big) Bad Guy Now?
Speaking of epic, we must break down the final minutes of “Ronin.” Your mind is not playing tricks on you; Vincent D’Onofrio is now a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Wilson Fisk/Kingpin. This reveal is executed wonderfully with crumbs falling since “Echoes.” One could assume Wilson Fisk is the “big guy” everyone referenced, but this confirms it.
This introduction verifies suspicions about Kate’s mom, raises even more questions about Jack’s involvement in the whole scheme, and sets up Spider-Man: No Way Home — maybe, possibly, hopefully. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for the final minutes of a show’s penultimate episode, but Hawkeye pulls it off with flying colors because it never loses sight of Clint and Kate.
All of this is set into motion because of them or people directly linked to them. It’s masterful to watch because there is no way the rug can be ripped out from under us with a Ralph Bohner misdirect this time — not with Echo coming soon. Refraining from delving too deep into her origin story in the comics, Fisk’s role in Maya’s father’s death is crucial.
Not only that, it makes the stakes remarkably personal for Kate heading into the finale. Jack was Kate’s misdirect (or was he?), and now Kate has to grapple with an unfathomable level of deception. It’s grounded drama with the highest stakes because it factors right into the Multiverse and potential Variants — as introduced on Loki.
We don’t know if that’s the same Fisk from Netflix’s Daredevil, and that’s part of the appeal. It could bode well for Charlie Cox‘s anticipated appearance in the MCU if he is. However, we now know Eleanor’s phone call last week occurs around the same time as Black Widow‘s end-credits scene, prompting Yelena’s arrival on Hawkeye.
That context invites a deeper appreciation for past properties and current ones. Marvel Studios loves its interconnected stories across its shared universe, and it continues to weave quite the web with Hawkeye.
Other Moments That Don’t Miss:
- Grills’s apartment being a safe haven
- Lucky still being the best dog ever. Next to Fanny, of course.
- Anna getting a mansion with her Widow money
- Every scene with Kazi and Maya
- Yelena’s fashion
- Eleanor always wearing red
- Every choice Tony Dalton makes is pure gold.
- The Avengers Assembled plaque
- “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” playing after Fisk’s introduction
What did you think of the Hawkeye 1×05, “Ronin?” Let us know in the comments below!
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