If you’ve seen a Marvel show before, you know how this works. Forever teasing, revealing and wowing before stepping back to let us all breathe, the penultimate episode of Hawkeye is a quiet one – giving everyone a chance to take stock, patch up wounds and refill their ammo before next week’s big Christmas showdown. But that doesn’t mean nothing happens – unravelling a whole lot of twists and finally giving us the new big bad we’ve all be waiting for.
Last week brought Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) into the action and here we start off with a flashback for anyone who missed the end of Black Widow. Long story short for those who did – Yelena blames Clint (Jeremy Renner) for the death of her sister (Natasha Romanov) and is now out to kill him, but the prologue also gives us a great POV shot of what it looked like for anyone who was wiped out in Thanos’ blip (a quick blink of the eye skipping five years).
Back in 2021, everyone is licking their wounds. Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) heads home to her mum (Vera Farmiga), Maya (Alaqua Cox) goes back to Kazi (Fra Fee), and Clint starts shuffling around New York to the sad Charlie Brown Christmas music. After a quick heart-to-heart about legacy and sacrifice, Kate returns to her old burnt-out apartment and bumps into Yelena, who’s been waiting for her with a big ol’ saucepan of macaroni cheese.
“I love American Christmas!” beams Yelena, trying to sound intimidatingly friendly but mostly just sounding like Borat, “you have super-powered reindeer!”. Pugh and Steinfeld get a nice bit of awkward banter to prove (again) how they’re both the better versions of the characters they’re being setup to replace in the MCU, but things get serious when Yelena lays out her plan to kill Clint.
“He’s still an avenger,” argues Kate, already upset at the thought of losing her new father figure. “What does that word even mean?,” questions Yelena. “That you call him a hero no matter what he does?” All of the Marvel shows so far have tried to tackle the same question, with WandaVision turning a goodie bad, Loki turning a baddie good, and The Falcon And The Winter Soldier spending most of its time trying to work out what good and bad even means, but Hawkeye doesn’t dwell too much on the muddy ethics of superhero movies beyond giving Clint enough of a shady past to keep him miserable – everything surely building up to his big moment of Christmas catharsis.
Putting the Ronin hood back on again to tackle Maya, Clint starts facing his demons. Meeting at the “Fat Man Auto Lot” and dropping hints about “the big man” on Clint’s phone call to his wife, Hawkeye teases the much-rumoured arrival of the new MCU big bad so much it almost seems like a double bluff. Ending with Kate getting a text from Yelena telling her that it was her own mum that hired her (making Jack Duquesne the bluff!), the show finally gives us our first glimpse of Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, before cutting out to ‘You’re A Mean One, Mr Grinch’ – the perfect way to setup the big festive finale.
- The brief glimpse we get of Kingpin is credited to Vincent D’Onofrio, meaning he’s reprising the role he played in Netflix’s Daredevil. Raising all kinds of questions about who and what else might make the leap into the MCU canon, without spoiling too much, it’s no coincidence that the episode debuts on the same day as Spider-Man: No Way Home…
- The standout moment comes when two members of The Tracksuit Mafia start discussing the fact that they look like they’re in The Royal Tenenbaums, now confirming the existence of Wes Anderson in the MCU (and giving Pepper Potts a Hollywood lookalike…)
- The flashback introduces us to Ana (Annie Hamilton), who presumably also works for Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus). Will she play a role in Yelena’s future when she inevitably starts turning against her string-pullers?
‘Hawkeye’ releases new episodes on Disney+ every Wednesday