Episode 5 of Hawkeye adds and removes villains from the board, and delivers on the small moments that make this show so consistently enjoyable.
This review contains spoilers for episode 5 of Hawkeye: ‘Ronin’.
In the penultimate episode of Hawkeye, there’s a toning down of the humour and a ramping up of plotting, easing some of the worries from last week and the numerous questions still up in the air. Will Maya get her revenge? Who is the ‘Big Guy’? Why does Eleanor seem so shady? Why has Yelena turned up? Episode 5 offers us some answers, and a chance for Kate and Clint to breathe, spend some time apart, before coming back together ahead of, what will hopefully be, a jam packed finale.
Reeling from Clint’s (Jeremy Renner) brush-off, Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) returns home, physically battered and emotionally bruised, to the arms of her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga). After a heart-to-heart, Kate reveals the incriminating evidence she and Clint found on Jack (Tony Dalton), and asks her mother to promise she’ll ‘look into it’. Upon returning to her ruined flat, Kate is surprised by a visit from Yelena (Florence Pugh), who reveals her family ties, that she’s on assignment, and that her target is one Clint Barton. Clint, meanwhile, is also a tad battered and bruised. He spends the night on LARP-er Grills’ (Clayton English) sofa, and then arranges a clandestine midnight meeting with Maya (Alaqua Cox), where he reveals that he is Ronin and warns her off of coming after his family. Kate arrives just in time to save Clint from Maya’s fury, and the pair make amends. But as they have breakfast the next day, she gets a text message that reveals her mother’s involvement with Yelena’s appearance, as well as her meeting with a new face in this branch of the MCU: the Kingpin, aka. Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Before we get to the big reveal, let’s talk about some of the smaller moments in this episode that really emphasise how well Hawkeye has been crafted. The prologue, centred around Yelena, reveals just how instantaneous the blip was for those who disappeared. In the space of literally a few seconds, Yelena is staring at herself in the mirror, before the entire room changes and she finds there’s new people around and an entire five year period missing. It hints at a vulnerability and explains why, of course Yelena would seek revenge on the last person to see her sister alive. After all, she blinked and suddenly her sister’s dead and half the planet has been missing for half a decade. It’s quite a lot to take in.
And then there’s the scene with Kate and her mother, sorely needed to bolster that relationship a little more before the big – presumed – finale showdown. It’s been pretty heavily hinted at that Eleanor isn’t completely innocent in the show’s dodgy goings-on (even if the villainous blunt bob and sinisterly red dress in the first episode didn’t spell it out), and so the audience can read her sudden shiftiness when Kate mentions her and Clint’s evidence as an ‘oh shit’ moment. But on the flip side, it’s so subtly played by Farmiga that it’s easy to see how Kate would interpret it instead as a wariness, an unwillingness to believe she’s been wrong about her new fiancé. It’s such a clever piece of acting that adds dimension to a character who’s been pretty thin so far, and gives a bit more substance to the, again presumed, reveal that she’s been behind it (and ‘it’ being the murder of Jack’s uncle) all the whole time.
In previous reviews, the idea that Hawkeye is acting as a passing of the torch from Clint to Kate has been mentioned, and so has the idea that it’s setting up a new Hawkeye/Black Widow-esque dynamic. Cue instant appreciation then, when a good chunk of this episode is dedicated to a ‘girls’ night between Kate and Yelena, wherein subtle and not-so-subtle threats are interspersed with the pair enjoying some delicious macaroni. Pugh and Steinfeld are an absolute delight in this scene, sparking with such charisma and fresh energy that it’s really easy to see these two becoming a wicked duo in the future. Their banter is so naturalistic and fun, yet it effortlessly switches to a more serious tone as Kate defends Clint and Yelena mourns her sister’s sacrifice.
It’s a tonal shift that the show has consistently done well, and episode 5 is no different. A montage of Kate leaving increasingly intense voicemails for Clint leads into his heart-breaking speech to Natasha at the site of The Avengers’ plaque. And then it shifts into Kate’s moment of realisation, of her resolute determinism towards helping people. It perhaps hasn’t been stated enough over the course of these reviews, but Steinfeld is absolutely fantastic as Kate. Her overt enthusiasm and genuineness segues into a more mature, level-headed and less blinded by hero-worship thought process, and it shows her growth as a character – as a hero – over the show so far.
It feels as though this episode is bringing Maya’s arc within the context of the show to a close, setting up just enough promising ideas – she definitely believed Clint when he told her someone stitched her dad up to be killed – to kick start her upcoming spinoff series Echo. And as one ‘villain’ exits, another arrives, crossing the streaming services from Netflix to Disney+, comes Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk, aka. Kingpin.
Firstly, massive kudos to D’Onofrio’s agent, who scores him a title credit when his appearance in this episode is confined to a single, grainy photo. But, in all seriousness, it’s so exciting to see him appear here, after being arguably the most compelling character in Daredevil to a degree that almost overshadowed the hero. (Will we see Charlie Cox appear next week? Add it to the list of unanswered questions!) A single episode hardly seems enough time to give him any major relevance in regards to Hawkeye’s plot, but by simply putting him on the board, it makes the rest of Marvel’s Phase 4 chess game. (Side note: having his reveal immediately followed by the credits soundtracked to ‘You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch’ is a stroke of comedic genius.)
Episode 5 does an excellent job of trimming the fat ahead of the finale next week. It’s a show that consistently manages to entertain and surprise without ever feeling like it’s getting away from itself. There’s always the feeling that the directors, Bert and Bertie, know exactly where they’re taking the show, even if the path gets a little cluttered along the way. Hawkeye keeps improving on itself, and the finale next week simultaneously comes too soon and can’t come soon enough.
Hawkeye ‘s Episode 5, “Ronin”, is now available to watch on Disney Plus.