“Ronin” delivers its big reveal, and while predictable, it lands with some impact and presents lots of interesting possibilities for the MCU going forwards.
This recap of Hawkeye season 1, episode 5, “Ronin”, contains spoilers.
Thanks to the tireless efforts of a fanbase who can’t let an errant thumb go unidentified, not to mention the laughably unsubtle hints that have been sprinkled throughout every episode of Hawkeye and this one, in particular, virtually everyone who might care knew exactly what the much-talked-about big twist of “Ronin” was going to be. And yet, as I type this, a single word is trending worldwide on Twitter, and I’m still smiling at not just the reveal but also its implications. That, I suppose, is fan-service done right – not just pandering, but the reintroduction of a beloved and important character following a boring rights dispute, in a way that is fitting for both that character and the current continuity. With Christmas right around the corner, both in the show’s fiction and in real life, it feels good to get the gift that everyone wanted: Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin is back in the MCU.
Hawkeye season 1, episode 5 recap
That’s far from the only thing that happened this week, but it’s the thing that’ll keep everyone talking until the finale. There’s a strong case to be made that D’Onofrio is the best villain in the franchise, his hulking man-baby crime boss able to imbue the careful preparation of an omelet with the same kind of menace that took Thanos six Infinity Stones and several movies to exude. But the more interesting questions revolve around who else might slip through the door that D’Onofrio just shouldered open. The Marvel/Netflix shows weren’t perfect, but if there’s one thing they nailed, it’s casting. People are already clamoring to see Charlie Cox potentially return as Daredevil in Spider-Man: No Way Home, but think of the possibilities! I can’t be the only one excited at the thought of, say, Shang-Chi slapping Iron Fist around, Jessica Jones getting into a disinterested sarcasm battle with Carol Danvers, and Jon Bernthal’s Punisher doing basically anything.
But anyway – Hawkeye. The ending of last week’s episode raised the stakes by revealing that someone had hired a Black Widow assassin to get involved, which frightened Clint into sending Kate home. Clint didn’t realize at the time that the assassin was Yelena Belova, Natasha’s sister, and in case you were wondering what she had been up to since her debut in Black Widow, “Ronin” opens with a flashback confirming that she disappeared during the Blip. That’s certainly narratively convenient, and if I was a betting man, I’d wager a hefty sum that a lot of Marvel’s fourth Phase is going to feature the Blip as a hand-wavey explanation for all kinds of things.
It works, though, and I especially liked how Yelena emerged into the same house – she was working to free brainwashed Widows from the Red Room’s influence and had stumbled into a lavish manor that it turned out her target, Ana, was paying for with money from assassinations – and found it redecorated and rearranged after the five-year time skip. Ana had even found time to adopt a child with her partner. She doesn’t seem all that surprised to see Yelena, whose first thought is to find Natasha. The bad news is delivered off-screen.
Kate, meanwhile, confides in her mother. She’s devastated about having learned the hard way that she’s not quite cut-out for the superhero life – she’s too young and inexperienced and naïve to be dealing with professional killers, and she knows it. Yet, she’s obviously mature enough not to blithely blame Clint for all her misfortunes. She defends him against Eleanor’s questioning, reiterates how he protected her and is still adamant about getting her mother to look into the leads they scared up, most pressingly Jack’s relationship with Sloan Ltd and the Tracksuit Mafia. In an unlikely moment of mother-daughter bonding, Eleanor does and discovers enough evidence against Jack to get him taken away from the penthouse in handcuffs. The fact that Eleanor was finally able to listen to her daughter can only mean one thing – she’s up to something.
That something, it turns out, relates to Yelena. Over some boxed macaroni cheese, Yelena and Kate discuss New York, and Natasha, and Clint, and how she’s in town to kill him having been hired by someone very mysterious to do the deed. It’s personal for her, obviously, and after what happened to her sister, she feels like Kate is overlooking Clint’s true nature rather than entertaining the notion that he might be imperfect but ultimately good, as she claims. This whole scene is great, frankly. It’s pitched just right in terms of tone and proves on its own that Marvel’s future can get by just fine without its past or indeed its present. Clint is rapidly starting to feel surplus to requirements in his eponymous show, which isn’t accidental; don’t be surprised if next week’s finale writes him out of the MCU entirely, his bow and quiver left in obviously capable hands.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Clint is still around in “Ronin”, and after spending the night at Grill’s apartment and sharing some pizza with Pizza Dog, he apologizes to Natasha’s spirit at the Battle of New York memorial site before suiting up as Ronin one last time. He’s going to meet with Maya. The two of them fight, and Clint gets the upper hand but shows enough mercy to explain that he was only present on the night her father died because he was tipped off by an informant working for her boss. The word “boss” is repeated a few times, just so we get the message. Maya isn’t inclined to believe it, but after Kate – who tracked Clint through his phone – disarms her with an arrow and she’s forced to flee, she has time to confront Kazi about his absence from the meeting on the night her father was killed. He was in town, and he was her father’s right-hand man, so why wasn’t he there? The implication is pretty clear.
About that boss. Surprisingly absolutely nobody, it’s the Kingpin, but it comes packaged with another twist – that it was Kate’s mother, Eleanor, who hired Yelena. The new Black Widow follows her and takes some incriminating photographs, sending them to Kate. They depict a smiling Eleanor meeting with Wilson Fisk. This, Clint says, is who he has been worried about, so he isn’t happy to see him. Everyone else, though? That’s another matter entirely.