Hawkeye realises “So This Is Christmas”

Here’s my review of season 1 finale of Hawkeye, somewhat belated due to the double whammy of Worldcon and the holiday season. Review of previous episodes may be found here.

Warning! Spoilers under the cut!

When we last met our intrepid archers, Kate had just found out that the person who hired Yelena Belova to kill Clint Barton is none other than her mother, Eleanor Bishop. Worse, Eleanor is working for Wilson Fisk a.k.a. the Kingpin of Crime himself and has been working for him for years. Eleanor is also the one who murdered Armand DuQuesne III and framed her fiancé Jack DuQuesne, who really is innocent and nothing more than a somewhat goofy rich dude who’s really good with a sword. Nice bit of misdirection there, considering Jacques DuQuesne’s backstory in the comics.

As for why a socialite like Eleanor is hanging out with a career criminal like Wilson Fisk, well, it turns out that her husband, Kate’s father, had financial troubles and was indebted to Fisk. This was also what the argument between her parents that little Kate overheard, before it was so rudely interrupted by the Chitauri invasion, was about. After Kate’s Dad died during the Battle of New York, Fisk showed up at Eleanor’s doorstep and demanded that she repay his debts. Which she has done, tenfold, as she points out.

However, Eleanor also tells Fisk that Kate is back at home now and that she is asking questions and getting too close to the truth. Therefore, Eleanor wants out. However, Wilson Fisk is not a man you can just walk away from, as he makes amply clear. Eleanor tells him that she has insurance – recordings of all her interactions with Fisk – which turns out to be a spectacularly bad idea, because you don’t threaten Wilson Fisk.

Bonnie McDaniel points out that walking out on Wilson Fisk and threatening him, too, is not only a spectacularly bad idea, it also doesn’t make sense that an intelligent and shrewd woman like Eleanor would be so stupid to think that Fisk would let her get away with this. Just as it’s not very likely that Yelena would be able to record the whole conversation between Fisk and Eleanor in HD quality.

Fisk’s troubles aren’t over yet, because this is clearly the day that women walk out on Wilson Fisk. For after Eleanor has left, Maya shows up at Fisk’s hideout. She apologises for letting her hunt for Ronin get out of hand and getting into a high-profile and very visible fight with an Avenger, drawing attention to Fisk’s operations. She also tells Fisk that she’ll stop hunting Ronin, because killing him won’t bring her father back. Finally, she requests a few days off to clear her head.

Now Wilson Fisk genuinely seems to like Maya, whom he’s known since she was a little girl, but he’s not buying her excuses. “She wants out,” he tells Kazi. And as Eleanor is about to find out, you don’t walk out on Wilson Fisk, especially not when you’re a woman.

Vincent D’Onofrio returns as Wilson Fisk, a part he already played in Daredevil and the other Netflix Marvel series, though Sam Barsanti points out that it’s still not clear whether the Marvel Netflix shows are now canon in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or not, since they might well take place one universe over. Personally, I suspect that Marvel will just take whatever worked from those shows – Vincent D’Onofrio, Charlie Cox, Krysten Ritter, Mike Colter – and ditch what didn’t work (Finn Jones as Danny Rand). Besides, D’Onofrio makes for a brilliantly creepy Wilson Fisk, so I’m glad to see him back in the role. In general, I find Vincent D’Onofrio a brilliant actor who usually plays deeply unlikeable people. Not just Fisk, but also Edgar the alien cock roach in Men in Black and the comatose serial killer in The Cell. Even when he was supposedly the good guy, e.g. in Law and Order: Criminal Intent (which my Mom used to watch a lot), I always found his character unlikeable. The Whole Wide World is the only film where I ever actually liked a character played by Vincent D’Onofrio and that’s at least partly because I was a fan of Robert E. Howard and his work well before I ever saw the movie. And according to Novalyne Price Ellis (who was still alive when The Whole Wide World came out and should know), D’Onofrio absolutely nailed Robert E. Howard, so The Whole Wide World is probably the best physical look we’ll ever have at what Howard was like as a person.

Kate is understandably horrified that her Mom has been working for the Kingpin of Crime all those years and that she murdered Armand and would have had Clint murdered as well. She tells Clint to go home to his family. This is Kate’s mess and she will deal with her mother and Wilson Fisk. Clint, however, isn’t having any of that. “We’re partners,” he tells her.

However, before going into battle against Wilson Fisk, Eleanor Bishop and the tracksuit mafia, Clint and Kate first need ammunition. So they sit down and make trick arrows – at the kitchen table of LARPer Griff. I loved the down-to-Earthness of the whole scene. Unlike Tony Stark or Hank Pym (who do provide special arrow heads for Clint’s trick arrows), Clint doesn’t have a tricked out lab or workshop – all he has is someone else’s kitchen table. I also loved Kate using a (very old-fashioned, since the new ones look different) Dymo label-maker to label the arrows. io9 reviewer Germain Lussier also has a lot of praise for the arrow-making scene.

Making arrows also gives Clint and Kate a chance to have a heart to heart. Clint warns Kate of the costs of being a hero – it’s inconvenient, it’s lonely, you have to make tough decisions and will get hurt – and asks her if she truly is ready.

Kate responds by opening up. She tells Clint that seeing him during the battle of New York, fighting aliens with a stick and a piece of string and jumping off a building, even though he can neither fly nor has any other superpowers,  showed her that she didn’t need to be afraid and that Clint inspired her to become a hero.

“You showed me that being a hero isn’t just for people who can fly or shoot lasers out of their hands. It’s for anyone who’s brave enough to do what’s right, no matter the cost,” Kate says, delivering the mission statement of the Marvel Cinematic Universe right there.

Because the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have always made it very clear that it’s not the powers or the suit that makes a hero, it’s the attitude. Thor spends much of his first movie depowered, Steve Rogers is already heroic before he gets the serum, Tony Stark is deprived of his suit, wealth and power several times across three movies. If there’s one consistent message that unites all the Marvel movies, it’s, “Everybody can be a hero. You don’t need superpowers, though they help.” And who better to encapsulate that message than Clint Barton, the Avenger whose superpower are his archery skills?

There is also a neat parallel here in the very different ways that Eleanor and Kate reacted to their shared trauma of the Battle of New York and losing their husband/father. It’s very clear that both Eleanor and Kate are motivated by trying to keep each other safe, at least initially. However, while Kate decided to train to become a superhero, Eleanor responded by going to work for a supervillain. AV-Club reviewer Caroline Siede also notices these parallels and is disappointed that Hawleye didn’t play up that angle more.

Clint and Kate dress up in a tuxedo and evening gown respective and head for the Bishop Security Christmas party, which just happens to be held at 30 Rockefeller Plaza a.k.a. the RCA Building, leading to a big final showdown at what is probably New York City’s most iconic Christmas location. Though Eleanor’s Christmas party does not take place at the famous Rainbow Room, which seems like a missed opportunity.

Clint and Kate also have some back-up in the form of the LARPers they befriended, who are posing as waiters. Everybody else is there as well: Jack DuQuesne is there, out of jail (well, he is innocent) and wearing a sabre with his tuxedo. Young Armand DuQuesne VII is there as well, being a pain in the backside. Yelena Belova arrives presently, still on her mission to kill Clint. The tracksuit mafia are on their way in their Trust a Bro moving vans and Kazi is in a building opposite with a sniper rifle. In fact, that’s probably why they didn’t use the Rainbow Room, because it would have been too high up for a sniper to hit anything, because the adjacent buildings are not tall enough.

The only one missing is Eleanor. Once she shows up, clad in a gorgeous green velvet and lace gown (honestly, Eleanor has the best gowns not just in this show, but in the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe), Kate intercepts her, steers her into the kitchen and demands to know what the hell Eleanor was thinking to work for Wilson Fisk and hire an assassin to kill Clint. Eleanor tries to give Kate the “I had no choice” spiel, but Kate isn’t buying it. Jack also shows up and – since he apparently figured out just why he spent a few hours in jail and who framed him- wants to talk to Eleanor as well.

However, before anybody can talk to Eleanor, Kazi makes his move and tries to shoot at Clint and LARPer Wendy through the windows. Luckily, Clint spots the laser target reflected in a glass of champagne and manages to pull Wendy to the floor just before Kazi can fire. Clint then tells the LARPers to evacuate the civilians – Armand VII has to be carried to safety by Griff – before heading off to locate and deal with the sniper.

The commotion causes Kate to rip off her dress and reveal her new purple archery suit underneath. Then she runs off, not without telling Eleanor and Jack to stay put and also letting Eleanor know that this whole mess is her fault. But of course, Eleanor does not stay put, but sneaks out via a side entrance. Jack doesn’t stay put either, but draws his sword and wades into the fray, duelling with the tracksuit mafia. Again, this moment provides a nice echo to Kate’s earlier remarks about what makes a hero. Because here Jack – the guy Kate (and we) thought was a villain – decides to be a hero.

Kate spots Yelena and goes after her, which leads to some delightful banter – cause Kate and Yelena get along really well, when they’re not trying to kill each other – as well as to a fight which starts in an elevator and then continues across a suite of offices – complete with late-working IT-guy – before Yelena makes her escape out of the window via grapling wire and nearly manages to shoot Clint, who’s on another floor, before Kate warns him just in time.

Clint shoots a gas arrow at Kazi, forcing him out into the open, while Kate tries to descend via Yelena’s wire and makes a not very graceful landing in Rockefeller Plaza, just as it is being swarmed by tracksuits. Those moving vans must be TARDISes, because there is no way that a limitless supply of tracksuits can fit into just four not very big vans. Kate uses her martial arts and archery skills against the tracksuits and also has a hilarious exchange with the tracksuit bro to whom she gave relationship advice back in episode 3. The tracksuit bro is grateful, cause Kate’s advice worked, though not grateful enough to drop his gun, so Kate knocks him out. Meanwhile, Jack is enthusiastically trying out his swordfighting skills on the tracksuits.

The LARPers have suited up as well – because New Yorkers apparently take people in faux medieval armour more seriously than people in waiter uniforms – and are directing civilians away from the danger. “What about him?” Wendy asks Kate and points at Jack who’s fighting the tracksuits. “He’s on our side,” Kate says, “But we’d better get him out of here as well.”

Clint fights off a bunch of tracksuits (apparently, 30 Rockefeller Plaza has no security, so a bunch of tracksuit wearing gangsters can just waltz in) before an angry Kazi ambushes him. Clint gets knocked out of a window and lands directly in the famous Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, where he meets a cute owl.

Meanwhile, Kate has taken up station inside the F.A.O. Schwarz store and fires arrows at the tracksuits. And yes, the famous giant walking piano puts in an appearance. Now I had no idea that F.A.O. Schwarz is at Rockefeller Center these days – when I visited it was in the General Motors Building on Fifth Avenue at Grand Army Plaza. Apparently, F.A.O. Schwarz has been in Rockefeller Center since 2018.

Kate gets Clint out of the tree by shooting the guy wires that hold it upright, so the tree and Clint land on the famous ice skating rink, just narrowly missing the Prometheus statue. Clint also narrowly escapes being impaled by the Daniel Liebeskind designed star on top of the tree. Clint also takes off his tuxedo shirt, revealing his new LARPer designed suit underneath.

Kate joins Clint and we are treated to an “Archery on Ice” spectacular, as Clint and Kate fight a sheer limitless supply of tracksuits, using every trick arrow they have, while the camera performs a Michael Ballhaus style circle shot around them, echoing the iconic circle shot in Avengers. By the way, here is Michael Ballhaus’ original circle shot from Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 film Martha, featuring Karlheinz Böhm, Margit Carstensen in an amazing outfit and lurking in the background, El Hedi Ben Salem. There were no steadicams at the time, so Ballhaus used cameras on rails to achieve this amazing shot.

The final two tracksuits are about to crash their van onto the ice skating rink, when Clint fires one of his Pym arrows and shrinks them to toy size. “What will become of them now?” Kate wants to know. Clint admits that he has no idea and that he needs to ask Scott Lang. But before he can, the cute little owl appears to carry off the toy-sized van. I guess we know what became of the tracksuits, namely owl fodder.

However, the fight isn’t finished yet. Kate finally finds her mother, who has just been ambushed by Wilson Fisk, leading to Kate fighting the Kingpin of Crime inside F.A.O. Schwarz. And while Fisk may be massive, he’s far from flabby. He also snaps all of Kate’s remaining trick arrows in half, but Kate manages to set them off by throwing a cufflink, just like Clint showed her. The resulting explosion knocks out Fisk.

Meanwhile, Clint finds himself faced with Yelena, who refuses to believe that Natasha sacrificed her own life. Yelena is still hellbent on killing him. She likely would have succeeded, too, if Clint hadn’t persuaded her to stop by whistling the secret code Yelena and Natasha shared. When Yelena asks how Clint knows, he tells her that Natasha talked about Yelena all the time and how much she missed her sister. It’s touching moment to see those two very different people bonding over their love and grief for Natasha in the ruins of the Rockefeller Plaza ice skating rink. “You had so much time with her,” Yelena says at one point, revealing what her issue with Clint really is.

I’ve said before that Hawkeye is a show about trauma, grief and coming to terms with it and this scene encompasses all that. It also offers closure for both Clint and Yelena, allowing them to move on with their lives, and also finally gives Natasha’s death the weight it deserves, since it was overshadowed by Tony Stark’s death in Avengers: Endgame. Tor.com reviewer Annika Rollock and AV-Club reviewer Caroline Siede also praise this scene and how it addresses something that Endgame glossed over.

While all this is going on, Maya confronts Kazi about her father’s death. There clearly is a connection between Maya and Kazi, though it’s not clear whether they’re a couple or just really good friends. At any rate, Maya just wants to get away and wants Kazi to come with her, but Kazi doesn’t want to. He’s in too deep with Fisk now. “This was never supposed to be your life,” he tells her, “But it was always mine.” The fight ends when Maya stabs Kazi with an arrow, likely by accident. At any rate, she’s heartbroken, as Kazi dies in her arms.

With Fisk dealt with for now, Kate finally confronts her mother and hands her over to the police to be arrested for the murder of Armand III. “Is this what heroes do?” the ever-manipulative Eleanor asks Kate, “Have their mother arrested on Christmas?” Kate, however, is through with Eleanor’s shit once and for all.

The police also try to arrest Wilson Fisk – can’t pass up a chance like that – but Fisk has escaped again. However, while limping away, he runs into Maya who pulls a gun on him. Fisk tries to give Maya a speech on the importance of family, but Maya isn’t having any of the crap any more than Kate is. The camera pulls away as we hear a gunshot. Though I doubt that Maya killed Fisk, since I’m sure we’ll see him again, especially since Maya is apparently getting her own show.

Wendy invites Jack, who clearly enjoyed himself playing hero and fighting the tracksuits, to join the LARPers. I really hope he does and that we will see him and of course the LARPers again.

The episode ends with Clint finally returning to his farmhouse on Christmas Day with a bunch of presents as well as Kate and pizza dog, now named Lucky, in tow. The Barton kids are thrilled to have a dog and Lila is clearly happy to have a girl closer to her own age as a companion/friend/foster sister. Clint and Kate also burn the Ronin suit, putting that chapter of Clint’s life finally to rest for good.

Clint also returns the Rolex that the tracksuits had stolen to Laura, who turns it over to reveal the S.H.I.E.L.D. logo and the number 19. So yes, Laura was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent and not just any old agent either. Because as Annika Rollock points out, in the comics, Agent 19 is codenamed Mockingbird and was married to Clint for a while, though their marriage was less happy than that of the MCU Bartons. Now comic Mockingbird is a woman named Bobbi Morse, who actually does exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and showed up in a few episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., played by Adrienne Palicki. But then, the multiverse can explain all those difference.

There have been some complaints that Laura Barton is “only” a wife and mother. However, this episode confirms that Laura Barton used to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent in her own right, something that was actually hinted at as far back as Age of Ultron, when she was introduced. Laura clearly made the choice to stay at home with the kids, while Clint was out heroing, and anybody who has an issue with that is showing their internalised misogyny. Plus, Laura is incredibly supportive, taking in any strays Clint picks up, whether it’s Kate and Lucky, Natasha or the Avengers. I still wish she had gotten more screentime, but then Linda Candellini apparently had other commitments.

This being a Marvel show, there is a mid credits scene as well, featuring the full version of the song “Save the City” from the fiction Rogers: The Musical. The song is not only incredibly catchy, it also perfectly illustrates the expenses to which only Disney can go. After all, they commissioned a Broadway songwriter and composer to write the song, hired singers and dancers (and there’s at least twenty to twenty-five people on that stage) to perform it, built sets, rented a Broadway theatre (at least I think it’s a real theatre, not a soundstage) and filled it with an audience – all for a scene that less than two minutes long. I suspect Disney may be trying to gauge if there’s interest in an Avengers musical, but I still don’t want to imagine how much money they spent on this short scene.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Hawkeye. It was not as beautifully weird as WandaVision or Loki, but it was solidly entertaining throughout and perfectly hit the balance between action, emotion and forthy holiday fun. In fact, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was the weakest of the Marvel Disney+ shows to date and even that was fun enough.

In many ways, Hawkeye is the Marvel Netflix done right. Hawkeye took a lot of what worked about those shows – a street level threat, a strong sense of place, good disability representation, great fight choreography, Wilson Fisk – and discarded what didn’t work, namely the padding, the gloominess, supposed heroes torturing people and Iron Fist.

And while Hawkeye was clearly conceived as a Marvel holiday spectacular, it actually has something to say about trauma, loss, grief, what makes a hero and the price of heroism. It also gave Clint Barton, who was the least fleshed-out of the original Avengers, his moment in the sun and confirmed what sort of person he is, namely the everyman Avenger, the husband and father who doesn’t have superpowers, but picks up his bow and arrows to help people, because someone has to. I also enjoyed that Jeremy Renner plays Clint as the fifty-year-old who’s a litle too old for superheroics that he is. Superhero movies often have the issue that actors age, while superheroes do not, so it’s great to see aging incorporated into a superhero story.

Kate and Yelena are both great additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and I’m sure we’ll see more of them in the future, probably in the next Avengers or maybe a Young Avengers movie.

All in all, this was a highly enjoyable holiday treat.

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12 Responses to Hawkeye realises “So This Is Christmas”

  1. Peer says:

    I absolutely agree, this show was a delight and hit the tone perfectly. And it was the first show where the quality was absolutely consistent.
    Apparently Cox’ Daredevil will make an appearance in She-Hulk (which makes sense, since they are both lawyers in New York) and maybe that will shed some light on wether the Netflix shows are set in the same or a parallel universe (one that has the Rand cooperation in it).
    There has also been some speculation on wether Fisk has gained some superpowers here, since he ripped a car door and survived being overrun by a car without a scratch.
    Finally I hope we see more of Jacques, I think he said something like “Cmon, we’ve trained for this!” Before going out, indicating he, too, wants to become a hero.

    • Cora says:

      Charlie Cox also apparently appears as Matt Murdock in Spider-Man: No Way Home, which I haven’t yet seen. And of course, he would make absolute sense in She-Hulk.

      Fisk is pretty strong in the comics, though I don’t recall him being anything other than human in the Netflix shows.

      Jacques/Jack’s comic counterpart did become a hero, so maybe the TV version will, too. And besides, I quite like him in all his earnest goofiness.

  2. Lurkertype says:

    I do like a (mostly) happy ending.

    Calling it now, this is a better action Christmas movie than “Die Hard”.

    I had extremely low hopes for this and found it utterly delightful, for all the relationships — Clint-Kate, Kate-Yelena (they need their own show), LARPers-everyone, and of course Clint and his family. And the Clint-Yelena scene was devastating, in a good way. And the humor was LOL funny so often.

    I liked the callback to the actual Rockefeller Christmas tree owl. And the giant conifer itself is the best example of Chekhov’s Gun I’ve seen.

    Clint getting to show off his utter weariness and physical pain is something I don’t think I’ve seen in a superhero thing since “Logan”.

    That was, of course, the actual writer of the musical song as the conductor. The song is quite an earworm, and I’ve had problems a couple of times getting that Sammy Davis Jr. gingerbread man out of my head too.

    Only sorry they didn’t get a making-of like the other D+ series did.

    • Cora says:

      Yes, Die Hard is a good comparison. Hawkeye will be a delightful Christmas action series to rewatch in years to come.

      I also hope we see more of Yelena and Kate, because they’re wonderful together. And I’m always there for LARPers getting to be heroes.

      Ah, so the Rockefeller Center Tree was the one that had an unexpected owl inhabitant. I faintly recalled that an owl was found in a large public Christmas tree somewhere, but I didn’t recall that it was the Rockefeller Center Tree. And yes, the tree is a great example of Chekhov’s Gun. I also liked that real tree really is held up by four guy wires, so everything Kate and Clint do really is possible.

      Logan is a good comparison. We rarely see heroes dealing with ageing and injury, at least not in pop culture, so it’s nice to see it acknowledged.

      I was wondering why the conductor was so prominent, but if he is the one who wrote the song, it makes sense. And though I don’t see myself visiting Broadway anytime soon, I still hope that there will be an Avengers musical built around “Save the City” eventually.

      • Peer says:

        And apparently the citizen #1 is a broadway star as well (because of course he is)

        • Cora says:

          Well, why not go all out? And I suspected the two main citizens were well known Broadway actors, only that I’m notoriously bad at recognising Broadway stars. I chatted with Daveed Diggs at the Helsinki Worldcon for a few minutes (when clipping was up for a Hugo) and had no idea he was hugely famous.

          • Lurkertype says:

            Not only is he famous for “Hamilton”, now he’s seen regularly in the DoorDash TV ads, with the Sesame Street gang. He raps with Big Bird and has to call everyone over when his furry roommate orders way too many cookies for the obvious reason.

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