Hawkeye Grapples with the Dark Legacy of “Ronin”

It’s time for my review of the latest episode of Hawkeye. Review of previous episodes may be found here.

Warning! Spoilers under the cut!

Like previous episodes, this episode begins with a flashback featuring a character who is not Clint Barton. In this case, we see Natasha’s foster sister Yelena Belova and fellow ex-Black Widow Sonya on their mission to free the other Black Widows from mind control, as seen in the Black Widow movie. They invade a country mansion, fight a Black Widow named Anna and give her the antidote.

However, it turns out that Anna didn’t need the antidote. She was already free from mind control and has been working as an freelance assassin, because it pays well and is the only thing she knows how to do well. Yelena excuses herself to go to the bathroom and suddenly dissolves into ash – the now familiar effects of the “Blip” – and seconds later reforms again, while the room changes around her. When Yelena emerges from the bathroom, five years have passed. Anna is still there, with her new husband (that’s an opportunity for the spin-off “I married a contract killer” right there) and young adopted daughter. Nice call back to the fact that Black Widows are forcibly sterilised and can’t have children, which was a great source of angst for Natasha in Age of Ultron.

Back in WandaVision, we already saw the Blip happening from the perspective of a victim, Monica Rambeau, and it was terrifying. But Hawkeye does that scene one better and portrays exactly terrifying and disorienting the “Blip” must have been for those who were dusted and then came back, having lost five years of their lives. io9 reviewers Germain Lussier and Charles Pulliam-Moore as well as Tor.com reviewer Keith R.A. DeCandido also praise that scene. I’m still not convinced that the Blip was a good idea, but at least Marvel addresses the trauma in its various TV shows.

Flash forward to the present, where a bruised and thoroughly dejected Kate (after Clint told her to go home and forget about him, because they are not partners) shows up at her mother’s apartment. Eleanor is understandably shocked at Kate’s wounds, but Kate tells her that it’s not Clint’s fault, that he protected her and that they’re no longer partners.

Next we see Eleanor cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging Kate’s various wounds and telling Kate that it’s okay if she will never be an Avenger and that she’ll find her path in life. This made me wonder how annoying it must be for parents who live in a world where “When I grow up, I want to be a superhero” is not as completely impossible as in our world. Because there are actual superheroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so of course children (and others) want to emulate them.

Kate tells Eleanor that Jack is the CEO of a Sloan Ltd., a company that’s a front for the tracksuit mafia, and she believes he was involved in the murder of Armand. Of course, Jack might still be innocent, but Kate begs her mother to look into the case.

Eleanor apparently does so, for in a later scene, we see Jack being arrested and taken away to be questioned by the police. “That’s impossible,” he says when confronted with his position in Sloan Ltd., “I’ve never worked a day in my life.” I have to admit that line made me cracked up. Jack also insists that he has been framed and that he will be back in time for Eleanor’s Christmas party. In the light of revelations later in the episode, I think it’s actually possible that Jack was framed.

Meanwhile, Maya is having her injuries from the rooftop fight last episode treated and bandaged by Kazi. A lot of superhero stories and action adventure tales in general tend to shrug off injuries as if they’re no big deal and we rarely see action heroes needing time and care to heal. Therefore, it’s notable that Hawkeye puts a focus on battle injuries in general and on the cleaning, disinfecting and bandaging of wounds in particular, cause we so rarely see those things. One exception are oddly enough the stories of Robert E. Howard where you frequently have scenes of Conan, Kull or Solomon Kane cleaning and bandaging their own or someone else’s wounds. But then Howard was the son of a country doctor in the pre-antibiotic era and knew a thing or two about the dangers of infections. That’s also why the whole “Khal Drago [who is a sort of Conan stand-in and Jason Momoa even played both of them] dies because he didn’t properly clean his wounds” thing in A Song of Ice and Fire annoys me, because that sort of thing would not have happened to Conan.

Kazi also tries to persuade Maya to let go off her quest for vengeance against Ronin, but Maya won’t rest until Ronin is killed. “But once we kill him, you’ll stop,” a hopeful Kazi signs. There’s a lot of tenderness in the relationship between Maya and Kazi, though so far we don’t know if they’re a couple or just sibling-like very close friends.

Our third wounded warrior Clint shows up equally dejected and bruised at the apartment of Grill, the LARPing fire fighter. Talking of which, am I the only one who finds it strange that Kate and Clint are able to walk with bow and arrows through the crowded streets of New York City without raising any eyebrows nor getting arrested. Cause I’m pretty sure if anybody were to walk through a German city with bow and arrows not packed up like sports archers do, they would get at the very least questioned by the police. After all, arrows are deadly weapons.

Griff takes Clint in and offers him his couch (or even the bed, if Clint wants it). He also tells Clint that the costumes for him and Kate are ready, though we have to wait until next episode to see them, because Clint falls asleep, cuddling Pizza Dog, who still eats canine inappropriate foods like pizza and snack mixes.

Meanwhile, Kate returns to her burned out apartment (after it was firebombed by the tracksuit mafia in episode 2) to retrieve some things and finds herself faced with a surprise visitor, because Yelena is there and has even made herself some instant mac and cheese*, because it’s just so good and besides, she got hungry waiting for Kate.

Kate is of course shocked – what is Yelena doing there and how does she even know where to find er? – but Yelena tells Kate to relax. If she wanted to kill her, she would have done so once Kate came through the door. What follows is a fascinating scene where Yelena, who not only is younger than Natasha but also seems younger, alternately gushes about mac and cheese and shares New York City tourism tips with Kate and very matter-of-factly talks about killing Clint, cause she has been hired to do so. Florence Pugh is amazing in this scene (and she was great in Black Widow as well) and indeed reviewers German Lussier, Charles Pulliam-Moore, Keith R.A. DeCandido and The AV-Club‘s Caroline Siede all praise her performance.

Kate defends Clint – she idolises him, after all – and tells Yelena that he saved the world and that superheroics sometimes cause collateral damage (which is something that both superhero comics and movies rarely address, though Marvel at least shows scenes of civilians being evacuated, while DC hardly ever bothers). Yelena corrects Kate that it was her sister Natasha who saved the world and that Natasha definitely was not collateral damage. She is absolutely correct, too, Natasha did save the world, though I wonder how Yelena knows what happened on Vormir. After all, it’s not as if characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had the chance to watch Avengers: Endgame.

Kate is not deterred. Clint is a hero, so whoever hired Yelena to kill him must be a bad person and maybe Yelena should look into that. Yelena thanks Kate for the girls’ night and leaves in a ridiculously show-off way.

Meanwhile, Clint has rested a bit and decides that he needs to deal with Maya once and for all, because she’s not just threatening Clint but his family. We next see him at Grand Central Station at a memorial placque commemorating the Battle of New York and the Avengers who saved the city. It’s telling that Clint is listed dead last, even though he would come second in alphabetic order. He switches off his hearing aid and talks to Natasha, asking her blessing/forgiveness for what he is about to do. It’s a beautiful scene – and Jeremy Renner once again gets to show that he is a multiple Oscar nominee for a reason – and also a stark reminder that Natasha doesn’t even have a grave where Clint can mourn, so he remembers her at the place where they both went from agents to heroes.

Next, we see Clint retrieving his Ronin gear and calling Laura to get her blessing/forgiveness. Laura tells him that she supports him and always will. I know that some people have issues with the fact that Laura is primarily portrayed as a supportive wife and mother, but I for one love Clint and Laura’s relationship, simply because characters who support their partners who work in a high-risk, high-stress job are so very rare in pop culture. If every superhero significant other in the Marvel Cinematic Universe were a supportive housewife and mother, I would complain, too, but Laura is the only one who’s currently primarily a wife and mother.

There is a hilarious scene of two tracksuit mafia goons driving around town in one of their Trust a Bro (no thanks) moving vans and discussing cool pop culture figures (Tony Soprano, Run DMC, The Royal Tennenbaums) who also favour the sort of old-fashioned tracksuits they were, when a message arrow hits their windscreen. Honestly, you couldn’t just call, Clint? The message summons Maya to the place where she first met Ronin… alone.

Of course, Maya does not come along, but brings the full force of the tracksuit mafia to the used car lot, where her father was killed. Clint takes them out one by one and then fights Maya in his Ronin garb. It’s a hard fight, but Clint wins and knocks Maya to the ground. Maya expects that he will kill her, but Clint does not kill young women in need of a parent figure. Instead, he takes off his mask, shows her his face and says that he wants her to know who he is, that he doesn’t want to kill her, but that he will, if she harms his family. He also tells Maya that her father’s boss – the Big Man – tipped him off that night and that apparently wanted Maya’s father dead and maybe she should look into that.

Keith R.A. DeCandido praises how this scene handles Maya’s deafness, since we see her confrontation with Clint from her POV without sound, especially how lipreading isn’t perfect and she doesn’t get every single word. Hawkeye is offering some very good disability representation here.

While Clint is dealing with Maya, Kate has been bombarding him with messages, thanfully delivered via phone rather than arrow. Finally, she decides to track his phone and shows up just in time to save Clint with a well-placed arrow, because Maya of course refuses to accept that her Dad’s boss – the man she called “uncle” – is responsible his murder and attacks Clint.

Afterwards, Clint and Kate escape in a Uber, while a suddenly suspicious Maya confronts Kazi about why he was not at the garage on the night her father was killed, even though he was his number 2.

Reunited, Clint and Kate head back to Grill’s for breakfast, when Kate receives a message from Yelena. Yelena really did look into who hired her – I thought it was Valentina, but apparently she’s just a broker – and sends Kate a picture. Surprise, it’s Kate’s mother and the blurry photo shows her with a very familiar massive bald and white-suited figure. Yup, Wilson Fisk, New York City’s Kingpin of Crime in back and – as the end credits reveal, because the picture is too blurry to make out much – he is played by Vincent D’Onofrio again, who already played Fisk in Daredevil and did a really great job, too. But then, D’Onofrio has been great in everything I ever saw him (and he was brilliant as Robert E. Howard in The Whole Wide World) in except Law and Order: Criminal Intent, where I hated his character. So I guess the Marvel Netflix series – of whom Hawkeye is reminiscent in more than one way – are canon again and we will maybe see other characters from those shows again, too. Which I for one would welcome.

Meanwhile, Eleanor Bishop decides to throw her hate in the ring for the 2021 Darth Vader Parenthood Award for Outstandingly Terrible Fictional Parents at the last minute. There’s a reason I only announce the winners on the last few days of the year, because there are often eleventh hour entrants. That said, I already have decided who will win the 2021 Jonathan and Martha Kent Fictional Parent of the Year Award, unless Geralt of Rivia really impresses me, once The Witcher starts up again this Friday.

Hawkeye doesn’t have the sheer weirdness of WandaVision and Loki, but it has been consistently good and enjoyable. So let’s see if the final episode sticks to the landing.

*The American mac and cheese obsession is one thing I don’t get. I’ve made mac and cheese – from scratch, because the instant stuff isn’t available here and also looks dodgy to me – but it’s not something I particularly love. My go-to pasta dishes are pasta with tomato sauce or puttanesca or aglio olio or various versions of pantry pasta.

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6 Responses to Hawkeye Grapples with the Dark Legacy of “Ronin”

  1. Steve Wright says:

    Collateral damage… I vaguely remember a Marvel four-issue mini-series, sometime in the 80s, which was done from the point of view of a specialist insurance service that cleaned up after superhero battles, but the title is eluding me. Damage Control? Something bureaucratic like that.

    • Peer says:

      I remmeber DC having something like that as well. There was even a short-lived series with Alan Tudyk IIRC
      (But I might be mixing things up)

    • Cora says:

      The Marvel series was Damage Control. The characters even briefly showed up in Spider-Man: Homecoming, where they take over the clean-up duties after the Battle of New York from Adrian Toombs a.k.a. the Vulture to be.

  2. Peer says:

    Again an episode, that was great, but maybe a bit too short. Im a bit afraid, that there is too much left for the final episode.
    Im curious if Jack will come back. Considering his talks with his father, his sword proficency and that Kate was not able to look into him with the spy network, he might be an agent, trying to infiltrate Eleanor and get to King Pin. Or it was all a ruse.
    Im not sure if Netflix is canon, it would be weird if there is an Iron Fist and hand in the same world as Shang Chi (although it happens in the comics). Id rather guess, the Netflix-Shows are considered bein another part of the multiverse. That would allow for the characters (and actors) to cross over/being introduced in the MCU if they think they are worth it (like Cox´Daredevil) and ignore them if they are not (like Finn Jones Fist)

    “has even made herself some instant mac and cheese*, because it’s just so good and besides, she got hungry waiting for Kate”
    Ive read the line in Yelenas voice 🙂 (I also really dont like Macn Cheese, but Im not that into cheese anyway).

    • Cora says:

      I also wondered whether Jack is an agent trying to infiltrate the Kingpin’s network, which might also explain his weirdness.

      Going for a multiverse approach with the Netflix series would be a good choice, because I don’t think there is much demand for Finn Jones as Iron Fist, while everybody would love to have Charlie Cox as Daredevil and Vincent D’Onofrio as Kingpin back.

  3. Pingback: Hawkeye realises “So This Is Christmas” | Cora Buhlert

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