“Well, that’s the guy I’ve been worried about this whole time. Kingpin.”
In the final moments of “Ronin,” the fifth episode of Hawkeye, Clint Barton’s worst nightmare becomes a reality. With grainy photographic evidence in hand that connects Kate Bishop’s mother to the criminal mastermind at the very top of the Tracksuit Mafia, Clint utters the notorious moniker of the man he’s been trying his best to avoid, as the Kingpin of Crime enters the Marvel Cinematic Universe at last.
Beyond the Kingpin reveal that fans had been hoping for since the mysterious “Uncle” was first mentioned in Hawkeye’s third episode, the penultimate installment of the season is packed with major moments for both the series and the MCU at large. Maya Lopez meets Ronin. Eleanor Bishop’s greater role in the show’s big picture is revealed. Pizza Dog just misses out on getting an actual name—but he does get some more pizza. (I’m starting to worry about his diet.) And with the violent toss of a Sriracha bottle, a potentially iconic relationship begins after Yelena Belova breaks into Kate’s crispy apartment to formally introduce herself:
Aside from the sound of her voice in the opening scene, the late Natasha Romanoff is absent from “Ronin”—yet her influence is at the heart of it. We learn how, following the events of Black Widow, Natasha has provided her adopted sister Yelena with purpose (which we’ll circle back to), and we also see the lasting effect that she’s had on Clint. He even stops by the Battle of New York memorial—the site where both he and Natasha became Avengers—to pay his respects and tell her so himself. “You always had to win, didn’t you?” Clint says, staring down a plaque that bears Natasha’s name—right above his own. “And for a stupid orange rock. I replayed that a million times in my head, hoping for a different outcome. But I do my best every day to earn what you gave me. I just wanna say I miss you. And I’m so sorry for what I’m about to do.”
With the theme music that played during Natasha’s sacrifice on Vormir in Avengers: Endgame subtly accompanying Clint’s soliloquy, the former Avenger finally addresses the loss that he’s been carrying with him throughout the duration of Hawkeye—the guilt that he carries for not being the one to die for that stupid, orange Soul Stone. Clint has a dark past tied to his Ronin alter ego—one that left behind a “trail of blood” that “could wrap around the entire world,” as Yelena somewhat hyperbolically says—yet Natasha provided him with a second chance nonetheless. Now Clint’s putting it to good use.
Hawkeye includes an apology at the end of his speech to Natasha because he’s preparing to put on the Ronin suit for the first time in years. But even after he goes full Batman and drags a bunch of Tracksuits into the shadows, he shows that he’s not the killer he once was. Clint lures Maya and her crew to the place where he slayed her father during his Ronin days, but only so he can try to show her that her rageful desire for vengeance is blinding her (just as Natasha once showed him) and deliver her a message: The informant that led him to Maya’s father worked for her boss, Kingpin, who wanted her father dead. If not for a life-saving arrow from Kate moments later, Clint’s show of mercy to Maya would have gotten him killed. But now Maya can see that Kingpin may be tied to her father’s death, and that he and her supposed right-hand man Kazi could be the ones responsible for bringing Ronin to their doorstep in the first place. With this crucial step, Maya may be heading down a path of redemption to be further explored once she gets her own show in Echo.
Through five episodes, Hawkeye has woven previous MCU movies into its storytelling more than any Disney+ show before it. Marvel Studios head Kevin Feige has explained in the past how Marvel’s streaming series would factor into its movies, and vice versa, but now we’re watching perhaps the most salient example of this strategy. Hawkeye may be a story about Clint Barton, but it’s also one about Kate Bishop, Maya Lopez, and most recently, Yelena Belova. All of the preceding live-action MCU TV shows have repurposed scenes or lines of dialogue from films in the Infinity Saga as building blocks for their new narratives to some degree, but now Hawkeye is recycling them into bite-sized origin stories for new characters who will play bigger roles in Phase 4 and beyond. In introducing Kate, Maya, and Kingpin, as well as reintroducing Yelena in her first present-day story, the series is laying the foundations for any number of subsequent narratives. It’s fitting that this approach has come in a series surrounding one of the last living Avengers from the Battle of New York, as Hawkeye serves as the bridge between the MCU’s past and future.
A Black Widow’s Web
After not even getting the chance to speak a single line in her splashy season debut last week, Yelena owns the fifth episode’s cold open, a scene that essentially serves as an epilogue to Black Widow. Natasha’s younger sister stole some of the best moments in the summer blockbuster, wherein Florence Pugh made her first MCU appearance, but the story itself was set in 2016 following the events of Captain America: Civil War (though its post-credits scene places Yelena in 2023 as she visits Natasha’s grave). In just a few minutes of screen time, “Ronin” accounts for the better part of the seven missing years in her timeline.
The cold open, um, opens in 2018, with Yelena two years into her quest to cure all of the brainwashed Black Widows as she continues on the path Natasha helped her find during the events of Black Widow. In this instance, the Black Widow whom Yelena and her associate are trying to save requires no saving at all, revealing herself to be a paid assassin who now uses her talents for her own benefit. After a fight leads to a casual conversation, Yelena steps into a bathroom, only to exit it five years into the future.
Just as WandaVision did with Monica Rambeau in the beginning of its fourth episode, Hawkeye uses the Blip to explain Yelena’s previous whereabouts in the MCU’s greater timeline. And given the audience’s awareness of Natasha’s sacrifice during Endgame, which allowed for people like Monica and Yelena to return to life in the first place, Yelena’s immediate reaction draws attention to the tragedy of the situation:
Fast-forwarding to the present day of Hawkeye, “Ronin” ties Yelena into the greater MCU after the Black Widow stinger teased little more than her connection to Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and her assignment to kill Clint. In the span of a single conversation with Kate, we’re reintroduced to Yelena’s humor, love for mac and cheese, and impeccable fashion sense, which has evolved far beyond her cherished army-surplus vest. And despite becoming a contract killer like her friend in the episode’s cold open, Yelena still shows mercy to Kate for a second time, electing not to hurt her to get information on Clint after previously going easy on her at the end of the fourth episode. She’s in New York City because she’s been hired to kill Clint, but Yelena really accepted the assignment to avenge her sister, who (as she reminds Kate) was actually the Avenger who saved the world. (If we want to be technical, it was sort of a team effort.)
The scene between Yelena and Kate may serve as a milestone moment in the MCU as Marvel Studios continues to churn out movies and TV shows, with the pair representing the new Black Widow and Hawkeye in the next generation of superheroes left to heal the world following the traumatic events of the Infinity Saga. This might be the first time we witness the duo sharing a pot of mac and cheese together, but it looks like there will be many more servings to come.
Pizza Dog Pics of the Week
Without picking up on the pattern, I’ve included at least one screenshot of Pizza Dog in each of the past couple of Hawkeye recaps. So, for these final two episodes of the season, I’ll be dedicating an entire section to him. That’s all—please enjoy these images of the glorious Good Boy.
The Kingpin Arrives
All Hawkeye needed to raise the stakes ahead of next week’s season finale was a name and a photo. In contrast to more carefully camouflaged major character reveals in past MCU shows, including the debut of Jonathan Majors’s He Who Remains during the Loki finale, Hawkeye hardly withheld the fact that Kingpin was coming after he received a soft introduction during the opening moments of “Echoes.” But with Clint shedding his apparent fear of the name that allowed him to refer to Kingpin only as “the big guy” for half the season, Hawkeye has officially welcomed an all-time Marvel villain to the MCU—with Daredevil’s Vincent D’Onofrio reprising his iconic role, no less.
Along with confirmation of the true villain looming all along behind the scenes of Hawkeye, the last shot of “Ronin” provides a second crucial revelation, as Yelena discloses to Kate that it was her mother who hired Yelena to kill Kate’s beloved mentor. Though Eleanor Bishop seemed suspicious from the moment a black-market auction took place beneath her charity gala in the premiere, Kate’s attention was focused on Eleanor’s swordfighting fiancé, Jack Duquesne. And with Eleanor forcing Jack to pay the price for running a shell company that has ties to Kingpin’s Tracksuit Mafia, she has quickly supplanted her (potentially former) fiancé as the next major threat for the Hawkeyes to deal with—though there are surely deeper levels to the conspiracy.
With only one episode left in Hawkeye, and all of Clint’s and Kate’s enemies stepping out of the shadows, Eleanor Bishop’s impending Christmas party promises a dramatic conclusion to the season. There are many loose ends to be tied up by then—can Clint keep his promise to be home by Christmas?—but there’s one thing we can now say with full confidence: Kingpin is coming.