Between all the damage to the newly reconstructed Statue of Liberty in Spider-Man: No Way Home and the destruction of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in this week’s final episode of Hawkeye, New York City’s landmark sites have been subjected to a lot of drama during the MCU’s holiday season. And I’m not talking about Rogers: The Musical on Broadway, either.
“So This Is Christmas?” features hordes of Tracksuit Mafia bros facing off against a pair of archers, LARPers turning their fantasies into reality, and a family reuniting on Christmas Day as Hawkeye rushes to wrap up its story in an action-packed season (and, barring a Loki-style surprise renewal, series) finale. The episode provides some closure for Clint Barton, who was forced to confront the past he thought he’d left behind and come to terms with the loss of his friend Natasha Romanoff. And after teasing Kingpin’s highly anticipated return for much of the season, it also revives the classic Marvel villain—only to maybe kill him by the end of it. But perhaps above all else, the Hawkeye finale marks the beginning of a new life for Kate Bishop, as she officially earns a new moniker and becomes the MCU’s newest superhero.
Almost every superhero is born out of tragedy, and Kate’s origin story began the day that her father was killed during the Battle of New York. Now, years later, Kate finds herself working alongside the same arrow-slinging hero who saved her life on that fateful day. In the finale, she finally tells Hawkeye about the impact he had on her as a child. “When I was younger, aliens invaded, and I was alone,” she says to Clint. “And I was terrified. But then I saw you, fighting aliens with a stick and a string. I saw you jump from that building even though you can’t fly—even though you don’t have superpowers. And I thought, ‘If he could do that, then I didn’t have to be scared.’ 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.”
Throughout Hawkeye, Clint has been (reluctantly) sharing with Kate some of the wisdom he’s accumulated through years of working for S.H.I.E.L.D. and Avenging—from the importance of a properly cleaned wound to the losses you must endure as a hero. His final lesson is that heroes need to make “tough decisions,” and Kate is quickly tested when she has to decide what to do with her mother after discovering that Eleanor had been working for Kingpin all along and had hired an assassin to kill Clint, killed Armand Duquesne, and framed her fiancé to take the fall for her. Kate is forced to deal with the emotional weight that comes with this choice, while also having to fight a guy who can take an arrow to the chest and pull off an outfit like this:
Despite the difficulty of her final exam, though, Kate passes with flying colors: She locks up her mom on Christmas Eve and takes down the wildly durable Wilson Fisk by finger-snapping a cuff link into a pile of explosive trick arrows. That’s quite a way to start off a superhero career.
As for Clint, he finally gets the chance to meet Natasha’s sister Yelena, and in doing so, he takes a crucial step in learning to forgive himself for allowing Natasha to sacrifice herself in his stead during the events of Avengers: Endgame. They have to duke it out a bit before they’re able to talk through their feelings, but Clint is able to enlighten Yelena on what happened to her sister the day she died on Vormir, while also helping her see how much Natasha had always cared for her. “She made her choice,” he tells Yelena. “We’re gonna have to find a way to live with that.”
Clint also begins to respect Kate as a true partner and—though he hides it beneath a joke about the surprising usefulness of the LARP squad—tells her how much she’s helped make him better “in every way” during this chaotic week leading up to Christmas. There’s no telling what’s next for Clint—especially now that he’s got a snazzy new costume. But as a playful exchange in the waning moments of the episode finds Kate testing out a few potential superhero names with Clint, the Avenger seems ready to pass on his name, with his own suggestion cut off (but possibly also revealed) by the Hawkeye title screen flashing across one last time.
With the final episode of Hawkeye, Marvel Studios wraps up a busy, mostly successful first year of transitioning into the world of television. In another extension of the studio’s main approach to Phase 4, the series accomplishes its goal of introducing a new Hawkeye into the MCU, while also providing a closer look at one of its founding Avengers that explores the emotional trauma left behind by the universe-altering events of the Infinity Saga. Overall, Hawkeye is a fun change of pace that lowers the stakes from the multiverse setup of WandaVision, Loki, and What If …? to tell a street-level superhero tale that plays out over the span of one week (and is tailor-made for families to binge around the holidays). But while the finale has its fair share of enjoyable moments, the episode also runs into some of the same issues that plagued most of its predecessors in their season conclusions.
WandaVision had a wonderful run to start the year with its genre-bending exploration of Wanda Maximoff’s grief, which hid a growing mystery behind a journey through generations of sitcom television. But it stumbled at the finish line, as it tried packing in a classic Marvel dose of CGI-action spectacle with little consideration given to the consequences of Wanda’s transgressions throughout the series. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier never managed to take off in the first place, and it used a number of long expositional speeches in the finale to try to explain the themes and ideas around race and nationalism that it was never able to effectively convey. (Loki also used its finale for an expositional dump to help elucidate some heady concepts related to the multiverse, but that works when the writing is strong and you have a brilliant performance from Jonathan Majors in a surprise appearance.)
The greatest disservice of Hawkeye’s finale was done to the characters other than Clint, Kate, and Yelena, as there was little time afforded to satisfying conclusions for the show’s abundance of villains. Vera Farmiga, as Kate’s protective mother who was secretly behind a number of the show’s sinister plots, was criminally underutilized throughout the series, with her motives—primarily, paying off Kate’s dad’s outstanding debt to Kingpin—hardly explored enough in the end to establish her as a fully realized character. She doesn’t even have a conversation with her fiancé, Jack Duquesne, in the finale, though between Jack’s unjust imprisonment and Eleanor’s deserved one, it seems likely that the wedding is about to be off. Jack, for his part, turned out to be more of a smoke screen for fans who were expecting a bigger role for his character, which draws inspiration from one in the comics. At least Tony Dalton got to have a little fun swinging a sword and teasing a spoiled child for peeing himself in the Hamptons.
Maya Lopez doesn’t have an exchange with Clint in the finale, either, despite learning at the end of last week’s episode that he was the one who killed her father. And most deflating of all, after withholding Kingpin’s grand entrance for much of the season, the Big Bad of the series arrived in the finale to little fanfare, despite Vincent D’Onofrio picking up right where he left off in Netflix’s Daredevil with his menacing presence as Wilson Fisk.
In the end, Hawkeye at least succeeded in paving the way for a new generation of superheroes in the MCU, with Kate Bishop, Yelena Belova, and Maya Lopez all set to come back for more. And with Clint back at home for Christmas at last, and his life as Ronin behind him, the Avenger can finally load on the ice packs and rest easy.
What’s Next for Maya Lopez and Kingpin?
Maya appears for only a few scenes in the finale, but she gets a lot out of them as she leaves behind her life as a member of the Tracksuit Mafia. Though she spares Clint, she returns in the finale to exact her revenge on the men responsible for setting up her father: Kazi and Kingpin.
After killing Kazi, Maya finds Fisk, points a gun at him, and—though the camera pans away to obscure the incident—fires it. Only a gunshot and the thud of a body hitting the pavement can be heard, so the implication is, of course, that Maya has just killed Kingpin, too. But is he actually dead?
Given the care that went into delaying Fisk’s arrival for the finale, as well as the fact that Marvel would be robbing fans of a reunion between Daredevil and his archnemesis sometime in the future, it feels pretty safe to say that the Kingpin of Crime won’t go down so easily. (After all, in the span of a few minutes, the guy also survived taking an arrow to the chest, getting run over by a car, and being hurled across a room by a number of explosive arrows.) Maya’s confrontation with Fisk in Hawkeye also serves as a parallel to a similar scenario that plays out in the comics, after she learns a similar truth about Fisk’s involvement in her father’s murder:
In Daredevil no. 19, Maya shoots Fisk in the face … and he’s fine. He loses his sight temporarily, but he’s back to his Kingpin ways in no time. Hawkeye deliberately stopped short of showing Maya kill him, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if the studio goes the route of the comics and uses this incident as a starting point for a rivalry between Maya and Fisk.
Without any immediate follow-up scene after Maya and Fisk’s final confrontation, there’s little indication of where Echo will find Maya when her Disney+ series resumes her story. But unless she has any interest in rebooting the Tracksuit Mafia—that is, if any of its members are still alive—she has a fresh start ahead of her in which to turn away from a life of crime. However, one of the deadliest Marvel villains has a pretty good reason to go after her.
Black Widow and Hawkeye
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the best moments of the Hawkeye finale belong to Florence Pugh’s Yelena. Despite Yelena’s attempt to kill Kate’s mentor and partner, even Kate can’t resist the charm of the Black Widow. Their over-the-top comedic fight sequence is entertaining enough in and of itself, but it also feels like only a small taste of a bigger partnership to come, as Pugh’s Belova and Hailee Steinfeld’s Bishop are set to become the next generation of Black Widow and Hawkeye.
Yelena’s conversation with Clint provides some closure for her as well by revealing the truth about Natasha’s sacrifice on Vormir. Black Widow explores some of the abandonment issues that Yelena still carries after being separated from her pseudo family, and Natasha is the greatest source of her pain and sense of betrayal. Although they make amends and team up to take down the Red Room together in the film, Natasha’s death still hangs over Yelena in Hawkeye. In the fifth episode, a flashback explains that Yelena learned about her death only after being blipped back to life. Now that she knows how much Natasha cared for her, even when they weren’t together, she can drop her own need for revenge and begin to move forward.
As with Maya, there isn’t any follow-up scene that hints at where Yelena is headed after the events of Hawkeye. But with her boss Valentina Allegra de Fontaine building toward something bigger, and John Walker also under Valentina’s command, Yelena’s time in the MCU may just be getting started.
Pizza Dog Pic of the Week
It took until the very end of the season to happen, but Pizza Dog finally got a real name: Lucky. He also got sent to a farm—but no, not like that. Instead he found a potential home outside the city as he accompanied Kate to Clint’s homecoming. Clint may have forgotten about the bite-sized van of humans who were abducted by a famous owl, but you can always count on him to remember to make sure that Lucky gets his proper number of steps in.
Christmas Gifts From Marvel
Hawkeye’s season finale is packed with Easter eggs, including allusions to Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye comics as well as other events from the MCU. The biggest of them all is the confirmation that Linda Cardellini’s Laura Barton is none other than Agent 19, the former Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. also known as Mockingbird.
One of the subplots throughout the season was centered on the mysterious Rolex that was stolen by the Tracksuits from the black-market auction in the series premiere. Clint later told Kate that the watch belonged to someone he used to work with who had been out of the game for a long time. As it turns out, that someone was Clint’s wife, and the Rolex brings to light a new backstory for Laura that raises a ton of questions about her former life as a field agent for S.H.I.E.L.D. While Hawkeye failed to deliver a flashback for a character who also serves as one of the Avengers in the comics, it’s still a fun nod to the source material that provides a bit more background on someone who’s never been afforded enough screen time. It also helps explain why Laura was so understanding about her husband’s problems with work-life balance.
The finale also features a fun reference to Fraction’s Hawkeye series through the reemergence of Clint’s trick arrows, plus the MCU additions of Stark Industries and Pym Particles arrows. Even Scott Lang gets a quick shout-out, when Clint realizes he has no idea what to do about the Tracksuit bros that he’s unintentionally just transformed into Rocky the Owl’s dinner:
Hawkeye saved its biggest gift for last, with the full version of “Save the City” from Rogers: The Musical playing out in all of its glory, to either the delight or the horror of fans at home who were expecting to find a more substantial stinger awaiting them in the episode’s end credits. Given the spatial and temporal setting the show shared with No Way Home and its close proximity to the film in Marvel’s release schedule, viewers may have expected a more obvious tie-in to the blockbuster movie—especially given that the projects imported the two stars of Daredevil into the MCU within the same week. Alas, the biggest crossover between the two ended up being the ads for Rogers: The Musical placed throughout New York City as Spidey swung through the movie’s multiversal madness. (He also swung by Rockefeller Center shortly before Clint and Kate took down the tree, but maybe he had a little too much on his own plate to help his old Avengers buddy get home for the holidays.)
“So This Is Christmas?” left a lot to be desired in some respects, along with a lot of questions about the futures of the many heroes and villains introduced in Hawkeye’s brief six-episode run, but the finale served its main purpose in passing the torch from Jeremy Renner’s Clint Barton to Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. The next Thanos-level threat in the MCU is still unclear as Marvel Studios continues to expand its universe into infinite realities in Phase 4. But with Bishop’s Hawkeye along for the ride, the future just got a lot more fun.