“Hawkeye” Episode 5 Finally Opens The Show’s Big Mystery Box

SPOILERS FOR HAWKEYE EPISODE FIVE AHEAD!

Today is an exciting day for fans of the short-lived but successful Marvel Netflix shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders, and that other one. If you mourned their abrupt cancellations, which happened in quick succession between late 2018 and early 2019, then the reveal that Vincent D’Onofrio’s iconic Kingpin is home for the holidays will come as a welcome Christmas miracle, regardless of how easy it was to predict (thanks in large part to D’Onofrio’s Twitter activity over the past few months). And if you’re hoping to see more Marvel Netflix characters pop up in the MCU, well, Hawkeye just opened the door.

Hawkeye
Ronin | gadgets.ndtv.com

But…there is a caveat. Until we see more of the MCU Kingpin than a grainy photo taken from a considerable distance (frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to say with certainty that it even was D’Onofrio if his name wasn’t listed in the credits), we still have no clue whether any of the events and storylines from the Marvel Netflix shows will make their way into the MCU canon, or if Marvel president Kevin Feige has handpicked a couple of actors he likes and has simply chosen to discard everything else and disregard the Netflix continuity. He would be well within his rights to do so, and it would be in Disney’s best interests not to give any attention to their streaming rival.

With the little we are given to mull on before the Hawkeye season finale next week, we can at least be certain that Kingpin is not in prison, so either he found a way to obtain his freedom after the events of Daredevil season three (which to be fair, would likely have happened anyway if the show ran for another season), or Daredevil is not canon. The answer will speak volumes about how Marvel plans to utilize other characters and actors from MCU-adjacent TV shows including Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D., which drifted so far astray from the MCU canon in its last two seasons that a soft reboot approach may be the only viable option.

Oops, I found a way to make this about Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. again. My bad. But I can assure you that the meta mystery of what is and is no longer canon to the MCU is probably more interesting than the actual mystery unfolding throughout Hawkeye, which at this point is actually four or five separate mysteries all frantically jostling for screentime in a six-episode series. Even with a couple of story-threads loosely intertwined in this episode to provide the illusion of cohesion, our eyes are still led to the characters and subplots that keep bouncing in and out of the story like pinballs.

I was thoroughly prepared for Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) to fall into that latter category, right alongside the vintage Rolex watch of indeterminate origin that has already ceased to be relevant and the embarrassingly blatant red-herring wrapped up in the name of Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), a comics character with a long and illustrious history who deserved better. But where Dalton can do little with what he’s given except be charming (and to his credit, he does that so well that it’s been clear from the outset he’s not a criminal mastermind), Pugh is given a supporting role in this episode that she utilizes excellently.

Hawkeye
Yelena Belova | diraxe.com

As a temporary comedic foil to Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), Pugh’s Belova fits snugly into the show – providing the same kind of chipper, light-hearted banter that Kate liked to bounce off of Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) before the two parted ways at the end of episode four, and giving Kate a much-needed opportunity to assume a more stoic stance for once. Pugh’s Russian-ish accent still needs work (although the inconsistency of it might be part of what makes this performance so endearing), but whether she’s rambling on about hot sauce or mapping out her first sightseeing trip through NYC, her Belova is an absolute delight.

And although her comedic moments are some of the highlights of this week’s episode, they wouldn’t be nearly as funny or as vaguely uncomfortable if Pugh weren’t simultaneously conveying in quiet undertones that Belova is still very much a threat. She matter-of-factly states that she’s going to kill Clint Barton one way or another, and if I trusted Marvel to actually follow through with that, I’d believe her. They’ve been getting bolder in the past year, but I don’t think they’re at the point of casually killing off original Avengers in a holiday-themed Disney+ series…yet.

If Clint does make it out of this alive, it’s not going to be for lack of trying on the part of his enemies. We learn that Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga), Marvel’s least-surprising surprise villain since WandaVision‘s Agatha Harkness, was behind the hiring of Yelena Belova to kill Clint, and meanwhile Kingpin hasn’t even unleashed the most dangerous weapons in his arsenal. Echo (Alaqua Cox) and the Tracksuit Mafia are also out there, but Echo takes on Clint a third time in this episode and again walks away soundly defeated. I’ve been disappointed in some of the decisions Hawkeye has made with her character, but it’s starting to get really frustrating.

And with the revelation that Echo’s desire for vengeance is being aimed at the wrong person anyway, her storyline feels increasingly pointless except to introduce the character and establish what will presumably be the through-line of her own Disney+ series. It’s accurate to the comics that Kingpin gave the order to have Echo’s father murdered, not Clint Barton as Echo had believed for much of her life – but there’s no emotional weight to that reveal, for the audience who still doesn’t know the MCU versions of these characters all that well (or in Kingpin’s case, at all).

There was one flashback to Echo’s childhood in episode three, focused on her relationship with her father – but no scenes or lines that established the largely one-sided bond of trust and loyalty that formed between Echo and Kingpin after the death of her father, nothing to earn the dramatic reveal in this episode that’s framed as if it’s heart-wrenching and instead comes across as hollow. Hawkeye has been so busy poorly keeping Kingpin a secret, it forgot that this part of Echo’s character arc is dependent on knowing something – anything – about their relationship.

I feel sorry for Cox, because she clearly deserves a story that can actually focus on what she and her character need. Some of Marvel’s mystery boxes have been disappointing or mishandled (the Power Broker reveal in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier comes to mind), but this is the first mystery that’s clashed with the rest of the story to this degree, and it’s not hard to see why. Even leaving aside the fact that it hasn’t exactly been easy to figure out what the main mystery is with so many going on, they’re all thematically estranged¬†from Hawkeye‘s early ruminations on what it means to be a hero, and the dangers of putting people on pedestals.

Hawkeye
Echo and Ronin | tor.com

Hawkeye feels like it ought to have been the story of the Ronin legacy that haunts Clint Barton, and the fact that this episode is actually titled Ronin would seem to reflect that. But instead of building on that foundation, the show has instead tied itself into knots chasing random Rolex watches and Kingpin Easter-eggs. I’d say the finale could sort it all out, but honestly I think there’s a stronger chance that Yelena Belova kills Clint Barton on Christmas Day.

Episode Rating: 7.9/10

“Hawkeye” Episode 3 Tells Echo’s Side Of The Story

SPOILERS FOR HAWKEYE EPISODE THREE AHEAD!

Of the few people who are actually talking about Hawkeye and making their opinions known on what is potentially the least-watched live-action Marvel Disney+ show yet, it seems from social media that most are just sticking around to witness the return of Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, better known by his supervillain alias, Kingpin. And after Hawkeye‘s third episode debuted yesterday, the series may have just ensured that Kingpin will continue to overshadow the rest of the story, much like how the character looms over everyone thanks to his impressive 6’7″ stature.

Hawkeye
Echo | epicstream.com

And mind you, all we see of Kingpin in episode three, in the roughly five seconds that he’s onscreen, is one of his hands, and a little bit of his suit. We hear him chuckle, but he doesn’t actually say a word to confirm that Vincent D’Onofrio is back in the iconic role. I’m excited to see Kingpin, don’t get me wrong, but it’s slightly frustrating that in five seconds he managed to pull focus away from everything else that happened in this episode, including our official introduction to Hawkeye‘s primary villain for the moment – Echo (Alaqua Cox).

To some degree, that’s on head writer Jonathan Igla and directors Bert & Bertie for not giving Cox’s adult version of Echo a standout action sequence or emotional beat, even though there were plenty of opportunities to blow audiences away on both counts. Her child version, played by Darnell Besaw, has one brief fight at a karate class that translates her photographic reflexes from page to screen, but while promising, we have yet to see Cox’s Echo utilize those abilities again. And her final scene with her father, who famously dies in the comics leaving a bloody handprint on Echo’s face, is significantly less impactful when Disney shies away from showing much blood.

But at the same time, it’s worth noting that MCU stans will find a way to overshadow Echo no matter what. Even when it was revealed that she would become the first Marvel character introduced on Disney+ to receive their own spinoff, all that anyone could talk about was how Kingpin and Daredevil could use Echo’s show as an arena in which to continue their conflict from the Netflix Daredevil series, as if Echo doesn’t have any stories worth telling from her own viewpoint.

And that’s a shame, because Echo happens to be a fascinating character, and Alaqua Cox in her debut performance brings a commanding presence to the role. A deaf Native American woman (and in the MCU, an amputee like Cox), left in the care of Kingpin after her father’s murder, Echo in the comics has a reputation as one of the most formidable street-level antiheroes in the global criminal underworld. There’s already so much going on with her in this episode that Hawkeye doesn’t even have time to reference the fact that in the comics, Echo was the original Ronin before Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) took on the mantle.

Nonetheless, the two characters still have a very intriguing dynamic in the MCU. There’s a somewhat generic revenge storyline going on, with Echo under the (most likely false) impression that Clint as Ronin murdered her father, but what’s most compelling about their relationship to each other is how they interact as two characters with hearing disabilities. Hawkeye depicts a range of experiences through Echo, the MCU’s second deaf character after Lauren Ridloff’s Makkari in Eternals, and Clint, who has partial hearing loss.

Hawkeye
Clint, Kate, and Lucky the Pizza Dog | denofgeek.com

This includes depicting the stark differences between the two, as well as the similarities. Echo uses sign language and as a child had to rely on lipreading because she wasn’t able to attend a deaf school, while Clint is still in the process of learning sign language and can’t hold a full conversation with Echo without the help of a translator using simultaneous communication (or SimCom), a controversial method where one signs and speaks at the same time, sometimes to the detriment of both languages but particularly to the signed language because the speaker is often a hearing person who mentally prioritizes their spoken language even while using SimCom.

I have not been able to find any articles specifically regarding the use of SimCom in Hawkeye, and thus it would be impossible for me to say as a hearing person who doesn’t speak any sign languages whether the SimCom in the show is accurate and intelligible. But something that I have seen others address, and that I noted myself while watching this episode of Hawkeye, is that the way shots are framed, the characters’ hands are often out of frame while they’re signing. It might seem like a small thing to some, but it also demonstrates why representation can’t stop at onscreen visibility. It takes a diverse team behind the camera to make sure that visibility is…well, visible.

I do appreciate, however, that Hawkeye actually utilizes its diversity for more than just surface-level visibility; Clint and Echo’s disabilities are an integral part of both their characters, and in this episode at least both deal with unique situations and challenges that arise because of their disabilities. At one point, Clint’s hearing-aid gets smashed under Echo’s boot during a fight, which in turn requires him and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) to work together more closely, culminating in a scene where she helps him through an abrupt phone call from his son. It’s strongly reminiscent of a scene in The Umbrella Academy‘s season one finale, but still poignant and powerful.

In the superhero genre especially, it’s also important that diverse characters get the chance to be cool, which is why Makkari’s magnificent power display in Eternals was such a joy to behold. And here, it’s great to see that Clint at least is finally being given that chance thanks to his collection of trick arrows, each more dangerous than the last. Even though it’s pretty obvious that the show’s CGI budget got diverted elsewhere (let me guess, it’s all going into making Kingpin look taller), several of the arrows are very well-used, and the Pym Tech size-alteration arrow is particularly clever in theory.

In next week’s episode, we’ll also presumably see Clint take up a sword as he deals with the Swordsman himself, Jack Duquesne (Tony Dalton), who pops up right at the end of episode three (wielding Ronin’s blade) to remind us that, oh yeah, there’s a whole separate plot revolving around that unsolved murder mystery in episode one that has yet to tie into everything going on with Echo and Kingpin. At this point, with my theory that Echo would be connected to the MCU’s Red Room officially very unlikely to materialize into anything substantial (a shame, I thought it was a good theory), I have no idea when or why Yelena Belova will show up.

Hawkeye
Kate Bishop | hollywoodreporter.com

Perhaps, in trying to wrap up all these storylines with a neat little bow (and arrow), Hawkeye will bite off more than it can chew, but for the time being I’m just enjoying the ride. As long as Renner and Steinfeld continue to have great banter and chemistry, and Echo continues to develop into a more well-rounded antagonist to the duo, that shouldn’t be hard. I just have to hope that they don’t let Kingpin steal the show from them without putting up a fight.

Episode Rating: 7.5/10