Hawkeye Episode 5 expanded upon the last episode’s theme of rich character development and in-series world-building, but it fell short of providing a strong platform into the finale. While the penultimate episode certainly took its time to gather a lot of pieces of the big-picture puzzle, the final episode of the short series is left to try and resolve virtually every plotline already in existence as well as provide all of the Kingpin content it has teased.
What Ronin set out to achieve it did beautifully. There were several standout conversations and one-on-one moments that invoked emotion arguably better than the series has done previously. Florence Pugh’s witty Yelena was easily one of the biggest highlights and received much of the episode’s focus. While her “girl’s night” with Kate highlighted the chemistry between the two characters, the look at Yelena’s own blip was an intense opening to Ronin that set the tone for a grief-filled episode. Eleanor and Kate had a moving moment where Vera Farmiga puts in quite a compelling performance as a concerned mother which is impeccably timed with the late but unsurprising reveal that she likely is on the wrong side of the criminal line.
Clint also has moments dripping with desperation and loss. Learning that the Black Widow was Natasha’s sister Yelena sent him into another spiral of guilt over Natasha’s sacrifice. There’s a simple but moving moment where he talks to an Avengers commemoration plaque as if it were her in silence. But mourning quickly turns to action as Clint wastes little time in going on the offensive to defend his family. Through another Linda Cardellini phone call, Clint explains that he has to end it or else the “big guy” might get involved. Laura Barton is again strangely supportive, lending a lot of credit to the theory that she is an ex-agent of some kind herself. This episode marks Clint moving away from much of his self-deprecating attitude and into a much more confidently self-aware place.
The result is Clint revealing to Maya that not only is he Ronin, but that Maya’s “Uncle” is who wanted her father dead. This weaves itself into strong moments between Kazi and Maya, where his comforting protective instinct towards her starts to look twisted after it’s implied that he had a part in Maya’s father’s death. Still, the two have strong chemistry, and it’s a bit of a shame the series didn’t show more of it. The Clint-Maya confrontation represented the only action of the episode, leaving Episode 3 as the leader of the series in that respect, by far.
While Hawkeye can pull off quieter, investigative storylines, it has been teasing more over the course of its run. Episode 5 was in a prime position to kick off an intense action-packed ending to the series, but it curiously kept the slower pace of the last episode throughout. The much-awaited “reveal” was a bit of a letdown. While the name “Kingpin” has finally been dropped, it came via a less-than-dramatic line from Clint that the man in a very low-quality cellphone photo with Kate’s mom was “the guy [he’s] been worried about: Kingpin.” Yes, it was Vincent D’Onofrio, but it may have well been Bradley Cooper’s Rocket or Alec Mapa’s Animal-Vegetable-Mineral Man—the photo would’ve looked about the same. While there’s every reason to believe D’Onofrio will be a star in the finale, his reveal was not particularly exhilarating.
Ronin set up virtually all of the series’ plotlines on a silver platter to be resolved or concluded. The tracksuit mafia’s vendetta against Clint/Ronin, Yelena’s quest to kill Clint, Jack’s criminal ties, Eleanor’s criminal ties, Kingpin’s overarching role in all of it, Clint and Kate’s relationship, Grills’ safety, and Clint getting home for Christmas. The problem is that the finale is forced to take on all of it in, presumably, the same general run time that the rest of the episodes have been allotted. While Hawkeye has been very successful in developing strong, compelling characters, delivering interesting and emotional arcs for them, it has yet to truly prove its ability to handle its own overarching storyline. Hopefully, the finale manages to streamline its moving pieces while capitalizing on the character work the series has worked hard to execute.