'Hawkeye' wraps up with the sweetest payoff

Hawkeye (Marvel Studios)
Hawkeye (Marvel Studios)

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For a six episode series, there was a lot on Hawkeye’s plate going into its season one finale. Loose ends needed to be tied up, character arcs needed to be culminated, and superhero duds needed to be debuted. Finales can be tricky at the best of times, but Hawkeye’s sixth and final chapter just about sticks the landing in a satisfying if predictable and straightforward fashion.

But I’m getting ahead of myself…

We pick up right where we left off at the end of episode 5, with the revelation that Wilson ‘The Kingpin’ Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) has been working with Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), and that she hired Yelena to kill Clint. But this time, we get the full villainous conversation rather than a blurry pic, and it gives us confirmation that Eleanor killed Armand III on Fisk’s orders and framed her fiancé Jack.

Now that Kate is getting too close to the truth Eleanor wants out of the business arrangement – one which she was forced into because her late husband owed money to Fisk – but that’s not something Kingpin takes kindly too.

Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)
Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)

It’s just plain great to see D’Onofrio playing Fisk again. There’s a presence that he brings to the role that is palpably felt, from his stature to his delivery. Whether the Marvel Netflix shows are canon or not, Kevin Feige was right to bring this interpretation of the character back into the fold. When the role has already been cast that perfectly, you find a way.

Kingpin’s not-so-disguised threat to Eleanor’s demand to walk away has Kate worried, but Clint is on hand to reassure her that they’ve got this, as partners. The switch back to buddy-buddy feels a bit quick – it wasn’t that long ago that Clint told Kate to stay away from him – but it does lead to one of my favourite sequences of the series: the making of trick arrows.

While it does bring up another question – why did Clint have Kate go through the trouble of collecting all those trick arrows a couple episodes ago when he could’ve just made more? – it’s cool to get a behind-the-scenes look at how Hawkeye’s signature weaponry is constructed. I said it back in episode 3, but it bears repeating here: specialty arrows like the ones on display in this episode should’ve been a fixture of the character since he was first introduced in the MCU.

Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)
Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)

Within that scene, we also get a heartfelt moment between Kate and Clint as the protégé tells her idol about how he first inspired her. It’s a story Kate could’ve told Clint at any time during the course of her fangirling, but it might’ve easily been forgotten. Choosing to tell it in this way, right before jumping in to the biggest fight of her life, makes it have a real impact that is deeply felt. As has been the case for the entire series, Jeremy Renner and Hailee Steinfeld give knockout performances.

From there, we get a long, constantly escalating action sequence with multiple pairings that vary in their levels of innovation and effectiveness. First up is Kate and Yelena, crashing the party with beautiful fashion before revealing their combat gear and fighting each other in and out of elevators. There’s a lot of “We’re still friends right? / Depends on how hard you hit me” energy in this fight, ironic due to the fact that that exchange is between Black Widow and Hawkeye in Captain America: Civil War. Yelena and Kate will be taking over those monikers soon enough, but their friendship has only just begun.

Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)
Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)

Soon after comes the payoff we’ve been waiting for: protégé and mentor standing back-to-back (in their fresh new costumes!) with their bows drawn, doing all types of fun damage as the Tracksuit Mafia try in vain to stop them. On both a skill and inventiveness level, it’s impressive. Less effective is the resolution between Maya and her friend Kaz, who played a role in the murder of her father years ago. This is not a fault of the performances – both Alaqua Cox and Fra Fee do good work here – but Maya and Kaz’s friendship needed more screen time in this episode and the series as a whole for that emotional beat to truly land.

In contrast, Clint’s showdown with Yelena works on a number of emotional levels. It was predictable that all it would take is one proper conversation for Yelena not to go through with her kill mission, but all the dialogue that preceded her finally lowering her guard made that moment feel earned. Clint using the special sisterly whistle established in Black Widow to get Yelena to finally listen to him was an especially nice touch (and incidentally, MUCH better than the Batman v Superman “Martha” moment that some are already likening it to).

Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)
Hawkeye E6 (Marvel Studios)

The final battle is also the one that feels like the biggest mismatch, as it pits Kate against Kingpin. I have questions about Fisk’s strength and resistance levels – ripping a car door right off its hinges and walking away from a point blank explosion are impressive feats that I’m surprised he’s capable of – but as a trial for Kate to overcome, it works well (and Chekhov’s coin trick is perfectly deployed). Also working well: Kate choosing to do the difficult, but right thing and have her mother arrested, despite their genuinely loving relationship. As for Kingpin, there’s no way that Maya shot Fisk dead (the fact that there’s no shot of a dead body and the fatal shot happens off screen is a dead giveaway). I expect that this is where the Echo series will kick off, one way or another.

The last scene has Clint (with Kate in tow) finally making good on his promise to be home in time for Christmas. It’s arguably the lowest stakes of any MCU film or TV show, but it makes for one of the sweetest payoffs we’ve seen in the franchise.

As for the burning of the Ronin suit, I’m a bit disappointed by the lack of intensity on the accountability vs. redemption conversation when it comes to Clint. “We all dealt with the blip in our own way” is simply not good enough as an explanation, and neither is the Kingpin-manipulated-me-into-killing-your-father speech he gave to Maya in episode 5 (with nary an apology). Furthermore, Yelena’s on-the-money words to Kate regarding Clint’s actions as Ronin appear to have had no impact on the young archer. If this is as far as this part of Clint’s story goes, then it’s fair to label it a failure.

But there is plenty that Hawkeye got right, not least of which is absolutely nailing the MCU introduction of Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop. There’s a lot of red in the ledger of Hawkeye’s past. Kate is Hawkeye’s future. And the future is bright.

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From the quiver

  • So Laura Barton was a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent! Nice to get confirmation on this. I hope we get more details and flashbacks in future seasons. Linda Cardellini deserves!

  • Underrated and absolutely hilarious payoff: the Tracksuit Mafia member who thanks Kate for her girlfriend advice a few episodes ago.

  • Our final post-credits scene of the year is a full rendition of ‘Save the City’ from ‘Rogers: The Musical’ that is both delightful and super-cringe.

  • I was really holding out hope for a Daredevil cameo in the post-credits scene to pave the way for Echo. It didn’t happen, but I expect Matt Murdock to be heavily involved in that series once it kicks off.