Hawkeye Episode 5 Recap: Yelena Returns to the MCU

Yelena, meet Kate; Kate, meet Yelena

Disney+/Marvel Studios

We’re nearing the end of our Christmas vacation with Clint Barton and Kate Bishop. With only one more episode of “Hawkeye” to go, the players are being revealed, conflicts are coming to a head, and they are running out of yuletide classics to play over the closing credits. So without further ado, let’s get into the details of “Hawkeye” episode 5, “Ronin.”

Spoilers follow (obviously).

Yelena Returns

This episode starts with something that has become a staple of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially in recent installments: a cold open set in the past. (They even use the oversized Futura title treatment from “Captain America: Civil War” and “Black Widow.”) The time is “2018.” Yelena (Florence Pugh), sporting her white Black Widow “snow suit,” is with another black widow. They’re breaking into a posh woman’s home, attempting to spray her with the antidote from “Black Widow” (the one that wakes the sleeper agents from their bloodthirsty fugue state). They realize that the woman they’re trying to revive is actually just a freelancer. She indignantly snaps, “You thought I was a rich pervert’s prisoner?”

Yelena goes to the bathroom to splash water on her face and we see her turn to ash like at the end of “Avengers: Infinity War” and in one continuous, super cool shot (hat tip to the directing duo of Bert & Bertie), we see her come back from the blip. She walks out of the bathroom and there’s a “5 years later” card in the “Hawkeye” font. (These two fonts even symbolize how she’s moved out of “Black Widow” territory and into “Hawkeye”-ville.) As she stumbles, attempting to figure out what’s happen she makes a desperate plea: “I need to find Natasha.” Smash to black. Brutal.

Kate (Hailee Steinfeld) comes home to Eleanor’s posh penthouse. She’s clearly aching and she’s sporting some nasty cuts. Eleanor is upset but Kate defends Clint (Jeremy Renner). “Clint protected me,” Kate tells her. In Kate’s childhood room (complete with Hawkeye poster on the wall), Eleanor asks her, “Does Clint think you’re a superhero.” Kate says no. And neither does she. She looks at her first tiny bow that Eleanor bought her. “I thought I could be one of them,” Kate says. Then she tells Eleanor what they have found out: that somehow Jack (Tony Dalton) is involved in a shell company, Sloan Limited, that launders money for the tracksuit gang. Eleanor says she’ll look into it.

Meanwhile, a similar scene is unfolding elsewhere, only this time it is Kazi (Fra Fee) tending to Maya’s (Alaqua Cox) wounds. Kazi tells her (via sign language) that he’ll help her catch and kill Clint, but after that he’s done. She agrees. In this scene (and others in this episode), it is very clear what Marvel brass and Disney+ saw in Cox and why they are so confident in giving her a spin-off. She is just phenomenal, able to express so much with a glance or hard stare. But more on that later …

At Kate’s crappy apartment, she’s surveying the fire damage. Things are looking rough. Suddenly, there’s a figure behind her. She throws a bottle of hot sauce at the intruder, who catches it instinctively. It’s Yelena. She tells Kate she has made macaroni and that they should eat together. There’s some hilarious banter about how Kate only owns a single fork, and Yelena, trying to defuse the situation, lies about how many weapons she has on her. “I don’t have any weapons currently in my hand … okay that’s a lie too,” Yelena admits.

Clint shambles up to Grills’ (Clayton English) apartment while the sad Christmas music from “It’s a Charlie Brown Christmas” plays.

We then cut back to Yelena and Kate, who are having a conversation. Yelena says she’s in town on business and wants to see the sights, like “the new and improved Statue of Liberty,” which is a reference to a moment (spoiler alert!) from “Spider-Man: No Way Home.” (The Statue of Liberty, for reasons that really aren’t explained, is getting affixed with a giant Captain America shield. Can you imagine the committees that had to okay that? And so quick, too. His show just opened on Broadway!)

Finally, Yelena admits to Kate that she’s here to kill Clint. Yelena tries to hit home just how bad Clint is – how many people he’s killed. And for a while the conversation turns into a frank discussion of vigilantism that other Marvel projects have attempted but most haven’t given much depth to (“The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” we’re looking in your direction). Finally, Yelena reveals that, as much as she’s looking for revenge, she was hired to kill Clint. Before she leaves, Yelena issues a warning: “Do not get in my way again.”

A Message for Maya

Back at Grills’ apartment, they’re eating pizza (obviously the dog is eating pizza too). Grills casually mentions that he and Kate’s new suits are done. “Don’t you want to see them?” he asks. Clint does but he passes out on the couch before we can see them. Delayed gratification!

At Eleanor’s, the feds have shown up to arrest Jack. Eleanor tells Kate she was right. Jack says that he would have done the same thing and that it was all probably a misunderstanding. And, by this point we have all assumed he is a weird sword fetishist who is clearly being framed. Dalton is so wonderful in this scene, keeping up his chipper veneer even as handcuffs are being slapped on him. And while we’re doubtful he will fully emerge as his Swordsman alter ego by the end of next week’s episode, we certainly hope he sticks around the MCU. Because he is a delight.

Clint has moseyed over to Grand Central Terminal, where there’s a plaque commemorating the Battle of New York and the heroes who fought there. He takes out his hearing aid and all the commotion of New York City goes mute. He talks to Natasha. “You were the bravest of us all,” he says, his voice quivering. “I’m so sorry for what I’m about to do.” Clint puts his hood up in a style reminiscent of … Ronin.

In her childhood bedroom Kate leaves Clint many voicemails.

We cut to the Tracksuit Mafia in their moving van. They’re listening to Run DMC’s “Christmas in Hollis.” Bonus Marvel trivia: this was the song that was meant to be included in 2013’s “Iron Man 3,” during the scene where Tony is trying out the new tech and dancing. They couldn’t clear the song, so it was replaced by a jazzy version of “Jingle Bells.” Good to know 2021 Marvel Studios can do what 2013 Marvel Studios couldn’t – make an explicit “Die Hard” reference. Anyway, the Tracksuit Mafia guys are talking about their look. They reference “The Royal Tenenbaums” which is great. When they stop they get an arrow through the windshield. It says for Maya to meet where she first encountered Ronin. “But we’re not Maya,” one of them says.

Kingpin Confirmed at Last

Clint is walking through Times Square. He calls up his very patient wife Laura (Linda Cardellini), who is probably way more supportive than she should be. He says that this thing is getting even more complicated. She tells him to trust his gut and to get it done. “It’s only a matter of time before the big guy gets involved,” Clint tells her. Big guy huh?

The meet between Clint and Maya is happening at Fat Man’s Used Cars. Kazi has a sniper rifle trained at where Maya is standing. Clint comes up behind him with Ronin’s sword and takes him out of the equation. Not, you know, killing him, but getting him out of the way. Elsewhere in the parking lot, various Tracksuit guys are getting taken down. The scene has a ton of suspense and is reminiscent of one of Batman’s first appearances in “Batman Begins,” when he dispatches all of those guys at the dock. The minions are gone, leaving just Maya aka Echo. And then Clint emerges, not as Hawkeye, but as Ronin. He’s in full regalia. He and Maya have a super intense fight. Finally, with Maya on the ground, Ronin approaches her. He takes off his mask, revealing Clint. In a combination of lip reading and signing, he tells Maya the truth – that one of her boss’ guys (hello Kazi!) ratted them out. Her boss wanted her father dead, so he called on Ronin. She doesn’t quite believe him. She picks up Ronin’s sword, is about to strike and then Kate shows up. She fires at the sword, disarming Maya. Kate and Clint shuffle down an alleyway, only to reach their getaway car: a waiting Uber that Kate called.

Kazi and Maya regroup. He asks what happened to Clint. She tells him he just “got away.” Kazi doesn’t believe her. Then she asks about the night her father was killed. Why wasn’t Kazi there? He was in town, he’s the big man’s #2. He said that he “didn’t get the call.”  She tells him she believes him, but you can tell she is concealing the truth. Again, Cox is a total dynamo in this scene.

Kate tells Clint in the Uber that the mystery woman from the roof visited her. “She says she’s Natasha’s sister,” Kate tells Clint. He knows Yelena. He seems … distressed. And speaking of Yelena we see her trailing Eleanor.

Kate and Clint get back to Grills’ apartment. They’re eating food around the kitchen table when Kate gets a series of texts. It’s Yelena. “Kate Bishop, I thought you deserve to know who hired me: Eleanor Bishop.” This is a bombshell. And, we should pause for a minute to say that we saw Countless Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) at least tip Yelena off if not outright hire her (in the post-credits scene for “Black Widow”). Was she working as an intermediate for Eleanor? Discuss.

But Yelena doesn’t just send Kate text messages, she also sends her a photo. Kate turns the phone around to show Clint. It’s Eleanor with a man. A rather large bald man. Clint identifies him as the man they’re looking for. He even calls him by name: “Kingpin.” The photo itself is grainy enough that it could have been pretty much anybody. But the closing credits confirm our suspicions, our hopes, our dreams: Vincent D’Onofrio, who made such an impression as Kingpin on the Netflix Marvel shows, is back as the character in the MCU. He might not be the only Netflix Marvel character joining the MCU this week …

So that’s it for this week. Next week we’ll be back for the arrow-filled finale of “Hawkeye.” Will there be more seasons? Did you love that Yelena and Kate, presumably the second generation of both Black Widow and Hawkeye, got to spend some quality time together this week? And is anyone else craving crummy mac and cheese?

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