Everyone Is Chasing Ghosts in Episode 5 of Hawkeye
Revenge is the name of the game in the series' penultimate episode.
Avengers: Endgame accomplished a lot in its 181 minute runtime: reuniting the Avengers, pulling off a time heist, undoing the Snapture, and saving the world. But some storylines and characters inevitably got the shaft. Despite her sacrifice on Vormir, Natasha Romanoff doesn’t receive a lavish onscreen funeral like Tony Stark. And while Natasha finally got her solo film in this year’s Black Widow, her friends and family have yet to experience any sort of catharsis or closure.
It’s a pain felt most acutely by Yelena, who has spent the years since the events of Black Widow on a global mission to wake up her fellow Widows. She keeps in contact with Natasha, and has grand plans for a Sex and the City-style girls’ trip in New York. But then the Snapture hits, and in the seconds it takes for Yelena to be dusted and undusted, 5 years have passed and her sister is dead.
Like Clint, Yelena is haunted by Natasha’s death. She is also consumed with avenging her death by going after the man she believes is responsible. This sends Yelena on a twin path with Echo, who is unknowingly pursuing Clint to avenge her father’s death. The walls are closing in on Clint, with both assassins after him. But Clint is chasing ghosts as well: he still talks to Natasha, and he still contends with the violence he wreaked as Ronin. He also faces the exposure of his family’s location, and whatever other secrets are hidden in the stolen Rolex.
In different hands, these storylines would be heavy and saturated with grief. Luckily for us, Hawkeye manages to keep things upbeat, thanks to its Christmas setting and the winning performances of Hailee Steinfeld and Florence Pugh. Much has been made of Kate and Yelena’s girls night mac n’ cheese dinner, and it’s easy to see why. We so rarely get to see two funny, smart women verbally sparring in the MCU, or two women in a scene, period. After all, the Avengers was a boys club for quite some time, with Natasha as the token female.
So it’s refreshing to watch Kate and Yelena size each other up. Though their backgrounds are wildly different, both are clever, highly capable, and confident in their abilities. And while Kate idolizes Clint, Yelena is quick to remind her (and everyone else) that it was Natasha who saved the world. She also reminds Kate that Clint spilled an epic amount of blood during his run as Ronin, and questions why being an Avenger is a hall pass for collateral damage.
Yelena addresses what was the central theme of Captain America: Civil War, namely the body count that comes with the Avengers mission to protect the planet. It continues to be a relevant question, given that the world is still recovering from the Blip. Yes, the Avengers saved the world. But the global trauma and destabilization remains. And Yelena’s sister is still dead.
What Hawkeye does so well is grapple with these big themes while adding plenty of textured detail that grounds the narrative. Questions of life or death are tempered with the Tracksuits discussing The Royal Tennenbaums or Clint palling around with Grills the LARPer. The series has an authentic, lived-in feel thanks to its focus on the humanity of the characters.
Hawkeye sees its core players confronted with uncomfortable truths. Clint reveals himself as Ronin to Echo, telling her they’re both weapons being manipulated by those who are more powerful. And even worse, they’ve been tricked by those closest to them. And Kate joins their ranks when discovers that her mother is in league with that very same power player: Kingpin.
Episode 5 ends with Clint and Kate reunited, and the Big Bad out in the open. With one episode left to go, I can’t wait to see how Hawkeye wraps up.
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