DIRECTOR: Bert & Bertie

CAST: Jeremy Renner, Hailee Steinfeld, Vera Farmiga, Fra Fee, Tony Dalton, Alaqua Cox, Florence Pugh, Linda Cardellini

RUNNING TIME: 45 mins

PREVIOUSLY, ON HAWKEYE: Whilst in New York for Christmas, Clint Barton (Renner) and his young protégé Kate Bishop (Steinfeld) have been investigating a murder, while also defending themselves from the Tracksuit Mafia and their leader Maya Lopez (Cox), who wants revenge against the masked Ronin – Barton’s vigilante alter-ego during the Blip years – for the death of her father. Barton, however, severs ties with Bishop once he discovers that someone has hired a lethal Black Widow – Yelena Belova (Pugh) – to kill him.

IN THIS EPISODE: Bishop, distraught about the end of her and Barton’s partnership, is paid a visit by Yelena, which leads to a major discovery…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

Suffice to say, the big breakout star of this year’s long-delayed Black Widow was Florence Pugh’s Yelena, adoptive younger sister of Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff. In the eyes of many, Yelena stole the show from even Natasha herself with her quick-fire fight moves and even quicker wit, causing the Internet to clamour for more of this delightful new character – consider that wish granted, for Pugh now makes her second major MCU appearance in Hawkeye, wherein her Yelena is given a very direct mission to kill the title character for very personal reasons.

Following the brief dialogue-less glimpse of her in last week’s episode, the fifth and penultimate chapter of Hawkeye – titled Ronin – we now get a full prologue with her, where we find out that back in 2018 (five years prior in the MCU timeline) Yelena was indeed one of the countless victims of Thanos’ snap, and that’s before she even learns about her sister’s noble sacrifice during the events that brought her and everyone else back. The Yelena goodies certainly don’t stop there, for in the present she shows up at the destroyed apartment of Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld), who herself is heart-broken about her adoptive mentor Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) severing their ties after their encounter with Yelena last week.

This leads to a really great extended scene between both Kate and Yelena, in which they uneasily swap anecdotes with each other over a pot of homemade macaroni, and is easily the true centrepiece of the entire episode; Steinfeld and Pugh’s chemistry is seriously on-point, with the latter having barrels of fun with the well-written dialogue and her vague Russian accent, while Steinfeld’s Kate can mostly just sit there awkwardly as she’s sharing dinner with someone who had just tried to kill both her and her idol. Seeing these two together is highly entertaining, and hopefully this will be the first of many encounters these characters will share in the future (and not just within the narrative of this miniseries), because right now these two great actresses have it within their natural charisma to form a seriously dynamic duo not unlike the one we’re familiar with between Clint and Natasha.

However, Ronin isn’t just The Florence Pugh Show – though, for a short while, it kind of is – because there are some key moments where Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye gets to be the coolest guy on the scene, whether it’s delivering a message to goons in the most Hawkeye way possible, or suiting up once more as his vigilante alter-ego to confront vengeful breakout character Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) in a rather brutal fight in a used car depot where, years prior, Barton’s Ronin brutally murdered her father. As with Steinfeld and Pugh, there is sparky antagonism between Renner and Cox which drives their fierce combat upon one another, and leaves you pitying both at the same time for their spiteful bloodlust, uneasily ending when one of them drops a major bombshell about the circumstances of Lopez’s fatherly tragedy. Directors Bert & Bertie (here contributing their third and last episode of the series, before directorial gaze shifts back to Rhys Thomas for next week’s finale) leave in their wake a firm blend of sophisticated action drama and underlying humour, which is played out organically enough to not completely lose sight of its original tone, but whenever possible lightens the mood to make things just a little more palatable.

The characters are certainly going to need it for next week’s conclusion, teased with a final shot here that confirms a major fan theory which viewers have been speculating about since Hawkeye’s first two episodes debuted on Disney+. No spoilers here, but with what it promises at the very end of this episode it seems like both Clint and Kate are in for a world of hurt, given the particular reputation that certain things or people carry with them. Regardless of whatever damage they may cause, however, it’s simply awesome seeing them function in this established universe which also calls into question whether past events not properly recognised by the official MCU canon could now be considered as actually being part of it this entire time. We’ll be able to get into more detail on this next week, when said thing/person will surely function in a much larger role, but for now it’s a good cliffhanger for this episode to leave off on.

All of that being said, Ronin is definitely one of the stronger episode of this miniseries; beyond its heavy fan teases, the writing and dialogue between these likeable and entertaining characters hits the mark, the direction is engaging and leaves you wanting a hell of a lot more, and it has good heart as we see more of Kate Bishop’s undying loyalty to her mentor even though he’s pretty much called it quits. As before, the Barton/Bishop duo is one build on solid foundations, and whatever direction things go in next week it’s impossible to deny that both of these characters are strong, well-written and three-dimensional heroes who go together like a pot of macaroni and an entire bottle of hot sauce (Yelena’s dish of choice here, by the way). On that note, we also get to see plenty more of Pugh’s Yelena, which after her scene-stealing debut earlier this year can never be a bad thing.

So many questions yet unresolved are about to be in a colossal way next week, which may be the most dangerous encounter that our favourite bow-and-arrow Avenger has yet come across.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Hawkeye: Episode 5 – Ronin is a solid penultimate episode that gives the viewer plenty of character-based action and drama, as well as lots of Florence Pugh’s standout Yelena which as ever shows the actress and character’s natural charisma, while setting up next week’s finale with a stinger that confirms a major fan theory for the better.

Hawkeye: Episodes 1-5 are now available on Disney+. Episode 6 will be available next week.

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