Features and Columns · TV

Meet the Grinch Who Stole Hawkeye’s Christmas (Not Mephisto)

And this big guy doesn’t need the Multiverse as an excuse for his villainy. He’s been lurking in the shadows for a while.
Hawkeye Episode Explained
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on December 15th, 2021

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores Hawkeye Episode 5 (“Ronin”) and takes a mean look at the big bad hovering over everyone. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

Have you ever received a text that changed your life? Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) just got one during Hawkeye Episode 5. Her new BFF, Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), did some snooping. She discovered that the person who hired her to take down Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is Eleanor Bishop (Vera Farmiga), Kate’s mom. Even worse, Eleanor is apparently taking orders from Wilson “Kingpin” Fisk (Vincent DOnofrio).

Gah! There’s a lot to unpack in that tiny paragraph, and it raises way more questions than when we initially thought this same thing a few weeks back.

The Big Man Surprise is No Surprise

Eleanor Bishop being a treacherous baddie is not terribly surprising. The Hawkeye premiere showed her in a precarious exchange of words with Armand Duquesne (Simon Callow), and a few short scenes later, he was deader than dead. The series did its best to point its fingers toward Armand’s nephew Jack (Tony Dalton), and he still may be involved, but Vera Farmiga couldn’t hide that villainous twinkle in her eye.

The photo of Eleanor Bishop chatting with Wilson Fisk is also not a jaw-dropping revelation. The flashbacks that first introduced Maya Lopez (Alaqua Cox) in Episode 3 featured her very large, out-of-frame “Uncle,” and his chuckle unmistakenly belonged to Vincent D’Onofrio’s Daredevil nemesis. Knowing her history with Kingpin in the comics and spotting the numerous references to “the big man” and “fat man” throughout the episode was clearly Marvel Studios calling their shot.

Most surprising is Yelena texting Kate that Eleanor hired her to kill Clint. That detail doesn’t feel right. Yelena could be slinging a swerve here.

Who hired Yelena Belova to Kill Clint Barton?

Hawkeye Kingpin Reveal
Marvel Studios

In the Black Widow end-credits sequence, Yelena Belova is approached at her sister’s grave by Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine (Julia LouisDreyfus). The shadowy government type, and wannabe Nick Fury, pulls a tablet from her purse. She tells Yelena that she has her “next target” and “maybe you’d like a shot at the man responsible for your sister’s death.”

Now, that last bit tracks with what Yelena pretty much told Kate Bishop after their rooftop scuffle. Yelena was adamant that she wanted nothing from Kate, that she only wanted Clint Barton because he killed Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson). Kate refused to believe such a thing, and we’re with her on that.

We know that they’re both right. Clint didn’t kill Natasha, but she did die in his place. The Soul Stone required a soul, and she prevented Clint from giving his up by throwing herself over the Red Skull’s ledge. Natasha chose life for Clint because he had a family, preferring happiness for his wife and three children over her sister’s inevitable devastation.

It’s unclear exactly what Valentina and Yelena know about what really went down with the Soul Stone. Maybe Clint filled out some intense S.H.I.E.L.D. paperwork about the matter, but that doesn’t sound like him. He probably gave the barest details, and whatever those details were, Valentina undoubtedly manipulated them to put Yelena on Clint’s trail.

So, when Yelena texts Kate that Eleanor hired her to kill Clint, well, that’s odd. Is it total B.S.? That’s hard to say.

Killing One Bird with Three Stones

Eleanor Bishop has reasons for wanting Clint Barton dead. He endangered her daughter. Kate Bishop’s childish fantasies about being the next Hawkeye have probably grated on her nerves since they first manifested. With Eleanor chatting it up with Kingpin, she’s absolutely socializing within the criminal underworld. Clint’s Ronin activities were and still are a threat to their lifestyle.

We also learned in Hawkeye Episode 5 that after Black Widow, Yelena spent a good amount of time freeing fellow Widows from their brainwashing. But when she met one who was already free, she learned that their Widow skills had great value on the black market. Many rich types would want an assassin in their pocket.

The Yelena Belova we encounter in Hawkeye could be a mercenary, getting cash where she can find it. And she could be making that extra money while also securing her own revenge and satisfying Valentina’s assignment. Yelena knows how to multitask; she’s not above killing one bird with three stones.

But we only have one Hawkeye episode left. And as happy as we are to see Eleanor Bishop in cahoots with Kingpin, it’s not enough of a reveal for the show’s last hour to skate on. Something major is still in production. We’re getting a little closer to understanding what kinda team Valentina is assembling. Her anti-Avengers are on their way.

And Then There was Kingpin

Hawkeye Kingpin Logo
Marvel Studios

Wilson Fisk did not just arrive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He’s been here all along. While the movies never acknowledged the Netflix shows, the shows frequently tipped their hats to them. Jessica Jones and Luke Cage‘s New York is the same one that featured a Chitauri invasion in 2012. And it appears that Marvel mastermind Kevin Feige is finally ready to acknowledge these narrative connections.

While the Avengers were distracted by a Mad Titan, Kingpin made a massive grab for New York power. Only Matt Murdock, a.k.a. Daredevil, and sometimes Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher, stood in his way. It’s also revealed in Hawkeye Episode 5 that Clint Barton as Ronin was a street-level pest attacking Kingpin’s operations during the Blip. “The Big Man” provided a hefty target for all that pent-up rage, something Murdock and Castle could appreciate.

The impression we have from the Disney+ series is that Clint Barton pushed beyond his anger post-Ronin. When he got his family back, he took another look at the damage he was causing as the murderous ninja. He discovered that his attack on Fisk’s auto repair shop, the one that resulted in the death of Maya’s father, was a Kingpin manipulation. Fisk used an informant to direct Ronin against Lopez, and Clint became the right weapon steered by the wrong man. Proof to the superhero that he was no superhero, just a killer.

When Hawkeye Episode 5 cuts to black, “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” kicks in. The series’ big bad is here, and there is nothing jolly about him. Wilson Fisk is a black hole, a titanic presence that will draw everything within the MCU toward him. He may not have an Infinity Gauntlet or an android army, but the normalcy of his evil makes him all the more offensive and effective. When he gets chummy with Valentina, our heroes will truly be in real damn trouble.

Hawkeye Episode 5 is now streaming on Disney+.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)