Ever since the first hint of Maya’s “Uncle” in the Tracksuit Mafia was introduced at the beginning of episode three, I’ve been waiting to see if my suspicions would be confirmed. Of all the moments throughout this episode, and there were some excellent moments, the final few seconds of the episode capped things off well, for me at least. The table is set for the final episode of this limited series.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you haven’t watched the episode.
Episode Five, titled “Ronin”, takes us into Yelena Belova’s work during the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Working with another former Widow, Yelena goes after a deep cover Widow, subduing her before giving her the aerosol antidote. When Yelena steps away to use the rest room, we discover that she was a victim of Thanos’ Snap (aka the Blip, which I still think is a lame term for that event). We see her surroundings change as Yelena is reconstituted, her fear and apprehension as she doesn’t understand what is happening. It is eerily reminiscent of the fourth episode in WandaVision where we saw Monica Rambeau go through a similar experience.
The conversation between Kate and Yelena in Kate’s apartment is one of my favorite scenes of the series. Kate quickly realizes that Yelena is dangerous and that she is in mortal peril. For the first time since the start of the series, I feel that this is the moment Kate understands that she is punching way above her weight class. Yelena calmly offers Kate mac’n’cheese (a nod to her favorite food in Black Widow) and point-blank states she isn’t there to kill Kate. The interplay between the two is handled well by both actresses. Florence Pugh gives Yelena a playful demeanor for much of the scene, except when it revolves around Natasha’s death and Clint’s part in it. We see the mask fall and find someone who is deeply committed to her assignment, which is to kill Barton. Hailee Steinfeld carries so much of this scene in her eyes and face. Kate is having to confront the possibility that there’s far more to Clint than she realized but she still believes he is the hero she’s idolized since she was a child. The juxtaposition of the idealistic Kate and the deeply cynical Yelena works wonderfully in this scene and that is a testament to the skill of the two actresses, as well as the writing for the episode. The fact that Kate makes Yelena pause and question the assignment she’s been given is a great moment, one that I felt was earned by the end of their conversation.
We didn’t get to see much of Clint in the first part of the episode but the scene where Clint stands in front of a memorial of the Battle of New York is heartbreaking for a couple of reasons. Of all the Avengers, Clint and Natasha were the normal humans, both assassins trained to fight, to be a living weapon that is directed at conceivably anyone. The bond the two shared is still something Barton clings to as he states he wishes Natasha was there for him to talk to. I have to give props to Jeremy Renner for his work in this series. He’s managed to oscillate between the deadpan sarcasm we’ve seen in the main MCU films and the shattered man who is only now beginning to put the pieces back together.
When we get to the confrontation between Barton, Maya, and the Tracksuit Mafia, the scene doesn’t disappoint. There’s a reason Clint was able to survive for five years in his one-man war on the criminal underworld after Thanos’ Snap and we see that on full display here. Using a combination of non-lethal takedowns and stealth, Barton quickly levels the playing field, leaving him and Maya to face each other one-on-one. The fight scene is one of the best of the Disney Plus shows up to this point, highlighting that while Maya is skilled, she isn’t as experienced as Barton, who ultimately gets the better of her (with a timely assist from Kate, naturally). There have been some questions of whether or not it was Clint that killed Maya’s father years before. Here we get a definitive answer: it was Barton who slaughtered the Tracksuit Mafia members, including Maya’s father. But Clint also reveals that he received a tip from an inside man, someone within the Tracksuit Mafia that wanted to remove the upper levels of the group. This sets Maya off on a quest to get more answers. I do have to say that while I enjoyed Alaqua Cox’s performance as Maya, this storyline has always felt weak to me during the course of the show. This story arc is likely going to lead in to Echo, a spinoff announced for Disney Plus that is due to begin shooting in 2022.
Leaving behind Echo to pursue her own truths in the death of her father, Kate reveals her conversation with Yelena to Clint, who looks crestfallen when Kate mentions that Yelena is Natasha’s sister. The fact that Clint knew Yelena’s name confirms something I’d suspected, which is that Natasha did reveal at least some elements of her family history to Barton, making him probably the only person she truly trusted on the Avengers. Prompted by Kate during their conversation earlier in the episode, Yelena tracks down Eleanor Bishop to an office building. When she texts Kate to reveal that Eleanor was the one who hired Yelena to kill Clint Barton, she also sends an image of Eleanor meeting with a bald man in a crisp white suit. The expression on Clint’s face says it all when he reveals the man in the photo is the Kingpin, the leader of the Tracksuit Mafia, played by none other than Vincent D’Onofrio (brought over from the Netflix Daredevil series).
To say that I am excited by the possibilities is an understatement. There’s no word yet on if the events of the Netflix series are going to be considered part of the MCU canon. It’s been a hotly debated topic among fans, largely because until Disney Plus came around, the Marvel films and the Marvel TV shows were almost treated as being part of separate universes, despite supposedly being all set in the MCU. Now, we have Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin back, and I can’t wait to see how they use him and that character moving forward. Vincent’s performance as Wilson Fisk in Daredevil was one of the many reasons I enjoyed the show as deeply as I did. His inclusion in the MCU proper, to me at least, is a good sign for the future.
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