FULL SPOILERS AHEAD
We are in the final stretch of Hawkeye episodes, and already the latest episode, “Ronin,” has alleviated some of the concerns I voiced last time. I’d explain more, but this is the intro paragraph where I try to keep spoilers to a minimum because this doubles as the page preview. So let’s cut the crap and jump right in!
“Ronin” opens with a flashback to Yelena Belova’s continuing campaign to free the brainwashed Black Widow agents, as seen in Black Widow. Unfortunately, Yelena is a victim of the Snap and we get to see the event from her point of view–she reappears in an instant, but watches as reality and time shifts around her until she’s fully 5 years from the last moment she remembered. The flashback ends with her asking if Natasha–her sister–was okay. Uhhhhh… short answer? No. In the present, Kate is still reeling from Clint telling her to go home after things got too intense. She shares a moment with her mom, revealing that Jack is apparently laundering money for the Tracksuit Mafia. Yup, it’s definitely Jack and not Eleanor who’s up to some shady shit. Kate heads back to her burned down apartment and comes face to face with Yelena, who just wants to talk. See, the Russian agent has been hired to kill Clint and knows in her heart that he is a bad man–remember, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Mrs. Julia Louis-Dreyfus) convinced Yelena that Clint was responsible for Natasha’s death–while Kate knows in her heart that he isn’t. Who’s right? Enh, the truth is somewhere in the middle. While Clint is staying with Grills, Kate returns to her mom’s penthouse to see Jack being arrested, who is convinced this is just some sort of mix-up. Damn, he really is just a good natured himbo, isn’t he? After Clint calls his wife, Laura, and tells her he has to finish this once and for all, he arranges a showdown with Maya. Showing up in the Ronin suit, he beats the crap out of the Tracksuit Mafia and knocks Maya down, unmasking to tell her that if she goes after his family, he’ll kill her. Oh, also that he killed her dad because someone in her organization squealed. Hey, isn’t it weird that Kazi was the number two guy for Maya’s dad but wasn’t there the night he died…? Kate saves Clint with the tables turn, and they think everything’s all wrapped up until Yelena texts Kate. See, Yelena did some digging and found out that she was hired by Eleanor–I know, I’m sure nobody saw that coming–most likely under orders from her boss… a man known as Wilson Fisk, AKA the Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio).
So… Kingpin absolutely confirmed. We all knew it was coming, but there was a small part of me that thought Disney was trolling us (see Ralph Bohner in WandaVision). D’Onofrio was listed in the end credits to seal the deal–above Alaqua Cox, which seemed kind of rude, but whatever. The directors of the series, a pair of women going by Bert and Bertie, have said that the final episode of the season will apparently answer the question on many, many people’s mind: does bringing back D’Onofrio’s Kingpin mean that Netflix’s Daredevil is canon with the MCU? Last we heard the answer was no, but who knows anymore. Does it even matter? Well… not really since none of these shows–whether airing on Disney+, ABC, Netflix, or Hulu–have been referenced by the movies… yet. I don’t want to make a full statement before I see Spider-Man: No Way Home.
I gotta say, I absolutely loved most of the conversations characters had this time around, but especially Yelena and Kate’s girl talk. I felt like we didn’t get to see enough of Yelena in Black Widow, so giving the character a spotlight while grilling Kate for information all under the pretense of a friendly conversation was just what I didn’t know I wanted. Plus, it was nice after her not saying a single word last episode.
But for such a potentially major player in the MCU, Yelena in the comics is almost a nothing character. Like, she’s definitely someone I had heard of so she’s better than most fourth-rate villains, but she’s only appeared in 36 comics–that’s issues, not series, and three’s an asterisk on that number.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. First appearing in… wait, is this right? Huh. First appearing in Inhumans #5 (1999), she had a bigger role in the following Black Widow limited series (1999) and the other Black Widow limited series (2000). Both were 3 issues? I’m sure that didn’t confuse anyone. ANYWAY, in the comics she was another trainee of the Soviet Union’s Red Room Program and actually isn’t related to Natasha at all. They were sometimes allies, sometimes rivals, and even had some Face/Off shenanigans. She had a bad encounter with the Avengers when a human pterodactyl hybrid spat fire all over her, which is how I first met her and is a fun reminder that comic books are dumb. She later teamed up with AIM (Advanced Ideas Mechanics, which more or less appeared in Iron Man 3) to become a Super Adaptoid with the abilities to absorb the powers of other heroes. She exploded, but somehow got better only to die again. But wait! There’s more! While the real Yelena is dead, a clone of her–complete with all the original Yelena’s memories–has been running around and having adventures! What even is death in comics anymore? At what point do we just say, “You know what? Let’s just forget the clone part and just say she’s the real one.”
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