As we come to the end of the first year of Marvel’s Disney+ shows with “So This Is Christmas?,” the season finale of Hawkeye, it’s hard not to think of the ways these shows have succeeded and failed in its freshman year. WandaVision, Loki, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier all did an excellent job of expanding our interest in characters that have rarely stood in the spotlight, while also introducing a whole slew of new and exciting characters for the MCU to have fun with. But if there’s one area where these shows struggled — and many of the films in the MCU, for that matter — it’s in the ending. A show like WandaVision, for example, which is primarily a relationship drama at its core, turned the final episode into another big fight sequence, while Loki struggled with finding a way to wrap up its story, and Falcon and the Winter Soldier couldn’t help but have Sam Wilson give a too-long speech about everything he believes in ahead of his shift into the role of Captain America.
But thankfully, Hawkeye has been able to make these legacy characters intriguing, introduced new ones almost every episode without making the show feel too stuffed and muddled, and potentially expanded the MCU’s grasp with the introduction of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin (and a possible Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. reference in this week’s episode). And even with all this happening, “So This Is Christmas?” was able to stick the landing on a satisfying conclusion that gives closure to all of its characters, while also setting up interesting paths for these characters to go down from here on.
Clint Barton’s character of Hawkeye has always worked best as part of a duo, usually with Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff, and Hawkeye has succeeded by relying consistently on pairs rather than individual stories — even if it has also handled those well. Hawkeye makes us care about Barton’s family life, and Kate Bishop’s (Hailee Steinfeld) relationship with her mother Eleanor (Vera Farmiga), but Hawkeye thrived in centering the show around entertaining pairs. “So This Is Christmas?” doubles down on this, constantly giving us one-on-one conflicts and pairings, each effective and compelling in their own ways.
Of course, the heart of this show has always been the questionable partnership between Clint and Kate, and “So This Is Christmas?” finds several lovely ways to cement this as a new partnership. Not only do we get Clint finally calling Kate his partner and even bringing her home for the Barton family Christmas, but also a fantastic moment where Kate explains the core of what makes Hawkeye a worthwhile member of the Avengers: he’s the everyman, the one that proves that anyone can be a hero, that one doesn’t need to fly or shoot lasers but only needs bravery to be a hero for someone who needs it. Like so many scenes throughout this season of Hawkeye, it makes Clint Barton far more transfixing than he’s ever been in the MCU, and this bond not only gives Kate the guide she needs in her path to become a hero but gives Clint a partner that he’s willing to fight for.
After last week’s “Ronin,” Hawkeye wastes no time reintroducing D’Onofrio’s Kingpin into the Marvel universe. As his Fisk says in the episode, “the people need to be reminded that this city belongs to me,” and “So This Is Christmas?” does a fine job of showing why so many have wanted Kingpin’s return in this world. In just his first few scenes, D’Onofrio shows both the intimidating business side of Kingpin and his bond with his crime family, as even Echo (Alaqua Cox) says that she loves him despite her problems with the organization. For those unfamiliar with D’Onofrio’s previous turn in this role, Hawkeye presents Kingpin as a major player in the MCU, and one that we, hopefully, will see more of in the future.
Hawkeye has also done a wonderful job of integrating Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) into this series pretty late in the game while making her essential to both Kate and Clint’s stories. Like in last week’s episode, Kate’s interactions with Yelena almost seem like the MCU setting up a great new dynamic and friendship. In this episode, again, the chemistry between Pugh and Steinfeld is tremendous, whether it’s the conflict in an elevator or a fight that spans an entire floor in the NBC Comcast Building. With Clint, Yelena’s attempt at vengeance for the death of her sister Natasha leads to another terrific scene, where Yelena realizes that retribution isn’t the solution for her loss, while Clint has to come to grips with not being responsible for Natasha’s death.
But if there’s one thing that the Disney+ Marvel shows have done extremely well this year, it’s a focus on character over action (for the most part) that truly makes us care for their stories. Hawkeye did a wonderful job of making us immediately care about Echo, creating a new villain in Kingpin, and filling this world with great secondary characters. Even Tony Dalton’s Jack Duquesne, who seemed like he could be the show’s big villain at first, turned out to be just sort of a petty, douchey guy, who really does care about the Bishop family. Jack deserves more appearances in the MCU, maybe coming into each new show where he can trash-talk a child and sword fight a few henchmen.
Even though Hawkeye, like every MCU series and movie, ended with a big fight scene, this show knows well enough to make the action fun and exhilarating, while also basing the story on character development. If the overall MCU can learn anything from Hawkeye, it should be the show’s attempt to make everything, even the action sequences, push the characters’ stories forward, rather than just having to end on a big blowout. “So This Is Christmas?” had plenty of loose ends to tie up in Hawkeye’s final episode, and yet, director Rhys Thomas and writers Jonathan Igla and Elisa Climent found a way to wrap up this Christmas story with a nice bow while remaining charming and thrilling throughout. Hawkeye showed that when the MCU keeps character development at the center of their story, the rest nicely falls into place.
All six episodes of Hawkeye are currently available to stream on Disney+.