Part of what makes the MCU work so well are the little references, callbacks, cameos or even the spotlight shared by familiar characters – most of which work because they don’t need explaining and don’t grind the narrative to a halt.

Seeing Jimmy Woo and Darcy Lewis pop up in WandaVision? Great, a few small references to their prior appearances is all that’s needed to get less familiar fans up to speed – but then not knowing all of the ins and outs won’t derail the main experience anyway. Assume familiarity and just make the narrative work anyway.

It’s different when entirely new characters are introduced of course, especially when you need to add to their backstories before we get on with the business at hand.

That’s the problem with Hawkeye. I can buy it as an origin for Kate Bishop; to bring her into the fold and see the Hawkeye mantle passed on. Yet the messy plot of this Disney Plus series has also seen fit to give us origins or substantial flashbacks for characters like Echo and now even the ‘new’ Black Widow, Florence Pugh’s Yelena – who was set on a collision course with Clint Barton in the post-credits scene of the Black Widow movie.

So this week we’re caught up on Yelena’s post-Black Widow, pre-Hawkeye history. She was blipped – snapped out of existence by Thanos snapping his fingers in Infinity War and brought back by Tony Stark’s sacrificial snap in Endgame – and was blissfully unaware of Natasha’s demise. Suitably caught up, we’re back with Kate Bishop; she reveals the links that almost-stepfather Jack has with organised crime to her mother – before encountering Yelena in her burned out apartment. Meanwhile, Clint is doing his best to resolve the Ronin situation with Maya and the Tracksuit Mafia.

Despite the issues – the Yelena flashback really feels unnecessary and just a waste of screen time, in all honesty – this is actually a pretty good episode. The Kate/Yelena scene is well handled and the Clint/Echo sequence is great too. The cliffhanger is an absolute stunner too, sure to leave jaws on the floor. It does feel as if it may be too little, too late, given that there’s only one episode left. I can’t see how there’s any way that the climax won’t feel rushed, given all of the meandering we’ve done to get to this point – there’s quite a bit of ground to cover and one character revealed here certainly isn’t going to get the screen time they deserve. Still, it’s good to get an episode that gets the show back on track a little after a few disappointing and aimless episodes – and boy does that final moment deliver something big.

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