Hawkeye Episode 3 Ending Shows Problem MCU Shows Have (But Movies Don't)

Caution: spoilers ahead for Hawkeye episode 3

Hawkeye episode 3 follows the same problematic formula of the other Disney+ MCU shows by ending on a cliffhanger, something the Marvel movies don't suffer from. After a flashback to set up Maya Lopez - aka Echo (Alaqua Cox), the show brings the audience back to where it left Hawkeye and Kate Bishop: tied up and seemingly at the mercy of the Tracksuit Mafia. After an entertaining escape (where Clint Barton finally uses his bow and arrows in the show), the plot moves on to investigating Kate's impending stepfather Jack Duquesne, before ending on another cliffhanger.

Marvel’s Disney+ shows, including Hawkeye, have been very successful in expanding the Marvel Cinematic Universe in their own ways separate from the movies. WandaVision really set itself apart by playing with different sitcom genres and dynamics, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier was a more traditional action show anchored by the chemistry of its stars. Loki was the first Phase 4 story to set up the Multiverse, and this was further expanded by the animated show, What If...? For all their differences though in terms of their setting, style, and plots, they all share the same structural formula necessitated by the fact that they’re week-by-week episodic shows.

Related: Hawkeye: Every Marvel Easter Egg & Reference In Episode 3

Unlike individual movies, the shows are telling a continuous story over multiple episodes, and require audiences to return week after week. The easiest way to achieve this is to end the episode on a cliffhanger, as was the case with "Echoes." Kate and Hawkeye break into her mother's penthouse to investigate Jack Duquesne and to look up Bishop Security's criminal database. However, Kate is locked out of the system and Hawkeye is accosted by Duquesne, who threatens him with Ronin's sword. Cue credits. It's a frustrating and unnatural cliffhanger to leave episode 3 on and is endemic of the formula that the MCU Disney+ shows have adopted so far over Phase 4. Often the first chunk of an MCU show’s episode is spent finishing last week's plot. Once that's resolved a new plot is started, which then ends on a cliffhanger.

Hawkeye and the other MCU Disney+ shows have been designed as essentially "6-hour movies," rather than the structure of traditional TV series that feature "villains of the week" or self-contained episodes. The 6-hour movie approach allows for greater integration into the MCU, with characters able to jump back and forth between the formats while still feeling like the same universe. However, the price paid for this is that the story can sometimes feel like it's been arbitrarily split up to fit the 40-minute runtime of an episode. Conversely, the MCU movies tell a complete three-act story in one sitting, allowing for a more cathartic viewing experience in the short term. Yes, they are all interconnected and leave breadcrumbs/hints at the wider story they're connected to, but their plots are uninterrupted and provide a third-act ending. The exception to the “no cliffhanger” rule is Avengers: Infinity War, which arguably has the biggest cliffhanger in cinematic history.

Ironically the cliffhanger formula is an inherent staple of comic books, requiring the reader to pick up the next copy in order to find out what happens next. While that’s fine for comic books, it makes for a disjointed viewing experience for Hawkeye and the other Disney+ Marvel shows. Of course, once the series is complete and can be viewed in its entirety then the cliffhanger formula will less jarring.

Next: Where Are The Avengers During Hawkeye?

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