After being in the franchise for 11 years, the MCU finally decided to delve into the backstory of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s greatest asset in Black Widow. The film marks Scarlett Johansson’s return to her iconic role of Natasha Romanoff, presumably for the last time, after the character’s death in Avengers: Endgame.
Fans expected Black Widow eagerly, hoping to finally get answers to some of the character’s most enduring mysteries. The film indeed provides some much-needed insight into one of the MCU’s most elusive characters, while successfully expanding her corner of the Marvel universe. While it’s certainly a bittersweet experience, the film still provides an action-packed, thrilling, worthy, and bittersweet send-off for the beloved Widow.
She Finally Gets The Spotlight
It only took eleven years, but the Widow finally gets her moment in the sun. The character, who first debuted in 2010’s reviled sequel Iron Man 2, became a major supporting player in the Marvel universe, enhancing other’s stories without ever getting the protagonism she deserved.
Black Widow finally solves some unanswered questions the fans had about Natasha. Set in Russia and with no other Avenger in sight, the movie lives and dies with Natasha Romanoff. Furthermore, the film confirms the Widow is as engaging and appealing as Thor, Cap, or Iron-Man, with just as much nuance and complexity, if not more.
She Becomes A Fully-Fledged Hero
Within the Marvel universe, Black Widow always came off as a supporting hero instead of a headliner. Despite being a part of the Avengers, she wasn’t a hero in her own right. Instead, everyone saw her as a member of the group, a helpful asset to support others.
Black Widow is a turning point for the character. By being away from everyone she knows and usually relies on, Natasha “graduates” and becomes an official hero. This notion applies not only to audiences in real life but also within the MCU, as major players like General Ross acknowledge her as a figure capable of saving the day and provoking more than her fair share of chaos in the process.
She Cements Her Place As The Most Resourceful Avenger
“Regimes fall every day, I tend not to weep over that, I’m Russian,” Natasha Romanoff famously says in The Avengers. Indeed, out of everyone in the team, Nat was always the most pragmatic one. She acted in a colder, more calculating way, successfully playing and manipulating multiple characters throughout her time in the MCU. And unlike Hawkeye, no one ever doubted her place among the Avengers, precisely because she was so resourceful.
In her solo adventure, Nat’s cunning takes center stage. She displays every quality that made her a fan favorite in the first place and then some. It’s thanks to her intelligence and resourcefulness that she’s able to save the other Black Widows. However, she also lets go of the ruthlessness that once characterized her and instead becomes a more empathetic but still effective Avenger.
She Becomes The Cornerstone Of The Widow-verse
Black Widow introduced multiple characters to the MCU, including some crucial ones. Yelena Belova will take over the Black Widow mantle and Alexei Shostakov (the Red Guardian) will, of course, return for future adventures. On top of that, Melina Vostokoff, known in the comics as the Iron Maiden, also makes her debut in Black Widow.
The movie also successfully introduces multiple female spies, all bearing the title of Black Widows. The chances of continuing these storylines are considerable, especially now that Disney+ exists, allowing supporting characters to headline projects of their own.
Considering the positive reception Yelena received from critics and audiences, the idea of a streaming show where she tracks down the remaining Widows sounds like a real possibility, and it’s all thanks to Natasha.
She Gets The Family She Always Wanted
Family is a crucial part of Natasha’s character. Before the Avengers, nothing was really known about the Widow’s background; only that she had some of the best allies (mainly Nick Fury and Clint Barton). Soon after, she developed close relationships with Steve Rogers and Bruce Banner, slowly gaining a new chance at a family.
However, and as Natasha herself confirms, she already had one. The time she spent with Alexei, Melina, and Yelena had a deep impact on her, for better and worse. Because it was all a ruse, she tried to deny its importance, hurting herself in the process. Black Widow allows the character to come to terms with her family, facing the reality of their situation while still appreciating the experience for what it was.
She Wipes The Red Off Her Ledger
For years, Natasha tried to fix her past mistakes. The death of Draykov’s daughter was one of her greatest regrets and arguably the driving force behind her desire to become an Avenger.
Black Widow has Natasha confront this part of her past. The movie does cheat a little, denying the entire event by having the daughter live. However, and despite her survival, Antonia suffers a fate worse than death when she is forced to become one of her father’s most powerful Red Room members. The choice serves as a compelling narrative twist, but most importantly, as a catalyst for Natasha to finally stop running from her past. It also brings her story full circle and explains why she’s at peace with herself in Infinity War.
She Has A Worthy Successor
Fans and critics love Yelena Belova. Played by recent Academy Award nominee Florence Pugh, Yelena is the perfect combination of wit and muscle, with dauntless humor brought to life. And with a post-credit scene that confirming Yelena’s involvement in the upcoming Hawkeye show, the future seems bright for Pugh’s character.
It’s always daunting to take over a role from another actor, especially one as beloved as Black Widow. However, Pugh and Marvel made the right choice by not making Yelena a carbon copy of Natasha. Both characters are as distinct as can be, yet both actors inhabit the Black Widow identity with the same natural ease. Black Widow gives Natasha a worthy successor, someone who will keep her memory alive and continue her path to redeeming the Widow mantle.
She Reconciles With Her Past
Natasha Romanoff’s character arc is all about atonement. Fans got a brief taste of her past when the MCU writers used a flashback to show a brief glimpse of her life as a Red Room agent in Age of Ultron. However, there was more to the story. The red in her ledger always haunts her, but she knows she can still do good. Her sacrifice in Endgame may feel like the ultimate act of redemption, but Black Widow gives her the opportunity to forgive herself, at last.
In a way, the movie also provides a decisive ending to her story, which might explain why they waited until after Endgame to release it. Fans could’ve seen her sacrifice coming had they seen Black Widow first. In any way, the movie works as both an exploration and celebration of the character and represents the perfect way to say goodbye to one of the MCU’s founding figures.