The following story contains spoilers for the MCU and Black Widow.
Black Widow is now finally out in theaters and on Disney+ (for those who feel like spending an additional $29.99), and that likely closes the book on Natasha Romanoff, the character played now in eight Marvel Cinematic Universe movies across an 11-year span by Scarlett Johansson.
It was clear after Avengers: Endgame that Natasha (and Johansson) had limited time remaining in their MCU journeys after the character, you know, died. But Black Widow finally gives Natasha the solo hero journey that she’s long deserved, while setting up her “sister,” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) up for her own future across numerous MCU projects.
While the main Black Widow storyline takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, the movie’s credits scenejumps to the aftermath of Endgame, with Yelena visiting Natasha’s grave. There, she meets with the shady (but certainly funny) Val (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who tells her that she has a new target, and it’s the person responsible for Natasha’s death. Yelena looks inside Val’s folder, and sees a photo of Clint Barton/Hawkeye. Cut to black.
Those who haven’t watched Avengers: Endgame in a while may be confused, or have a bit of a foggy memory. Did Clint Barton kill Natasha? What is Val talking about? Well, in case you don’t remember, well…it’s complicated. Let’s get into it.
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow died on Vormir in Avengers: Endgame (2019)
If you remember back to the plot of Avengers: Endgame, the surviving heroes figured out—thanks to Tony Stark’s genius—how they could reverse Thanos’ snap and bring everyone back. They’d need to go to different times and places in history before Thanos retrieved the Infinity Stones, and get them all back, together, in the same place. The gang split up, and Natasha and Clint went together to the planet Vormir (first traveling back in time with Nebula and War Machine), where Thanos had previously retrieved the Soul Stone by sacrificing his “daughter,” Gamora in Infinity War.
Natasha and Clint didn’t realize this is what needed to happen to get the Soul Stone, but they figured it out fairly quickly, not long after they saw Red Skull (who, now, is the guardian of the Soul Stone). “A soul for a soul,” he repeats. Natasha and Clint both knew what they had to do, and engaged in a long fight, each one wanting to be the one to sacrifice themselves, allowing the other to retrieve and return the stone they needed.
Eventually, though, Natasha gets the upper hand on Clint for long enough to make her decision final, and go through with it. She leaps off the cliff, sacrificing her life for the Soul Stone. When the rest of the team emerges from their time travel escapades successfully, Clint returns with the stone—but torn apart. The team mourns Natasha, but remains committed to their goal of bringing back everyone Thanos snapped out of existence.
So, well, yeah. Val isn’t lying when she tells Yelena that Natasha is dead because of Clint. She leaves out some key details (the whole struggle, the fact that one of them needed to do this to, you know, save half the universe, and that Clint didn’t directly cause her death), and it’s clear that Clint wishes it was him that died instead upon his return. But the fact remains—and this is a nice way of already showing just how manipulative Val can be—if Clint had died on Vormir during Endgame, Natasha would still be alive.
Yelena’s next appearance in the MCU is slated to be the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+. Surely the super archer and the angry super assassin can work this all out among themselves, right?
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