A Russian assassin is out for revenge. So what if she’s got the wrong target? By the end of Marvel’s Black Widow, the only thing we know for certain is that Clint Barton better watch his 6. Natasha’s sister is coming for him, and she’s not exactly precious about pulling the trigger.
To break down how we happened upon this delightful little misunderstanding, let’s pull back the curtain. When Black Widow‘s credits pause to open on a sunny graveyard where Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) is adjusting the tributes laid upon her sister’s grave, the year is 2021, and Natasha Romanoff, the Black Widow, is dead. Having sacrificed herself to gain the Soul Stone in Avengers: Endgame‘s desperate quest to reverse Thanos’s finger-snap, she and Tony Stark are the only characters seemingly un-resurrectable as the timeline rights itself. It’s clear in Endgame that Clint Barton, more commonly known as Hawkeye, can’t shake his guilt over her passing. He was with Natasha when she hurled herself off the cliff and into the abyss as a blood sacrifice to gain the stone. He was the one who could not rescue his closest and most trusted friend, despite the many times she rescued him. He’ll likely shoulder that burden well into his next chapter as an Avenger.
Jump ahead, slightly, to the events of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, wherein the wannabe Captain America John Walker (aka U.S. Agent) realizes he doesn’t have the stomach for Steve Rogers’s unshakeable morality. He’s too angry, too volatile, too violent. Sometimes, he thinks, the ends must justify the means, but darn it if those pesky Avengers just don’t get it. So when Julia Louis-Dreyfus shows up as the silver-hoop-sporting Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (take a deep breath; you can call her Valentina) and offers him her business card, he practically leaps into her arms. She sympathizes with him murdering a Flag-Smasher in broad daylight. By God, she understands.
And, so it appears, she’s assembling a team of misguided anti-heroes. When she stops by the graveyard during Black Widow‘s post-credits scene, Yelena doesn’t seem surprised by the intrusion. They exchange a banter that isn’t quite friendly but isn’t suspicious, either. Manipulating what she knows are Yelena’s deep vulnerabilities—and her renewed love for her sister—Valentina enlists the young Black Widow for a mission: Take down the man responsible for Natasha’s death. Get your revenge, and help me out while you’re at it.
Problem is, Valentina shows Yelena a photo of Clint Barton. We know Clint actively tried to prevent Natasha’s death, but it seems Yelena is working with faulty intel. And if she thinks Hawkeye had a hand in her sister’s death, you can guarantee she’ll track even a trained S.H.I.E.L.D agent like him down in weeks, if not days.
Pugh’s character is already confirmed to appear in the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+, so this development isn’t a shocker. What is worth pondering is the coming juxtaposition between Yelena, Clint, and Clint’s protege, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfield). Instead of watching a new Black Widow join the Avengers ranks, we could witness the rise of a new anti-hero team, vaguely reminiscent of DC’s Suicide Squad but with a bent that’s more noble, less maniacal. And pulling the puppet strings will, undoubtedly, be Valentina.
Who knows what will come of Barton and Bishop vs. Belova, but their battle could finally provide the flavor that Marvel’s Phase 4 TV shows have recently lacked. If nothing else, Pugh and Steinfield’s traded barbs alone are sure to add some spice. As for Louis-Dreyfus, well…we’d pay to watch her in a Yo-Magic commercial.
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