Avengers: Endgame was globally beloved, raking in $2.75 billion by the end of its theatrical run. It got to that eye-popping number in large part for being a phenomenally well-done finale to a 12-year-long story arc started way back in 2008 with Iron Man.
But not all fans felt all OG Avengers got the closure they deserved, particularly Natasha Romanoff. For many fans, Black Widow sacrificing herself to get the Soul Stone and save the world was the greatest heartbreak of the movie over Tony Stark sacrificing himself by wearing the Infinity Gauntlet. It especially grated as Tony got hailed as a hero with a massive funeral – and rightfully so – but Nat didn’t get much more than one brief scene with the remaining original Avengers mourning her privately. Where was Black Widow’s funeral? Where was the public acknowledgment of her equally great sacrifice?
Luckily, the upcoming Black Widow spinoff movie looks set to give Natasha Romanoff the sendoff she never got in Endgame, and it will do it in a way that is far more befitting of the character than a public funeral might have been. Speaking to Empire, director Cate Shortland said that Scarlett Johansson herself agreed that a funeral in Endgame wouldn’t have made sense for the character. Both of them, however, believe the metaphorical closure the character is getting in Black Widow is much more complete:
“In Endgame, the fans were upset that Natasha did not have a funeral. Whereas Scarlett, when I spoke to her about it, said Natasha wouldn’t have wanted a funeral. She’s too private, and anyway, people don’t really know who she is. So what we did in this film was allow the ending to be the grief the individuals felt, rather than a big public outpouring. I think that’s a fitting ending for her.”
Obviously, we know Natasha survived the events of Black Widow. So what exactly is a “fitting ending” for Nat if not death? As Shortland hints, it might just be with Black Widow passing the baton to Yelena Belova as the new Black Widow just as Scarlett Johansson will pass the torch to Florence Pugh. Pugh was so good, it would appear, that she seems to have written herself into the future plans of the MCU. At the very least, we can certainly read Shortland’s praise of her that way: “[W]e didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great,” Shortland gushed. “Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton.’ So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”
It’s certainly possible. Florence Pugh is one of the hottest young actresses in Hollywood. At age 24, she’s young enough to be a new cornerstone of the MCU for years to come, should she want it – only Tom Holland is younger. Outside of origin movies The Eternals and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, all announced upcoming Marvel movies are sequels to already-established characters. Marvel seems content to not rush into the future now that the Infinity Gauntlet storyline is wrapped up, but eventually, they’ll need some new blood in the MCU and Yelena Belova would be a fascinating choice to be one of those fresh characters.
Coming from the same Red Room training program in Russia as Natasha Romanoff, Yelena Belova has a similar background and skill set. In the Secret Empire storyline in the comics, Natasha Romanoff is killed by Captain America’s Hydra dopplegänger. After that, Yelena Belova takes up the Black Widow codename in order to honor Natasha, her former-enemy-turned-friend. It’s an easy way to bring Florence Pugh into the MCU fold, having her take up the mantle after learning of Nat’s death during the events of Endgame. Much like Natasha, Yelena is a great standalone or utility character. She deserves (like Natasha deserved) to have her own spinoff franchise, but she can also slot easily into many upcoming MCU projects, including the Disney+ series, most notably The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. If Pugh is set to propel another female storyline, as Shortland says, it will be incredibly interesting to see how she’s utilized.
Black Widow hits theaters on November 6th. Add Black Widow to Your Watchlist and we’ll let you know when tickets go on sale.