This article contains Black Widow spoilers. We have a spoiler-free review here.
Marvel finally returns to theaters with Black Widow, a retroactive passing of the torch for the title character. While it comes out several years after Natasha Romanoff’s death in Avengers: Endgame, it gives Scarlett Johansson’s character one last hurrah in prequel form while introducing us to her adopted sister and replacement Yelena Belova, as played by Florence Pugh.
For those who choose to watch the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies in chronological order (as opposed to the recommended release order), it’s important to remember to skip the post-credits scenes. When you’re starting with Captain America: The First Avenger, you probably don’t need to see that teaser for The Avengers. When you move to Captain Marvel, seeing it suddenly jump to the beginning of Avengers: Endgame can be jarring. Black Widow continues the trend by taking place shortly after Captain America: Civil War (technically it’s right before that film’s ultimate ending), while also giving us some major spoilers for the end of Phase 3 via its post-credits scene.
As Black Widow is the first movie in Phase 4, it does paint an interesting picture of what the future holds.
The Death of Black Widow
While the final scene in the movie jumps forward two weeks and prepares for the prison breakout that closes out Captain America: Civil War, the post-credits brings us back to the present. Much has happened, but the big thing is that Natasha has died. While it was overshadowed by Tony Stark having all these big names pay their respects in an MCU who’s who of mourning, Natasha’s death in Avengers: Endgame was sort of a big deal.
In order to obtain the Soul Stone, Natasha and Hawkeye visited the planet Vormir. Instructed by the wraith-like Red Skull that one could only access it by sacrificing a loved one, the two heroes battled it out in a race to see who could sacrifice his or herself first. Despite Hawkeye’s attempts to stop her, he had no choice but to let Natasha fall to her death. Later on, the Hulk admittedly tried bringing her back to life with the Infinity Gauntlet, but it didn’t work.
Obviously, Natasha isn’t buried at her gravesite. Her body is on a mystical planet across the galaxy…in a different year and maybe timeline. Still, it’s a callback to her unknown mother as Dreykov had her buried in a similar setting. The difference is that people know who Natasha is, and the tributes on her grave make it clear that the world knows who she is and all the sacrifices she made for them. It would seem that the “red in her ledger” has finally been cleared.
Yelena visits Natasha’s grave, seemingly for the first time, along with her dog Fanny. Not only did Yelena admit that she had always wanted a dog, but “Fanny Longbottom” was a suggested alias for Natasha earlier in the movie. And a tail is a long bottom, if you think about it! Yeah?
When Does the Black Widow Post-Credits Scene Take Place?
It would seem that the Black Widow post-credits scene takes place in the “present” of the MCU. That is to say, approximately 2024 (remember the Endgame timejump has to be calculated into everything). I think it’s safe to say that Yelena Romanoff was turned to dust during Thanos’ snap. I have to imagine that she would have been at her sister’s side as Black Widow attempted to keep something resembling the Avengers together in the face of a half-empty world. Not even for the altruism, but for the human support.
What Does Valentina Want?
Valentina Allegra de Fontaine appears next to her, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. This was supposed to be her first MCU appearance, but due to COVID causing Black Widow to get bounced around the calendar for over a year, Valentina has already shown up in the MCU. She has previously appeared in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier for the sake of recruiting and rebranding John Walker, the disgraced Captain America. He becomes US Agent for…reasons.
We don’t know what Valentina represents. While it could be SHIELD or even HYDRA, it’s likely something new and unheard of. What separates Yelena from US Agent is that Yelena is very aware of who Valentina is because she’s already been working for her for some stretch of time after the destruction of the Red Room.
Valentina’s organization at the very least involves paying for assassinations. Yelena is annoyed at being bugged during what’s meant to be a vacation and feels underpaid for her talents, but at least this group is a step up from the Red Room. I mean, they don’t have any issue with her having a dog. That’s something.
Valentina wants Yelena to kill Clint Barton, Hawkeye. She’s able to nudge her towards this mission by claiming he’s responsible for Natasha’s death.
At this point, you can probably scratch SHIELD off the possibilities here. Yes, we know why Yelena would want Clint dead, but why would Valentina? What exactly did this retired Avenger do to have a shadowy government (?) organization out for his blood? Is this because of his Ronin kill-a-thon? Is he a threat to future plans? Was his haircut from Endgame that terrible that he has to die for it?
Hawkeye has his own Disney+ series coming up later this year. Considering Jeremy Renner probably has one foot out the door and the show is about training a new Hawkeye in the form of Kate Bishop, this does not look good for his future.
I wouldn’t expect Yelena’s mission to be a focal point in the Hawkeye series, but the other shoe just might drop in the final episode during its own post-credits scene. The new Hawkeye vs. the new Black Widow seems almost fated at this point. How tragic that two best friends would lend their legacies to bitter enemies?
Are the Thunderbolts Coming to the MCU?
Valentina’s MCU appearances work hand-in-hand, especially as early building for Phase 4 and beyond. Both her appearances in Black Widow and Falcon and the Winter Soldier are based around her recruiting darker and more cynical replacements/counterparts to members of the Avengers. She’s bringing in a Black Widow who will murder for money and a Captain America with extreme violence issues who dresses in black. Don’t be surprised if Taskmaster makes a return appearance here, as well.
Signs point to some kind of incarnation of the Thunderbolts or Dark Avengers (which was just Thunderbolts with a more mainstream name, really). A bunch of bad eggs with superhero pedigrees are being put together for something big. With the Avengers having been dissipated at this point, this might be some kind of attempt to create a new government-controlled “official” team. Unlike when Nick Fury was putting the original team together, this is something with a sinister and unsavory agenda hidden underneath.
It’s an interesting race, considering the MCU has also been building towards creating another Avengers replacement team in Young Avengers. So many key members have been introduced or will be incredibly soon from Wiccan and Speed in WandaVision, Patriot in The Falcon and Winter Soldier, Kid Loki in Loki, Kate Bishop in Hawkeye, etc. Perhaps, in the void of there being an incarnation of the regular Avengers, we’re set to see some kind of “Avengers War” between corrupt authority and the future of heroism.