Spoiler space offers thoughts and a place to discuss plot points we can’t disclose in our official reviews. Just warning: this piece is about the end and post-credits sting of Black Widow.
Like almost every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Black Widow presents a post-credits scene, and this one has real emotional weight. The movie itself ends with Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), aka Black Widow, having successfully reunited her fake Russian family, and then setting out to do the same for her. selected family of costumed Avengers, half of whom are still languishing in prison. (It is, after all, technically a prequel, which takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War.) But as any MCU fan will know, the story never ends with the end credits. After they roll up, we get one final scene: Widow Yelena (Florence Pugh), grimly standing in front of the grave of her sort of sister Natasha. “Oh okay,” the viewer recalled, as we moved on to the current, post-End of Game reality. “She is dead.” It’s a cheap button to press, but also undeniably effective.
Quickly, however, the sadness of the scene is pierced by a sarcastic spirit, delivered by a voice behind Yelena. It comes from Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, played with relish by comic actor Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Yelena, it seems, now works for this ethically ambiguous character, and her boss has interrupted some personal time at her adopted big sister’s grave with a new mission: to take down Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye, the person Valentina claims. be responsible for Natasha’s death. .
We don’t learn anything more about Valentina in this scene. She introduces herself as Tony Stark at the end of The Incredible Hulk, like a character that needs little introduction because we’ve met her before. And the public to have met her: she first appeared in April, in the fifth episode from disney + The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. But the abruptness of her unveiling isn’t really due to any supposed familiarity with the character, as the scene from Black Widow was originally intended to be its grand introduction, before COVID scuttled the film’s release plans in May 2020. The fact that Valentina’s appearance doesn’t need to be altered is a good demonstration of the reorganization of this supposedly precisely sequenced series of movies and TV shows. is in fact.
It can often seem to the casual fan that Marvel is making sure every aspect of its interconnected cinematic universe is meticulously put together years in advance. The best example of such planning is probably Thanos’ post-credits introduction at the end of the first. Avengers. The Giant Villain was a character who would not show up again until a brief appearance in Guardians of the Galaxy two years later, and he wouldn’t really appear in a substantial and fleshed out way until Avengers: Infinity War, almost four years later. Teasing the big bad so far in advance certainly suggests a well-structured plan.
But if you look at Thanos’ appearances, it becomes clear that Marvel is giving itself some leeway in the so-called grand design of its super franchise. Her first cameo doesn’t reveal anything about what might happen next; Marvel could have gone anywhere with the character. It is only at the end of Age of Ultron that the studio has definitely revealed that the villain will take on all of the Infinity Stones – and even then, nothing was revealed about How? ‘Or’ What it could happen. It was simply a confirmation that the script for the next Avengers the film was in the planning stage. Most of the following Marvel movies had nothing to do with the impending Thanos: The ant Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor strange, and many more could have easily traded their release dates with little to no effect on the overall MCU narrative. Granted, not all movies can be rearranged like photos in a family album: Captain Marvel’s appearance in End of Game wouldn’t have worked at all if his solo movie hadn’t been released first. But sometimes it’s only the teaser at the end which places Marvel’s solo films within the larger Avengers narrative.
Just look Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and how the swapping of their order of release affected the post-credits scenes without affecting the story as a whole. If Valentina had made her (much more abbreviated) debut in Black Widow, all he would have done is spark interest in a new character, by asking questions that would be partially answered The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as well as set up a story the studio had already committed to: the next Disney + series Hawk Eye. Conversely, there is some well-founded speculation that, had both stories been published as originally planned, TFATWS‘S own post-credits scene would have played out quite differently. Instead of just confirming what we already knew—that Emily Van Camp’s Sharon Carter is the Power Broker, and she’s now integrated into SHIELD in a way her Machiavellian schemer can exploit – we would have seen who is on the other end of the phone call from Sharon, and that would have set up a new major villain from phase 4. (You can read the speculation disclosed yourself if you’re curious, this is from an anonymous but reliable source who has been specific about upcoming post-credits scenes in the past.)
But here’s the problem: even though the change in the release order may have affected the content of one of those post-credits, “log in next time!” teases, that probably didn’t change the trajectory of the franchise. Stingers are really just teasers; by design, they give almost nothing.
This is why Valentina can appear in Black Widow supposedly exactly as expected: the main purpose of the scene is not its introduction but to stir up curiosity and speculation about the MCU’s sequel. Valentina’s Nick Fury appearances so far – recruiting failed Captain America’s replacement John Walker (Wyatt Russell) to be a US agent, and now to give assignments to his other recruit, Yelena – imply that she is building his own super-team, consisting only of less overtly noble and more morally shady characters. In the comics, they’re called the Thunderbolts, and they include characters like Taskmaster, aka the Masked Killer of Black Widow revealed to be the daughter of Red Room architect Dreykov. It would also give a continuing role to current anti-hero Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), who led the Thunderbolts at various points in their history.
It would also follow Valentina’s comic book origins, where she had several setbacks in fortune and identity, going from a secret agent to a Russian sleeper agent to a love interest in Nick Fury. Making her responsible for regrouping the Thunderbolts would allow Marvel to really get its money’s worth; the company made does not hide his desire to put Louis-Dreyfus to work, now that his role in the MCU has been revealed. By slowly building a team of ambiguous heroes led by a potentially sinister schemer like the Contessa, the studio can source potential spinoff characters for years to come, while also creating a rival force with the Avengers who could provide material far beyond. phase 4. And, as the last post-credits dart reminds us, all of those shots could be idling, and that wouldn’t matter to an audience hungry for promises of future adventure – for the tiniest bit of foreshadowing. , devoid of any clues as to how these adventures will actually unfold.