After an unexpected and understandable pause due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally back in full swing, releasing its first theatrical film in over a year. Scarlet Johansson’s final performance as Black Widow is a fun, riveting little thriller refreshingly in its own corner of Marvel fare. Liken it to a Jason Bourne–esque adventure, that is, up until its post-credit scene gives us a glimpse at what’s next for a few certain characters in the MCU. Yes, if you haven’t had a chance to see Black Widow yet, here’s your official warning: spoilers ahead.
As Black Widow concludes with Scarlet Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff and company finally defeating Dreykov and dismantling the Red Room, Natasha heads off to her next mission, which we know is Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame. Unfortunately, we also know that Natasha doesn’t exactly survive this mission. Black Widow, pre-credits, might end with Natasha alive, but post-credits the story skips right to a depressing stinger: Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova visiting her sister’s grave. We don’t know how much time has passed, aside from it being post-Endgame, and we don’t know if Yelena was dusted or not. But here, Yelena and her dog, Fanny (a little nod to Natasha’s alias from earlier in Black Widow, given to her by O-T Fagbenle’s Mason), take a breath to mourn Natasha, a “daughter, sister, Avenger.”
It’s a tender moment, until the camera pans over to Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. The reveal gives us one of our first MCU film/Disney+ show crossovers, as Falcon and the Winter Soldier viewers will instantly recognize Dreyfus’s shady agent Contessa. As reported in Vanity Fair, this character was originally supposed to make her big debut in Black Widow, but due to the COVID-era date-reshuffling of the Phase 4 slate, the Contessa made her first appearance in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier series.
So, what is Contessa up to?
Considering that we first saw her recruiting John Walker/U.S. Agent in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and now in Black Widow it appears that she and Yelena have already been working closely together, we’re getting big “I’m building a team” vibes from Contessa.
In the comics, Contessa de Fontaine has many iterations, but most notably, she takes up the mantle of Madame Hydra, who is revealed to be a Russian double agent. This gives her appearance in Black Widow, a film about Russian agents, an added layer, though the new movie doesn’t care to make any connection between Contessa and Dreykov’s widows just yet. So how does Yelena know her? The two obviously have some kind of rapport in the post-credits scene. (Yelena is over here asking for a raise!) Could it be from her Red Room past? Unclear.
Back to the team. Marvel Studios loves to remix and reconfigure characters from the comics to best fit the MCU’s most pressing demands, and there’s a non-zero chance that Contessa’s overall plan is to assemble a network of Marvel villains à la Dark Avengers, a supervillain group organized by Norman Osborn in the comic books. Whether Contessa’s plan comes to fruition as the Dark Avengers or the Thunderbolts or some new group entirely, it’s clear that Contessa is being set up as a dark compliment to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). (The two are on-and-off-again lovers in the comics. Imagine the star-crossed tension between Dreyfus and Jackson!) After all, the MCU desperately needs to build up its catalogue of villains, because we can’t just wait for Jonathan Majors’s Kang the Conqueror (slated to appear in Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania) without some ancillary baddies for the Avengers to fight in the meantime.
Where will we see Yelena Belova next?
Contessa comes to Yelena with a very specific potential mission: killing Clint Barton. “Maybe you’d like a shot at the man responsible for your sister’s death,” she tells Yelena. It’s a direct path to a Yelena appearance in Hawkeye, which comes as no surprise to those privy to reports that Pugh would be showing up in the upcoming Marvel-Disney+ series. Now we know why: to kick some Jeremy Renner/Hawkeye ass. Speaking of which, who forced Julia-Louis Dreyfus to call him a cutie? We’d like a word.
All of that is to say, if you’re in love with Pugh’s Yelena, you thankfully won’t have to wait too long to see her again, since the Hawkeye series starring Renner and Hailee Steinfeld is set to come out this year. When this year? Well, that we don’t know yet.
Wait, where are Alexei and Melina?
One thing Black Widow doesn’t exactly reveal is where the hell Alexei and Melina (David Harbour and Rachel Weisz, respectively) went. It seems likely we’ll see at least Alexei, a.k.a. the Red Guardian, again. Marvel is notorious for keeping former characters close to the vest; it brought back Kat Dennings’s Darcy Lewis after ten years in WandaVision! But we’d like to think he and Melina are still together, living on a nice little pig farm somewhere.
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