Black Widow lastly gave Natasha Romanoff a standalone film, years after the character died throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Knowing what the way forward for the timeline held for Black Widow, audiences had been primed to anticipate a component of closure, like Tony Stark and Steve Rogers received in Avengers: Endgame. Alternately, the film may have recommended a method Black Widow’s narrative may proceed. Ultimately, the film didn’t present both.
For a standalone story, that isn’t essentially a foul factor. Black Widow targeted on delivering perception into the MCU timeline’s historical past of the character and her model of The Red Room, increasing her arc by explaining her change in attitudes and staff roles between beforehand launched motion pictures. It lastly gave Natasha some peace about her personal backstory. Given the earlier movie’s hints about her tortured previous, offering her with closure on these facets by reconnecting her along with her deep-cover household was an vital a part of giving the character extra dimension, and it was executed efficiently.
[Ed. notice: Spoilers forward for Black Widow.]
In the opening scenes, a younger Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) chafes towards the management of sinister mastermind General Dreykov (Ray Winstone). That introduction units up the explanations she’s in a position to settle for her co-conspirator Melina (Rachel Weisz) as an ongoing mom determine late within the film. Melina’s habits suggests she’s been working to undermine Dreykov’s management of Natasha, strengthening her resistance towards her programming. When Natasha learns about that, and discovers that her beginning mom didn’t willingly abandon her, she opens as much as the concept of accepting discovered households, each the deep-cover ersatz household of her youth, and her discovered household within the Avengers. She lastly will get some private closure on her previous.
But Black Widow nonetheless has a significant drawback with resolving the character’s arc, given its placement throughout the MCU. And that problem speaks to the franchise’s bigger points round offering closure. While the film goes out of its method to supply it to Natasha herself, audiences on the lookout for some that means within the character’s dying, apart from as a lead-up to new tales, have discovered the ending unfulfilling.
While the film’s post-credits scene initially means that the movie will shut on an intimate second of tribute, as Natasha’s faux-sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) provides her the private sendoff she by no means received in Endgame, the scene rapidly dissolves into one thing else. For a Tony Stark tribute and sendoff, Avengers: Endgame averted a post-credits scene, and simply added an auditory callback to Iron Man’s beginnings. Black Widow begins to make use of one as a memorial, with Yelena giving her half of a call-and-response to Natasha. But the scene quickly abandons that, bringing in new recurring character Valentina Allegra de Fontaine to disrupt the tribute in a crass method. That departure from an emotional closing scene was intentional — one of many writers, Eric Pearson, said “I […] love taking an emotional moment, like Yelena at the grave, and then flushing it down the toilet with Valentina blowing her nose.”
Valentina’s introduction not solely mars the second emotionally, it additionally cynically undercuts Yelena’s grief and directs consideration away from Black Widow with a purpose to plug the MCU’s future tasks. Valentina’s cameo calls again to her presence in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, units up a future battle with Clint Barton’s Hawkeye (which works towards Natasha’s legacy), and instantly makes the entire film really feel like a setup for additional motion from Yelena, her fellow Widows, her faux father Red Guardian (David Harbour).
It all highlights the rationale the MCU frequently struggles with something resembling emotional or plot closure. It’s the identical purpose Marvel Studios provides post-credit scenes to so lots of its tasks: Every story should result in extra tales. Again and once more, MCU entries are so targeted on organising the following story that they fail to correctly tackle the affect of their characters’ greatest losses, notably when characters die. In some circumstances, they don’t ever absolutely acknowledge the lack of heroes, as with Heimdall in Avengers: Endgame, or Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy. (The Groot in later films is technically the original’s offspring, however that’s solely addressed in behind-the-scenes content material.) More typically, the universe refuses to let characters keep useless, utilizing story workarounds to resurrect characters like Bucky Barnes, Pietro Maximoff, and Gamora.
The solely true exception to this dynamic stays Tony Stark: The entirety of Avengers: Endgame was arrange as a memorial for his dying and legacy, and Spider-Man: Far From Home acknowledges the continuing emotional affect of his loss. Yet the identical battle noticed the dying of Vision and Black Widow, who solely received transient mentions at Stark’s funeral from their closest companions, and Loki, who received a passing mid-movie mourning from Thor that felt extra like a message to audiences of “No, he’s really dead this time” than like every actual memorial. While Steve Rogers was allowed to peacefully dwell out his days in a method that introduced his arc full circle, even his last on-screen moments had been centered on organising the continuation of his Captain America mantle. As the MCU has entered Phase Four, they’ve been working to provide these characters the closure that they deserve. But like Black Widow, even the TV collection expressly targeted on mourning and processing have been lessened by their must arrange future tales.
WandaVision initially appeared to be heading towards a satisfying memorial for Vision. The give attention to Wanda coping with her grief over his loss led to highly effective (and much-memed) moments, with a last scene the place she begins to simply accept his loss and transfer on. But her struggles had been cheapened by the heavy telegraphing of his eventual return, and the present’s late-season efforts to arrange Scarlet Witch, one of many Marvels, and (probably) the Agents of Atlas. Thanks to a compressed capturing schedule as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, WandaVision additionally needed to cut scenes involving its strangely resurrected Quicksilver, denying that character any closure or continuation.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier labored to increase on the closure for Steve Rogers, however the present’s leads had been pressured to take action by proxy. Struggling by way of their very own masculinity to discuss how they felt concerning the man himself, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson as an alternative focus on his legacy, mantle, and defend. So as an alternative of giving them and the viewers an opportunity to mourn Rogers’ attainable dying of previous age, the present grew to become virtually fully about justifying the way forward for the Captain America title, together with a heavy give attention to organising U.S. Agent, the Power Broker, and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.
Disney Plus’ collection Loki resurrected its title character by way of a time-loop, but it surely doesn’t give him any sense of closure, both. The continuation of his story lets him replicate on his decisions, his previous character growth, and his relationships to others, but it surely spends extra of its time elevating questions on his future, and creating new future components like his alternate-universe Variant Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino) and Ravonna Renslayer that had been by no means answered in favor of organising the MCU’s future multiverse scenario, the most important Phase Four villain, and the second season of the present. The finish consequence? Yet one other continuation that lacked any emotional closure.
None of that is to say that viewers expectations ought to drive the narrative. That’s a simple pathway to cheesy fan service. It’s clearly in Marvel’s greatest curiosity to maintain teasing its upcoming tasks, and to proceed reviving fan-favorite characters reasonably than killing their golden geese. But the franchise’s character-driven nature is a significant key to its success too, and an vital a part of these character arcs is having the ability to present satisfying emotional conclusions to their tales, and serving these tales within the second, in addition to in some distant future.
While Marvel Studios succeeded with Tony Stark, and to a lesser diploma Steve Rogers, the flicks’ greatest emotional moments are persistently being undermined by shoehorned-in trailers for the following arc. With Black Widow seemingly destined to be the collection’ first feminine hero who will keep useless, Black Widow’s ending feels notably insulting to her legacy — particularly when her male counterparts are seeing their narratives introduced full circle, whereas her memorial grew to become a sort of comedy bit. Marvel Studios clearly desires its tasks to be emotional and absorbing, the sorts of tales that contact viewers. Committing to organising and absolutely honoring these large feelings, and acknowledging what they imply to long-term viewers, is simply as vital as future teasers on the subject of ensuring the fandom retains coming again for extra.