Spoiler alert! This story includes important plot points and the ending of Marvel’s “Black Widow,” so beware if you haven’t seen it yet.
Scarlett Johansson has returned as Natasha Romanoff for Marvel’s Black Widow solo movie, and she’s joined by David Harbour (Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian), Florence Pugh (Yelena Belova), and Rachel Weisz (Melina Vostokoff) for the tale as we delve into Nat’s early life as a Russian agent as well as what happened to her between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War.
Read on as we break down what happened at the end of the Black Widow movie, including the end credits scene (and how many there are), and what it could mean for the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe!
How Many End Credits Scenes Are There in Black Widow?
There is just one post credits scene in Black Widow, and it comes during the mid-credits. Read on for all the details if you want to be spoiled on it…
Ending Explained: The Future of the Black Widows
While the film basically caps off Natasha’s story by setting up her role in Infinity War, it’s far more open-ended when it comes to the rest of her family. We see Yelena, Alexei and Melina — her adopted family of fellow spies and super soldiers — gathering up the surviving Widows (and former foe Taskmaster) and retreating to parts unknown. Presumably, the three are seizing on this second chance to live as a family, even as they help the other Widows learn to become something more than programmable killers. (And no doubt Red Guardian is still bragging about fighting Captain America.)
Having finally killed Ray Winstone’s Dreykov, the head of the Red Room who had tortured and brainwashed young girls and women into assassins for decades, Nat was able to make up for the “red in her ledger” that we’ve been hearing about since the first Avengers movie, or at least for a major part of it: Years earlier she had gravely wounded (and thought she killed) Dreykov’s young daughter while attempting to assasinate him. The girl would eventually take on the Taskmaster identity, and we dig into her story more below.
With Dreykov and the Red Room destroyed, Natasha and her teammates also freed a group of younger Black Widows from the mind control they had been under for years. But what comes next for them? It’s hard to say, especially given that the bulk of the movie takes place in 2017 and the rest of the MCU is now in the year 2023. That’s a lot of missing time to account for. We don’t know what role the ex-Widows might have played in the events of Infinity War/Endgame and how many of them were snapped out of existence by Thanos. Have they become a force for good in the world or simply melted into the shadows?
Black Widow Post Credits Scene: How It Sets Up the Hawkeye Series
The post-credits scene suggests Yelena, at least, is having trouble adjusting to life after the Red Room. The one piece of the movie that is set in the contemporary MCU, that scene shows Yelena visiting Natasha’s gravesite and being approached by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus reprising her role from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier). We learn Yelena has been carrying out missions for Contessa, with her latest target being none other than Natasha’s BFF, Clint Barton.
That post-credits scene directly sets the stage for the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+. Pugh was previously confirmed to be reprising her role as Yelena Belova, and now we have a better idea of how the character fits into the series. Thanks to Contessa, she blames Clint for Natasha’s death, not realizing Natasha willingly sacrificed herself for the sake of the entire universe.
We don’t necessarily take this to mean Yelena will be the main villain of the Hawkeye series. Most likely she’ll appear in one or two episodes to battle Clint and his new protégé Kate Bishop, before eventually learning the full story behind Natasha’s death.
More important is the fact that Contessa is the one who sets this showdown in motion. Her two appearances so far hint that Contessa is someone with a big part to play in the future of the MCU. Much like Nick Fury (a character who happens to be Contessa’s lover in the comics), Contessa is a shadowy mastermind who seems intent on assembling a team. Though between Yelena and John Walker, this team isn’t necessarily “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes” quality. If anything, the theme appears to be Contessa recruiting characters who have struggled to adopt the mantle and mission of another. She has her faux-Captain America and a Black Widow. Could copycat villains like Justin Hammer and the Abomination be next on her list?
Contessa may be well on her way to creating the MCU version of a team like the Thunderbolts or the Dark Avengers. Both groups are built around the idea of villains masquerading as beloved heroes. The real question is whether or not her goals are heroic. Given the character’s association with organizations like Hydra and Leviathan in the comics, we shouldn’t assume Contessa is the next Nick Fury. She may be the polar opposite.
Either way, Hawkeye may have some answers to provide when it debuts in late 2021. It’s also worth remembering the series will introduce Alaqua Cox’s Echo, setting up an Echo series on Disney+. Is it just coincidence that Echo’s powers are similar to that of Taskmaster? We wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn the two characters are connected. Taskmaster could very well make her next appearance in either Hawkeye or the Echo spinoff.
Who Plays the Taskmaster?
Quantum of Solace actress Olga Kurylenko plays the Taskmaster in the film. While Black Widow introduces Marvel’s second most popular mercenary character (after Deadpool, of course), this version of Taskmaster is quite a bit different from the source material. Taskmaster has been given a massive overhaul similar to that of Ghost in 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, both because a traditionally male character is now a woman and because she’s depicted as the daughter of one of the film’s main antagonists.
In the comics, Taskmaster is Tony Masters, a former SHIELD agent with a photographic memory that allows him to perfectly mimic the fighting style of anyone he observes. Now a hired merc, he sells his services as an assassin and a supervillain drill instructor. The downside is that this ability also hinders his explicit memory. The more he uses his power, the more he forgets about his own personal life. Masters doesn’t even remember his own wife anymore.
In the MCU, the only elements that have really carried over are Taskmaster’s photographic memory, costume and first name (Antonia instead of Tony). This version of the character, Antonia Dreykov, is revealed to have gained her power after surviving an assassination attempt on her father. She has a chip in her neck that keeps her brain functioning and powers her photographic memory.
Antonia is seemingly fueled by a desire for revenge against her would-be killer, Natasha, but we also learn she’s been subjected to the same mental conditioning as the rest of the Black Widows. That seems to be the movie’s way of adapting Taskmaster’s tragic back-story. Where Tony Masters can’t remember his past, Antonia Dreykov was robbed of the chance to have a normal childhood at all. Both versions of Taskmaster exist as blank slates where a whole person should be.
Taskmaster’s future in the MCU is uncertain. We know that she survives the destruction of the Red Room and is freed from her father’s mental hold. She’s last seen leaving with the rest of the Widows. But as for what’s become of Antonia in the years between Black Widow and Avengers: Endgame, we can only guess. Has she been given a second chance to lead a normal life? Or will she fall into the life of a hired mercenary, like her comic book counterpart? That’s for a future MCU project to reveal. (Learn more about this new version of the Taskmaster here.)
Julie Delpy’s Madame B: An MCU Loose End
While Black Widow ties up a number of loose ends surrounding the late Natasha Romanov (including explaining her green vest from Infinity War), there’s one plot point from Avengers: Age of Ultron that remains unresolved. That movie features Julie Delpy in a cameo role as Madame B, a Red Room instructor who trained Nat. One would assume Madame B was meant to play a larger role in the solo Black Widow movie, but she never actually appears in this movie.
At this point we can only speculate as to why Delpy didn’t return for Black Widow. Maybe she didn’t want to come back. The Before Sunrise actress recently spoke about her frustrations with the film industry and the temptation of retirement, so perhaps the prospect of a big-budget superhero movie was unappealing.
Or it could be that Marvel opted not to focus on this particular aspect of Natasha’s past. As it is, the film only spends a few minutes exploring Nat and Yelena’s childhood before jumping to 2017, and even that sequence happens mainly during a time when the sisters are living in deep cover in Ohio. Madame B may simply not have had a place in Marvel’s final vision for the spinoff.
Given her high-ranking role within the Red Room, though, it’s easy to imagine how Madame B might have fit into the plot. Is it possible she’s Antonia’s mother? If so, that could still leave room for Delpy to return to the MCU in a future Taskmaster-focused project.
By Jesse Steeds
P.S. Black Widow’s opening credits sequence features a memorable cover of Nirvana’s nineties grunge classic “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”