Scratching your head over that Black Widow post-credits scene? Here's our analysis of its possible impact on the future of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Recapping the scene
Following their defeat of Red Room creator Dreykov (Ray Winstone), former Black Widow operatives Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) go their separate ways. We, of course, know the former's destiny: she returns to the Avengers fold and becomes bound up in the battle against Thanos (Josh Brolin), with tragic results. (Where was Yelena during that time, we wonder?)
The post-credits scene shows Yelena visiting the grave of her deceased sister Natasha, which clearly locates us in a post-Avengers Endgame timeframe. Yelena is then visited by her minder/handler Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who gives her a new assignment: avenge Natasha's death by eliminating the individual responsible. It turns out that said individual is Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Cut to black.
What does the post-credits scene mean for the MCU?
Dreyfus reprises her role from the Disney+ series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, making this the explicit crossover between big screen and small screen in the Marvel canon. This implicitly signals that we'll be getting a lot more crossovers in the future as the various MCU content strands start to tie together. But what does Valentina's role signal, specifically?
The scene wasn't part of the original production schedule, but filmed in line with reshoots on Black Widow, reports Variety. It even came as a surprise to Florence Pugh who says: "I was doing scenes again with Scarlett, and being strapped to her on various machines, and us giggling again. And then the following week, I was at her grave!"
"It was quite shocking to fast-forward that quickly," she continues. "But wonderful to have only seen Scarlett the week previous. I think it would have been sadder if it had been many, many months later.” About the post-credits scene, Pugh said, “I didn’t know that there was going to be one.”
Given that Black Widow was filmed, reshoots and all, pre-pandemic, and initially set for release in May 2020, Valentina's appearance was meant to be a mystery. This would then have led to her appearance on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier where we would have been given more context. However, pandemic circumstances dictated that the TV show debuted first with the film coming later, meaning that the Valentina character now has an air of fan-pleasing familiarity about her.
“I just know that they told me we have plans to introduce this character Valentina, and it's going to be played by Julia Louis Dreyfus," recalls screenwriter Eric Pearson of the scene's creation. "And I couldn't get to the computer fast enough. That tag scene was probably like five pages long because I was just so greedy. I was like, I want Yelena and Valentina just back and forth, bouncing dialogue off of each other. And ultimately that's never going to happen. You're not going to have a full scene as a stinger at the end. So we went with the smaller version, but I was just so excited to get those two actors together, to get those two character dynamics together. And I also love taking an emotional moment, like Yelena at the grave, and then flushing it down the toilet with Valentina blowing her nose.”
The character is noted as having a knotty and complex comic book history with various connections to sinister organisation Hydra, among other things. She also has a history with ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. heavyweight Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The notion that the virtuous Yelena is about to manipulated by her own superior may well set up a morally complex set of circumstances as the MCU proceeds.
It's been revealed that Yelena is part of the upcoming Hawkeye series, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has hinted at Valentina forming a new team (she's already hired John Walker, played by Wyatt Russell). How this will impact on the big screen phases of the MCU remains to be seen.
What does this mean for Yelena's future in the MCU?
Is the Black Widow movie ultimately an extended showcase for the resourceful and endlessly entertaining Yelena? Almost certainly, and it sets her up as a significant player in Phases Four and Five of the MCU. Where she will fit in, we don't know at this stage – maybe she will become the leader, or at the very least an important team player, in a new-look Avengers unit?
“She’s going to continue what she’s good at, and despite her sister not being there, she’s back working,” Pugh says of the character's future. “If you look at her costume, and you look at the way that she’s dressed herself, it shows someone that’s flourishing."
"So, to me, it was just really wonderful to kind of jump ahead and see she has been surviving,” Pugh says of the post-credits scene. “But, of course, it sets up a whole different challenge — which is Natasha’s fighting partner.”
What are Valentina's plans? What is her beef with Hawkeye? And how will Yelena be affected? Questions, questions, questions, all of which are set to be answered in time.
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