Nearly 10 years later, we finally know what happened in Budapest.
Major spoilers ahead for Black Widow. After co-starring in half a dozen MCU movies, Scarlett Johansson's original Avenger is finally having her story told, mining a decade's worth of Easter eggs -- about Budapest, the Red Room and Dreykov's daughter -- and introducing the surrogate family of spies we never knew she had: Her "mother," one-time Widow and top scientist Melina (Rachel Weisz); her "father," the super-soldier Red Guardian (David Harbour) and her little "sister," the assassin Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh).
Black Widow serves as a swan song for Johansson's Natasha -- a proper goodbye to the character who met her demise in 2019's Avengers: Endgame -- but, like any good MCU offering, also teases what's to come. Below, we break down the ending of the movie itself and that particularly juicy end-credits scene.
Because Black Widow isn't a prequel in the strictest sense -- it's more like a mid-quel -- it's not only able to fill in the past but also color what we thought we knew about what comes next. The film was presumed to be set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, but it actually plays out in the time between two specific scenes within the former.
Black Widow picks up after Natasha goes on the run in Civil War, with Thaddeus Ross (William Hurt) confirming in one early sequence that Hawkeye, Falcon and "the incredible shrinking convict" are locked up on The Raft and Captain America is on the lam. Natasha comes face-to-face with Ross again at the end of the movie, though what happens in that exchange is left on the cutting room floor for unknown reasons.
Instead, the movie jumps forward two weeks. Natasha now appears as Infinity War Natasha -- dyed blonde hair and wearing Yelena's vest (aww!) -- as she meets with her go-to guy, Mason (O-T Fagbenle), who's managed to procure her a Quinjet. So, Mason asks, where is she off to now?
Natasha: It's funny, my whole life I didn't think I had any family. Turns out I've got two. One's a bit of a mess right now, I have to go break a few of them out of prison.
Which implies that Natasha was part of the Raft raid teased at the end of Civil War. In that movie, we were left to believe Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was solely responsible for busting out his band of Secret Avengers, but it seems Natasha was right outside with the getaway car -- or jet, the same "stolen Quinjet" that the heroes are using two years later in Infinity War.
The end-credits scene:
The stinger is set after Endgame -- seven or so years after the events of this movie -- and sees Yelena visiting Natasha's gravesite in Ohio. For those who felt Natasha's death didn't get paid the respect it was due in Endgame, here it is: A touching memorialization from her sister, a private moment without the pomp and circumstance of the other Avengers. Which seems fitting for Natasha.
Yelena: You're not supposed to be bothering me on my holiday time, Valentina.
Valentina: Oh, bothering you? No, no, no. I'm just here paying my respects.
For those who need a refresher, Valentina is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. In Marvel comics, she's been a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, a spy, a love interest to Nick Fury and the villainous Madame Hydra. In FAWS, we saw her recruit John Walker (Wyatt Russell) and rebrand him as U.S. Agent. Based on their exchange, it appears Yelena has been working for Valentina for some amount of time already. (Of note, Valentina is also a Russian double agent in comic canon.)
Yelena: You know, coming here makes you look desperate. I want a raise.
Valentina: Oh, you and me both. Believe me, you're gonna earn it. I've got your next target. Thought I'd hand-deliver it. Maybe you've like a shot at the man responsible for your sister's death. Kind of a cutie, don't you think?
At which point Valentina reveals a photo of Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye on her iPad. First and foremost, it all but confirms that Pugh will reprise her role in the Hawkeye series coming later this year -- as had been rumored -- which is good news for everyone who needed more Yelena immediately. (Which is everyone who saw Black Widow.)
Now, the bigger question: What exactly is Valentina up to? With Yelena and U.S. Agent, she's recruited two super-people to do her bidding. Using comic context clues, it would seem that Valentina is gathering a super-team of her own comprising largely of anti-heroes. (Dark Avengers, anyone?) She's not just replacing Earth's Mightiest Heroes, either, she's killing off any original Avengers. Beyond that, we still don't know what Valentina's endgame is or where she will be popping up next, and Kevin Feige isn't saying. (We asked!)
We'll have more from Black Widow director Cate Shortland breaking down the post-credits scene in ET's spoiler chat on Monday.
Black Widow is now in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.