Black Widow lastly gave Natasha Romanoff a standalone film, years after the character died throughout the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Realizing 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 acquired in Avengers: Endgame. Alternately, the film might have steered a manner Black Widow’s narrative may proceed. In the end, the film didn’t present both.
For a standalone story, that isn’t essentially a nasty factor. Black Widow targeted on delivering perception into the MCU timeline’s historical past of the character and her model of The Purple Room, increasing her arc by explaining her change in attitudes and crew roles between beforehand launched films. 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 together with her deep-cover household was an essential a part of giving the character extra dimension, and it was executed efficiently.
[Ed. note: Spoilers ahead for Black Widow.]
Within the opening scenes, a younger Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) chafes towards the management of sinister mastermind Basic Dreykov (Ray Winstone). That introduction units up the explanations she’s capable of settle for her co-conspirator Melina (Rachel Weisz) as an ongoing mom determine late within the film. Melina’s conduct 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 thought 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.
However Black Widow nonetheless has a serious downside 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. Whereas the film goes out of its manner to supply it to Natasha herself, audiences on the lookout for some that means within the character’s loss of life, aside from as a lead-up to new tales, have discovered the ending unfulfilling.
Whereas 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 non-public sendoff she by no means acquired 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. However the scene quickly abandons that, bringing in new recurring character Valentina Allegra de Fontaine to disrupt the tribute in a crass manner. That departure from an emotional closing scene was intentional — one of many writers, Eric Pearson, mentioned “I […] love taking an emotional second, like Yelena on the grave, after which flushing it down the bathroom with Valentina blowing her nostril.”
Valentina’s introduction not solely mars the second emotionally, it additionally cynically undercuts Yelena’s grief and directs consideration away from Black Widow in an effort to plug the MCU’s future initiatives. 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 Purple Guardian (David Harbour).
All of it highlights the explanation the MCU regularly struggles with something resembling emotional or plot closure. It’s the identical purpose Marvel Studios provides post-credit scenes to so lots of its initiatives: Each story should result in extra tales. Time and again, MCU entries are so targeted on organising the following story that they fail to correctly handle the influence of their characters’ largest losses, significantly when characters die. In some circumstances, they don’t ever totally acknowledge the lack of heroes, as with Heimdall in Avengers: Endgame, or Groot in Guardians Of The Galaxy. (The Groot in later movies is technically the unique’s offspring, however that’s solely addressed in behind-the-scenes content material.) Extra usually, the universe refuses to let characters keep lifeless, utilizing story workarounds to resurrect characters like Bucky Barnes, Pietro Maximoff, and Gamora.
The one true exception to this dynamic stays Tony Stark: Everything of Avengers: Endgame was arrange as a memorial for his loss of life and legacy, and Spider-Man: Far From Residence acknowledges the continued emotional influence of his loss. But the identical battle noticed the loss of life of Imaginative and prescient and Black Widow, who solely acquired temporary mentions at Stark’s funeral from their closest companions, and Loki, who acquired a passing mid-movie mourning from Thor that felt extra like a message to audiences of “No, he’s actually lifeless this time” than like several actual memorial. Whereas Steve Rogers was allowed to peacefully stay out his days in a manner that introduced his arc full circle, even his ultimate on-screen moments had been centered on organising the continuation of his Captain America mantle. Because the MCU has entered Part 4, they’ve been working to offer these characters the closure that they deserve. However like Black Widow, even the TV sequence expressly targeted on mourning and processing have been lessened by their have to arrange future tales.
WandaVision initially appeared to be heading towards a satisfying memorial for Imaginative and prescient. The deal with Wanda coping with her grief over his loss led to highly effective (and much-memed) moments, with a ultimate scene the place she begins to just accept his loss and transfer on. However 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 (presumably) the Brokers of Atlas. Due to a compressed capturing schedule as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, WandaVision additionally needed to reduce scenes involving its surprisingly 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 compelled to take action by proxy. Struggling by way of their very own masculinity to discuss how they felt in regards to the man himself, Bucky Barnes and Sam Wilson as an alternative talk about his legacy, mantle, and defend. So as an alternative of giving them and the viewers an opportunity to mourn Rogers’ potential loss of life of previous age, the present grew to become virtually fully about justifying the way forward for the Captain America title, together with a heavy deal with organising U.S. Agent, the Energy Dealer, and Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.
Disney Plus’ sequence Loki resurrected its title character by way of a time-loop, nevertheless it doesn’t give him any sense of closure, both. The continuation of his story lets him replicate on his selections, his previous character growth, and his relationships to others, nevertheless it 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 state of affairs, the most important Part 4 villain, and the second season of the present. The tip consequence? One more continuation that lacked any emotional closure.
None of that is to say that viewers expectations ought to drive the narrative. That’s a straightforward pathway to cheesy fan service. It’s clearly in Marvel’s finest curiosity to maintain teasing its upcoming initiatives, and to proceed reviving fan-favorite characters relatively than killing their golden geese. However the franchise’s character-driven nature is a serious key to its success too, and an essential 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.
Whereas Marvel Studios succeeded with Tony Stark, and to a lesser diploma Steve Rogers, the films’ largest emotional moments are constantly being undermined by shoehorned-in trailers for the following arc. With Black Widow seemingly destined to be the sequence’ first feminine hero who will keep lifeless, Black Widow’s ending feels significantly 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 initiatives to be emotional and absorbing, the sorts of tales that contact viewers. Committing to organising and totally honoring these massive feelings, and acknowledging what they imply to long-term viewers, is simply as essential as future teasers relating to ensuring the fandom retains coming again for extra.