Avengers: Endgame wasn't just the epic culmination of every film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to now. For the original six Avengers, it was also the conclusion of their individual story arcs -- and no, that's not a spoiler. Every story has chapters that come to an end so the next can begin and for the characters that have been in this story largely from the beginning, Endgame very much turns the page to a new chapter. Here's what happens with Black Widow's.
Warning: there are massive spoilers for Avengers: Endgame beyond this point. If you haven't seen the movie yet and are attempting to go in unspoiled, turn back now. You've been warned!
Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow has had perhaps one of the most transformative arcs in the entire MCU. We first meet her in Iron Man 2, presented as a super spy dressed up as a hot secretary. Later, she has a brief romantic relationship with Bruce Banner and little bits and pieces of her past are revealed -- her Red Room training and the forced-sterilization upon graduation from that program. She's also shown to be a devoted friend, surrogate family for Hawkeye, and by the time we get to Endgame, Natasha has stepped up as the de facto leader of the Avengers.
After being unable to get the stones back from Thanos weeks after the Snap, the film jumps five years to show Natasha alone in the Avengers headquarters, coordinating what's left of the team to keep the world running. For Natasha, the job that is the Avengers has become more to her. It's her meaning and the Avengers themselves her very family. When it's discovered that Hawkeye has gone rogue and is murdering criminals around the world as an extension of his grief at losing his whole family in the Snap, it's Natasha that goes to find him and brings him back in. Of all of the Avengers, it's Natasha who is keeping everything afloat.
That's why her ultimate fate in Endgame is both heartbreaking and somehow fitting at the same time. When the idea to travel into the past to collect the stones and bring everyone back turns out to be viable, Natasha and Hawkeye end up being the team sent to Vormir to collect the Soul Stone. Now, the pair aren't aware of what they will have to do to get the Soul Stone once they arrive in 2014. With all of the other stones it's just a matter of collecting them but as fans know, the Soul Stone is different. To get the stone there must be a sacrifice of something that the seeker loves -- a soul for a soul. When faced with that reality, Hawkeye is ready to leap off the cliff and sacrifice himself. Haunted by his post-Snap actions and the other red in his ledger over the years, Hawkeye tells Natasha to tell his family that he loves them. He is willing to give himself over just to bring them back.
But Natasha is not. Despite having finally found a place of belonging and peace with other Avengers family after a lifetime of having absolutely nothing, Natasha ultimate sacrifices herself for the Soul Stone. It's her death that will bring back loved ones not just to the universe, but to her own loved ones as well. Hawkeye will get his family back. Their lost friends will come home. It's the most Natasha thing that she could possibly do, but it doesn't make it hurt any less. When Hawkeye returns to the present with the Soul Stone, but not Natasha, the horror and grief felt by the rest of the team is obvious. Even after everything is done -- the vanished returned, Thanos beaten, all right with the universe again -- Bruce even admits that he tried to bring Natasha back, but could not.
While Natasha's death in Avengers: Endgame is final, it's likely not the end of her story. A Black Widow movie is in the works and while it's unclear what story that film will tell, there's always the possibility that it will dig more into her life outside of the Avengers or, potentially, even give us alternative reality adventures. After all, Endgame also opened the door for alternate timelines -- and perhaps we'll see Natasha again in one of those.
Avengers: Endgame is in theaters now.
What did you think of Black Widow's story in Endgame? Do you feel that it was a fitting end for the character, or did Marvel miss the boat with Natasha's story arc? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter @lifeinpolaroid for all things Avengers: Endgame!
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