Spoilers for Episode 3 of Marvel’s “What If…?”. Now available to stream on Disney+.
From left: Iron Man, Black Widow, and Loki
To recap the events we see unfolding in Episode 3: Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff approach Tony Stark in a diner, resembling the scene from Iron Man 2 whereby the trio are seen discussing Stark’s erratic and highly dysfunctional behavior. Upon administering a drug that was ostensibly meant to cure Stark’s heavy metal poisoning, Iron Man drops dead onto the floor with S.H.I.E.L.D. now fingering Black Widow as the murderer. What follows is Black Widow’s attempts to uncover and apprehend the mysterious assassin, who goes on to kill Hawkeye, The Hulk, and Thor, the latter’s death causing the invasion of Earth by Loki and the Asgardian Army. However, it is later revealed that the murderer is none other than Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man), who blamed Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D. for the death of his daughter, Hope.
Despite Black Widow facing her own demise halfway through the episode at the hands of Ant-Man, the character nevertheless steals the show in each and every scene she is featured in. We, the audience, are reminded of why Black Widow is such a terrific character to watch, the same of which cannot be claimed in regards to her characterization in her solo film.
Why the episode did Black Widow justice
Black Widow, seen here being escorted as a suspect in Tony Stark’s murder
Apart from being the stoically capable hero that we have come to know, in the episode, we see her single-handedly take down a prisoner transport truck filled with elite soldiers, proving to us once again what an unstoppable and unmatched force she is as she utilizes the intelligence and formidable fighting prowess we have come to expect from the character. We are also shown the more covert side of Black Widow, as she moves quickly and efficiently to expose the mystery surrounding the individual who is killing the remaining chosen members of The Avengers, achieving this objective with a well-placed voice message to Nick Fury right before she is eventually murdered.
Therefore, it is truly a shame that her solo outing featured a Black Widow that was far less compelling in its 2-hour runtime than the portrayal seen in the 30-minute episode. Unfortunately, this can only be blamed on the film’s poor writing, casting Natasha Romanoff in a light that is so unrecognizable from the superspy that we have familiarized with in her previous MCU outings. To put it simply, the Black Widow we see in the film is Black Widow only in name, an empty shell of a highly trained spy that is unable to exhibit the full potential of the character we have come to love over the last decade. A character that, prior to this film, is depicted as being extremely thorough in her role as a Black Widow, yet is shown in the film failing even to confirm her kill when she assassinated Dreykov’s daughter.
That being said, it was certainly refreshing to witness the return of a bad*ss Black Widow to the MCU in Episode 3, and, hopefully, this is the version of Natasha Romanoff that fans will joyously reminisce about long after the MCU has come and gone.
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