It looks like General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross will be back to stir up som more trouble in the MCU. While Ross hasn’t had a major role to play since Captain America: Civil War, he last appeared on-screen during a brief cameo at Tony Stark’s funeral at the end of Avengers: Endgame. However, new set photo leaks confirm he’ll appear in Black Widow, but a marked difference in his look may imply that the film is actually set in the future.
Speculative spoilers ahead for Black Widow. If you don’t want to know what happens in her standalone MCU movie, turn back now.
William Hurt first played General Thaddeus Ross in The Incredible Hulk, where he served as the film’s primary antagonist. He was also the father of Elizabeth, Bruce Banner’s then-girlfriend. Over the course of the film, he fooled Banner into thinking his government project was meant to protect soldiers from radiation, when in reality, he wanted to create super soldiers.
Naturally, Banner figured it was safe enough to try the experiment on himself first and wound up becoming The Hulk. General Ross spent the remainder of the film trying to take The Hulk down, only to surprisingly help him escape in the end. Though Ross doesn’t reappear until Captain America: Civil War, he does spend the majority of his MCU career toeing the line between ally and foe.
In the leaked Black Widow set photos, Hurt’s Ross looks much different than when we last saw him. His character, now Secretary of State, seems to have aged quite a bit, looking haggard and using a cane. His older look is particularly strange given that Black Widow is supposed to take place between Captain America: Civil War and Infinity War. Why would Ross look so much older if the film takes place in the recent past?
The difference is enough to suggest that Black Widow might contain a major time jump, with at least some of the action happening in the future. It’s unclear how big of a role Ross will play here: this scene could be nothing more than a post-credits teaser, as it doesn’t seem like Scarlett Johansson was on-set during filming.
Speculation has been rife regarding the time period in which Black Widow will take place. Sure, Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel team have confirmed it takes place after Civil War. But, considering that Natasha died in Endgame (which also introduced time travel), it might not be far-fetched to assume that the Black Widow movie could involve any or all of these plotlines.
Ross’ reappearance could also mean that he’s been experimenting on himself; he may have been doing what he pushed Banner to do. Will he become a super soldier? Could he be coming to Black Widow for help, or does his appearance have more to do with Tony Stark’s rumored cameo? Could he be turning into Red Hulk? That last one is a particularly intriguing possibility.
/Film already suggested Ross could play Red Hulk,. In the comics, Red Hulk comes into being after Ross experiments on himself, becoming something he essentially hates. Ross’ loyalties to the government may mean the former general is going back to his old profession, armed with a super soldier serum.
Is Red Hulk the villain Natasha and the Red Room assassins will fight in the film? We all know Black Widow has a history with The Hulk. Throw in some time jumping (unlikely as it may seem) and we’ve got a party!
Black Widow hits theaters May 1, 2020.