As the film set to launch the Marvel Cinematic Universe into Phase Four, Black Widow has a lot it needs to set up — possibly including the MCU’s next big villain. We know military officer Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross, last seen in Captain America: Civil War, will appear in the film. While it’s unclear how big his role will be, it’s possible that Black Widow will set him up to become a major MCU villain in two Disney+ shows. Let’s dissect.
Ross’ role in the MCU has always been small but impactful — with the exception of his antagonistic turn in The Incredible Hulk. Most notably, his decisions as the Secretary of State are what led to the Sokovia Accords and the eventual divide between Captain America and Tony Stark in Civil War.
We know Black Widow is set in the time between Civil War and Infinity War, so it makes sense that Ross will be back, presumably as a government agent. According to Reddit theorist cdhelt1225 — whose post has since been deleted —Ross’ return may set up his role as a possible villain in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and She-Hulk on Disney+. While mods deleted the post for not providing enough evidence, we did a bit of digging and found some intriguing clues that actually support this Phase Four theory.
Warning! Potential spoilers ahead for several Marvel Phase Four properties.
We know that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is set after Endgame and will feature the government-approved, Captain America-ripoff, U.S. Agent. It’s possible we could see Ross spearheading a new program of super soldiers in Falcon and Winter Soldier as the man behind U.S. Agent. After all, Ross isn’t a stranger to that kind of role. He spent most of The Incredible Hulk fooling Bruce Banner into thinking he wanted to save soldiers from radiation, but he was really trying to make a super-soldier serum all along.
However, Ross is even better suited to be the main villain for the upcoming Disney+ series, She-Hulk.
In the comics, Ross becomes Red Hulk, the result of a super-soldier program meant to create the complete opposite of the Incredible Hulk. Knowing She-Hulk is Bruce Banner’s cousin, it makes sense that Hulk’s mortal enemy would become She-Hulk’s as well. (Like how Lex Luthor antagonizes Supergirl and Superman alike.)
That said, Black Widow set photos revealed a much older-looking Ross, lending credence to the idea that he could already be a villain. Or, at the very least, someone the superheroes will have to contend with as a shady government operative.
Either way, it seems clear that Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross is back, and just in time to fill a Thanos-sized hole in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Black Widow sneaks into theaters on May 6, 2020.