Natasha All Along

One WandaVision episode reveals the most important movie in Marvel Phase 4

WandaVision wasn’t supposed to be the first story of Marvel’s Phase Four. So what does that say about Black Widow?

WandaVision broke the hearts of millions of Marvel fans when Agatha took Wanda Maximoff on a whistle-stop tour of all her most traumatic moments, revealing just what made a young Sokovian girl into the Scarlet Witch — and why she’s so drawn to everything that makes up Westview. It was an uncharacteristic move for a Marvel film — answering all our questions and only asking new questions towards the end.

It was also arguably the best episode of WandaVision and could provide the framework that makes Black Widow way more important than you might think for a prequel movie starring an already-dead Avenger.

How WandaVision changed the MCU

Agatha and Wanda take a glimpse at the past.Marvel Entertainment

WandaVision redefined Marvel storytelling by exploring Wanda’s memories and psyche in a very literal way — the entire town where the show took place was created from her fantasies. For a franchise fueled by special effects and intergalactic foes, this is quite the departure. However, it may not have been intended to be such a shock to the Marvel Cinematic Universe status quo.

Initially, WandaVision was supposed to be a late addition to the next phase of Marvel content. Then, the Covid-19 pandemic forced Black Widow to be delayed over a year, Eternals to be delayed a year, and production on Falcon and the Winter Soldier to be paused. WandaVision, filmed largely on a contained sound stage, suddenly became the only releasable Marvel property.

This puts Marvel fans in a strange position. WandaVision should have been the culmination of other works and a direct lead-in to Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Instead, it came first. We saw the effects before the cause, and now have to work backwards to figure out how Marvel’s Phase Four will play out.

WandaVision and the power of flashbacks

Wanda tries to track down Vision’s body in another flashback.Marvel Entertainment

WandaVision’s eighth episode was entirely dedicated to Wanda’s past. Through multiple traumatic flashbacks, Agatha showed Wanda exactly how she became the villain of her own story. Fortunately for the audience, this also explained how Wanda became so filled with heartbreak and grief she could hold an entire town hostage.

This episode has many ties thematically to what we know of Black Widow. Both follow female Avengers as they return to their roots and confront their past, and both include meditations on grief. In WandaVision, the grief is faced by Wanda, but in Black Widow, it’s the audience who faces the harsh reality of Natasha’s eventual demise while the Black Widow confronts the ghosts of her past.

So while we still need to wait a few more months for Black Widow, in a way we’ve already seen its effects in WandaVision: a focus on the dark realities of death post-Avengers: Endgame. Even if the events of Black Widow are set before Endgame, the effect of releasing a Marvel movie or show in the aftermath of that battle still resonates.

What WandaVision means for Marvel Phase Four

Yelena and Natasha in Black Widow.Marvel Entertainment

If we consider WandaVision to be the intended climax of the next section of Marvel properties and not just a fluke, Black Widow will probably be a lot darker and more psychological than any other Marvel film. By focusing on Natasha’s past, her family, and the moments she’d rather forget, all the character’s biggest moments — from her introduction nearly a decade ago to her tragic sacrifice — will become even more heartbreaking in retrospect.

Black Widow should also take one other concept from WandaVision Episode 8: answering questions rather than just posing new ones. There are all sorts of questions surrounding Natasha’s past, and her film may be the last chance to answer them. Hopefully, just as we got answers to how Wanda’s parents died and how she got her powers, we’ll uncover Natasha’s past — or at least what happened in Budapest.

If WandaVision was meant to be one of the final pieces of Marvel’s latest puzzle, that’s a very good sign for the intended first piece: Black Widow.

Black Widow arrives in theaters and on Disney+ (with premier access) on July 9, 2021.