Why Scarlett Johansson's special agent made a soul-wrenching choice

By Anthony Breznican
April 26, 2019 at 10:30 PM EDT
©Marvel Studios 2019
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The one thing we’ve known for sure about Natasha Romanoff is that she wants to clear “the red” from her moral ledger.

We don’t know what that means exactly, just that the agent codenamed Black Widow has done some things that profoundly haunt her. She’s also done a lot of good, saving the world over and over again.

Here’s how Avengers: Endgame brings Scarlett Johansson’s hero some resolution.

***Spoilers Below***

Anyone who’s done bookkeeping knows that “red in the ledger” means debts that are unpaid. We’ve never learned the specific wrongs that haunt Black Widow, but we do know from the original Avengers that she credits Hawkeye with saving her from that life. (That’s why she’s so determined to rescue him from Loki’s mind control.)

Whatever she did, Natasha has never been able to forgive herself, thinks of herself as a “monster,” and is driven to spend the rest of her life trying to balance her own moral books.

In Endgame, she and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye find themselves on the planet Vormir, where one can find the Soul Stone — for the right price.

That price is “you must lose what you love.” That usually means sacrificing the life of a person, but in this case Hawkeye and Black Widow love each other too much for that. And love is the right word.

They’ve both saved each other countless times, and now each decides he or she will go over the edge so that the survivor may claim the Soul Stone.

It’s a bizarre battle — a fight over who should be the one to die. And Natasha has always been just a little more fierce than Hawkeye.

But it’s close. They’re both hanging on the edge when Natasha finally does what she has previously been unable to do to her past — she lets go.

Active Choices

Johansson told EW that the hardest thing for a strong person like Natasha to accept throughout her journey is the realization, “Oh, I haven’t really made any active choices in my life.”

“She’s come into her own as a woman, saying, ‘Who am I? And what do I want? And what do I need out of my relationships and also out of my own self?’” the actress told EW in our Endgame roundtable (see the video above.)

“She’s someone who’s understanding her own self-worth,” Johansson added. “And that is such a powerful journey to see anybody take, but certainly to see a woman on screen represented in that way: a flawed superhero with a gray moral compass coming to terms with what’s happened to her.”

Some critics have complained that this places his life above hers because she doesn’t have children, but directors Joe and Anthony Russo seem to have intended it as a last powerful act by a soldier who was willing to give all.

©Marvel Studios 2019

Black Widow Movie

This raises questions about the supposed Black Widow movie that’s rumored to begin filming soon, with Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland directing. Sources confirm to EW that Rachel Weisz, Emma Watson and David Harbour are in talks as costars, so the project appears to be legitimate, although Marvel Studios hasn’t officially announced it yet.

Will it be a prequel? Set in an alternate dimension? We don’t know.

With her final act, she finally proved something, if only to herself. Hawkeye already knew it, but she still doubted:

Natasha Romanoff is one of the good guys. No red in sight.

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