Black Widow foreshadows a big role for Florence Pugh in the Marvel universe

Black Widow
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Marvel's highly-anticipated return to theaters serves as a final goodbye to one Black Widow — and a hello to another.

Black Widow, the long-awaited solo movie for Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff, debuts this weekend in theaters and on Disney+ after numerous COVID-19 delays. It's a prequel that picks up after Natasha went on the run following 2016's Captain America: Civil War, and it can be seen as a bit of a mea culpa from Marvel after fans spent a decade calling for Natasha to get her own film.

But Natasha is still dead in the present after sacrificing herself in Avengers: Endgame. So in addition to closing the book on Johansson's character and giving her the movie fans wanted years ago, arguably Black Widow's main purpose is actually to establish Yelena Belova, the sister-figure of Natasha played by Florence Pugh. She's been widely praised as the film's standout character — a fact that's drawn some complaints that Natasha is overshadowed — and viewers can expect plenty more of her to come.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

"Obviously, I've got major shoes to fill," Pugh recently told

Pugh's Yelena is set to return in the Disney+ series Hawkeye later this year, and Black Widow teases her involvement in a broader plot Marvel's got cooking, which may mix storytelling both in theaters and on television in a way the franchise hasn't previously attempted. It's not clear what other projects Pugh will return for, but Black Widow's director says the film could potentially get a sequel "following a different character," presumably meaning Yelena would have the titular role. Johansson, for her part, has confirmed she has no plans to return as Natasha.

Ultimately, then, it may seem a bit strange for a Black Widow movie to arrive only after the character's already been killed off. But for Marvel, revisiting its last era is still all about building out the next one.

To continue reading this article...
Continue reading this article and get limited website access each month.
Get unlimited website access, exclusive newsletters plus much more.
Cancel or pause at any time.
Already a subscriber to The Week?
Not sure which email you used for your subscription? Contact us