[SPOILERS FOR BLACK WIDOW AND LOKI BELOW!]
Marvel’s Phase 4 has been slowly rolling out due to pandemic delays, but the final episode of Loki’s first season today has really kicked off the widescreen overview of what promises to be a dimension hopping, time-bending battle for the very fabric of reality.
Black Widow, now in theaters and on Disney+ Premier, was to be the official kickoff for Phase 4, but now that we’ve seen it, it’s really a bridge between a more grounded world of bone-crunching but terrestrial fights, and the cosmic purple sky battles of Loki and the WandaVision-to–Doctor Strange 2 timeline.
However, Black Widow revealed a bunch of new and likable characters to the MCU. Where will they be showing up and will they return to try to save reality? At the Black Widow press conference various cast members seemed to give some hints of where they’d like their characters to go. With dimensions’ worth of Kangs now revealed as the big bad for at least the start of Phase Four, there will definitely be a lot of work to do to keep those universes rolling smoothly!
Here’s the line-up:
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff – Scarlet Johansson:
Well, as we now know, this is pretty much the end for this take on Natasha Romanoff, something Johansson has been clear about in interviews. “I spent such a long chunk of my adulthood playing this character that I’m certainly am less afraid of things now than I was 10 years ago, which is good,” she said at a press conference for the film. “We knew that in this film she had to get to where she was moving forward in her life and had resolved the trauma from her past.”
Johansson is clearly moving on with her life — it was recently revealed that she and husband Colin Jost are expecting their first (her second) child, which led to a reduced role doing press for Black Widow. But she’s also passing the baton as new performers join the MCU.
“It’s wonderful to see people come into something with excitement and wide-eyed and get to experience incredible world of Marvel and making these huge productions,” she said at the Black Widow press event. “We all have been part of obviously big productions but I think because Marvel feels so familial, something about it is just a very unique, warm, inviting place. It was exciting to see everybody experience that for the first time.”
Black Widow 2/Yelena Belova – Florence Pugh
We already know that Yelena will be a big part of the MCU going forward, and fans couldn’t be happier. The end credits scene of Black Widow set up Yelena’s appearance in the upcoming Hawkeye series on Disney+ and Pugh seems ready to step into the world, as is her character. “In the end scene, you can see that she’s flourishing,” says Pugh.
“That was such a fun part of figuring out this character, because she really comes out of the Red Room life. And [now] she can buy her own clothes, and she can buy a vest that has lots of pockets and she’s really excited by it,” says Pugh.
And Pugh seems ready for the mantle of superheroine! According to none other than first Widow Johansson herself, Pugh’s background in dance helped her nail the fight choreography, and her starring roles in Fighting with My Family and Midsommar already give Pugh headliner clout. And fans on Twitter are totally smitten with the feisty, scrappy Yelena. Is Pugh starring in a Black Widow 2 film out of the question? We’d say it’s something that would get a HUGE cheer in Hall H — and it’s a constant topic in the perpetual hot stove league of the MCU.
Yelena is so popular that many have speculated she may first be part of another group of super characters; see below for that.
Iron Maiden/Melina Volstakoff – Rachel Weisz
Oscar winner Weisz has said she only signed up for Black Widow, and the film does seem like a bit of an outlier on her resume. However she says she was impressed by the depth of the character she played. “What the writers got onto the page and what Kate directed was just highly complex people that are very contradictory.” She also loved working with David Harbour, so with Marvel’s hallowed tradition of surprise cameos, Melina could show up in a Black Widow 2. Or maybe Weisz will just go back to her successful career in serious dramas and just laugh about her days feeding pigs in a super suit?
Red Guardian/Alexei Shostakov – David Harbour
Although a definite return for the Red Guardian isn’t slated, Harbour has made it no secret that he’d love to return to the character or even take on Captain America — and as he strongly hinted at the press conference, it could be Captain [S]America as Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) takes on the role. “I don’t know if it’s team up with, but I really love the Falcon character,’ Harbour says. “I love Anthony Mackie just as an actor too.” The rivalry between Red Guardian, a survivor of the Russian Super Soldier program, and Captain America seems like a natural, Harbour points out. “Some of the funniest stuff to me is where he’s actually a colleague of mine. We had a lot of respect for each other. I just think that dynamic would be really fun to see.” In addition, “the classic Cold War thing is a really fun and funny dynamic between these two guys, and the fact that they basically came up as nuclear warheads, in an arms race together, I think it’s just a really great concept that could be explored further.”
Harbour knows how to pitch an idea! Will he get his wish? Well, Ta-Nehisi Coates is reportedly working on Captain America 4 which may star the Mackie version of Cap, and Harbour seems to be both a fan favorite and a nerdlebrity regular, so don’t be too surprised to see the Red Guardian show up in some capacity down the Phase 4 road.
Taskmaster/Antonia Dreykov – Olga Kurlyenko
The secondary baddie of the film survived, and while there hasn’t been any talk of Taskmaster’s return, she’s be a natural to team-up with Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost from Ant-Man and the Wasp…maybe as part of the Thunderbolts? Bad guys like Taskmaster have a way of popping up when you least expect it.
Mason (O-T Fagbenle)
Fagbenle’s career is going just great with his Emmy nomination for The Handmaid’s Tale yesterday. While Mason, the fixer for Black Widow, seems like a temporary character, these kind of useful background characters have a way or turning up again in the MCU — think of all those SHIELD agents over the years. Nothing is planned for this character, but don’t be too surprised if he returns on Disney+ at the least.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine – Julia Louis Dreyfus
If you want to bet on anything here, it’s all but a sure thing that we’ll be seeing a lot more of the Contessa in Phase 4. Her slowly rolling recruitment of US Agent John Walker in Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Yelena in Black Widow could be just the dawn of a busy post credits career for Louis-Dreyfus. In addition the comics character has ties to all sorts of Phase 4/Disney+ elements, including Nick Fury, Sharon Carter, Madripoor and more. Is she gathering the Thunderbolts, Dark Avengers or some other comics team? Yelena would be a natural for any of those. Time will tell — since NDAs and stern looks from Kevin Feige assure us that all but Alfred Molina are keeping their mouths shut.