It’s been a minute since Black Widow was released on Disney+. If you’ve only watched it once, there’s a good chance that you missed a lot of little details that callback to the previous MCU movies and some details that were added out of respect for the Marvel comics. Not only was Black Widow a long time coming, but knowing all these little facts and details makes the movie that much more interesting.
And who knows if it’ll be important moving forward in Phase 4.
I don’t blame you if this is something you looked over. It’s not the largest detail, but it is a detail that is consistent in nearly all the MCU films. In the opening credits, we see a breaking news broadcast about a fire at the North Institute—which ended up being the result of Soviet espionage in Ohio. The broadcast is from WHIH25, which is safe to assume is a local affiliate for WHIH World News, the primary news channel in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. WHIH broadcasts have appeared in The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, and pretty much every Marvel TV show.
2. Rick Mason
Unlike his portrayal in Black Widow, there’s a little more to Rick Mason than just providing supplies, lodging, and transportation for espionage operatives who are laying low. The Handmaid’s Tale’s O-T Fagbenle plays Rick Mason, who better known in the comics as Agent. The character first appeared in 1990’s Marvel Graphic Novel No. 57 and is actually the son of the Spider-Man villain the Tinkerer (a supporting MCU character in Spider-Man: Homecoming, played by Michael Chernus). Although they are related in the comics, there is no relation in the MCU, and it seems like the characters have been tweaked and repurposed to better suit the movies’ storylines.
3. Blonde hair dye
Now, you might think I’m getting too deep about this one, but let’s remember that nothing is an accident in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Prior to Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, fans realized that with the possibility of time travel firmly on the table, that one way to keep up with different points in time was to reference Natasha’s hair style and color.
Avengers: Infinity War was released almost 3 years before Black Widow, and when we first saw Natasha in Infinity War, we saw her sporting a completely new hairstyle and color—with no context behind this decision. Mind you, this was the first time we had seen Natasha without red hair. We never got a definitive answer to her color change, but there are a few things that come to mind.
First, we see in the beginning of the movie that young Natasha in Ohio had faded blue hair, indicating that her short 3 year undercover stint in Ohio was one of the extremely rare occasions that she had authority over her body and its appearance. Seeing Natasha reclaim that authority after taking down the Red Room—the very institution that ripped that away from her in the first place—was the first step in healing from her dark past.
Second, the drastic change in hair was a necessary change to evade Secretary Ross from arresting her while she attempted to break her friends out of prison after the events of Captain America: Civil War.
Finally, the choice to go blonde (specifically) could have been a way for her to remain close to her younger adoptive sister, Yelena Belova. Yelena leaves Natasha with her favorite vest (the vest Yelena bought and modified as a celebration of her regaining her own bodily autonomy), and this entirely new look could be a symbol of the renewed bond she has with her sister.
4. Natasha’s Russian accent
This is another quick one that can easily be missed if your volume isn’t slightly higher. Did you wonder why Yelena had a Russian accent and Natasha didn’t? Yeah, we all did. In a flashback to her last mission to prove her defection to S.H.I.E.L.D., Natasha had to work alongside Clint Barton (you know, her now best friend, Hawkeye, and the guy who was initially sent to Budapest to kill her), and bomb a building with the Red Room big bad General Dreykov. When dispatching a reply to Clint, you can hear Natasha’s Russian accent. So what happened to her accent? After the assassination mission in Budapest, S.H.I.E.L.D. took Natasha in and trained her to be an undercover spy (we saw her spy skills when she first came onto the MCU scene as Tony Stark’s new assistant Natasha Rushman).
5. Alexei and the “bear”
When Natasha and Yelena set off to collect their adoptive father Alexei from the Seventh Circle Prison, we see him spending his social hours telling fake glory day stories about how Captain America was his main adversary in the ’80s (despite Captain America having been frozen in the ice for decades), and arm wrestling with his fellow inmates.
When the last arm wrestling challenger, Ursa, comments on the inaccuracy of Alexei’s Captain America stories, he immediately gets his wrist completely broken. When referring to Ursa, Alexei calls him a bear—referring to the character from the comic books. In the comics, Ursa Major is a mutant who is a part of the Winter Guard (which is basically the Russian Avengers), and has the ability to transform himself into a gigantic and vicious brown bear.
6. Black Widows and their hysterectomies
When Alexei successfully escapes the Seventh Circle Prison and boards the escape aircraft, he is greeted with a swift hit to the face by his youngest adoptive daughter, Yelena. When asked if she was in a mood because of her period, Yelena goes on to explain how she doesn’t get period because she was violently sterilized in the Red Room.
This is not the first time we’ve heard about the sterilization that every Black Widow is forcefully subjected to. In Avengers: Age of Ultron, we hear about this procedure for the first time when Natasha is trying to convince Bruce Banner that they would make a good couple.
When Bruce talks about how he literally has a monster inside of him, Natasha replies with confiding that she isn’t able to bear children. She says, “They sterilize you. It’s efficient. One less thing to worry about, the one thing that might matter more than a mission. It makes everything easier — even killing. You still think you’re the only monster on the team?” Implying that the inability to birth children makes you a monster paints the character in a misogynistic light, and the Black Widow recall of that violent procedure that she experienced reframes it with the necessary context—it was never her choice, and she is not a monster, but a victim of abuse.
7. Crimson Dynamo
After an emotional moment at the dinner table, where Yelena bears her pain from the deception she experienced as a child after fleeing Ohio, Alexei goes to comfort her. As he tries his best to extend an olive branch with a odd anecdote about his experience with his own father, Yelena refuses him.
Yelena goes on to tell him that it is clear to her that she and Natasha were nothing more than a chore and a burden to Alexei despite him being the only father she ever knew and loved. She continued by saying that all she hears is him gloating about him glory days as the “Crimson Dynamo,” to which Alexei almost immediately corrects her (because his tone deafness is entirely informed by his ego) that he’s actually called the Red Guardian.
However, the Crimson Dynamo is a very real character and—just like Major Ursa—an associate of his in the Winter Guard. Falling in line with mirroring the Avengers, the Crimson Dynamo is the Winter Guard’s answer to Iron Man.
Keeping with the theme of things you may not have known, here are 7 queer Marvel and DC characters.
Photo via Marvel