While Avengers: Endgame was meant to be an end – necessary, transitory, temporary – it is instead the end. The Avengers will continue as a team and a cinematic inflection point for a long time, but something vital was lost amid Endgame’s beautiful chaos, and Marvel will never get it back.
I am ridiculously sentimental and an easy cry. Field of Dreams, naturally. Toy Story, of course. Even moments that aren’t sad in and of themselves can get me, such as Rey catching Luke’s lightsaber at the end of The Force Awakens.
Endgame got me too. And not just the sad parts.
Cap with Mjolnir. Scott Lang finding his daughter. “Avengers Assemble”, followed by Thor’s enthusiastic shout.
Strangely, Tony’s death didn’t really affect me, though it absolutely destroyed the teenage boy sitting behind me. I felt sad, but it was mostly in reaction to seeing Peter and Pepper so distraught.
And don’t get me wrong: I am a big Tony Stark fan. The marketing during the lead-up to Civil War asked you to pick a side: Tony's or Cap’s. I proudly flew the Stark red and gold, though subsequent viewings eventually shifted my allegiance somewhat.
I went into Endgame expecting to lose Tony or Cap, even both of them, but that kind of preparation doesn’t usually insulate me from an emotional reaction. Tony’s decision was heroic and, though I will miss Iron Man, I can move on without him.
Captain America too, though it’s a harder pill to swallow. I am glad he finally got that dance.
But Nat completely and totally gutted me.
At first I thought it was because it was so unexpected. Once it became apparent what must happen to retrieve the soul stone, Clint was the obvious choice. And not only so he can atone for his sins; the Avengers don’t mean nearly as much to him as they do to Nat. The team is literally all she has.
But instead of that being the reason she lives, it becomes the reason she dies.
As I sat with it, I realized I was reacting less to the sacrifice (though it was affecting) and more to what was tragically stolen with her death.
We are supposedly getting a Black Widow movie sometime in the near future, though it’s a project that’s been talked about for years without fruition. I never quite understood the holdup: Natasha is an endlessly fascinating character, and Scarlett plays her so well.
The worst time for such a movie is now, after she’s dead, relegating the film to an unnecessary origin story or further time travel shenanigans.
The ideal time for such a movie would’ve been immediately after Captain America: Winter Soldier, which ends with Natasha giving up all her secrets in order to expose Hydra. Sacrificing her anonymity is an incredibly courageous and vulnerable decision to the lifelong spy. It would’ve been really interesting to see what she does after such a decision. And maybe some part of her past comes knocking. You know: consequences.
The next best time would’ve been after Endgame, with her still alive.
The Avengers of the future seem to be centered around Spider-Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Doctor Strange, with perhaps Falcon, Bucky, Scarlet Witch, Hulk, and War-machine on standby. A strong lineup to be sure. Just like the OG Avengers, someone will need to keep an eye on the big picture and send out the call when a massive threat looms.
Forget Fury. Been there, done that. And he’s honestly never been all that interesting.
Imagine Natasha in the Fury role. We already see her doing the job in Endgame, somewhat out of necessity but mostly because the team means so much to her. Giving her the reins going forward pays out her long-term arc AND her Endgame one, and also gives the team some semblance of stability going forward.
She could’ve even taken Clint’s daughter under her wing and helped her take up her father’s mantle (a possibility the film seemed to hint at in the opening scene).
As it is, I find myself not caring what comes next.
And look, I really like the new crew. Carol is infectiously endearing. Peter is the perfect blend of wide-eyed enthusiasm and plucky can-do. T’Challa is regal and coolly poised. Doctor Strange is… fine. I didn’t care for him in his solo flick but liked him in Infinity War. In a vacuum, they are all qualified replacements.
But the Avengers have always been more than the sum of its parts. It began as an idea and then took on a life of its own.
Tony was the brains.
Steve the heart.
And Nat was the soul.
The Avengers might’ve survived with only one of the three. Without any, it’s untenable.
The team will carry on, like an undead construct powered solely by momentum and the forced reality of movie economics.
But they will no longer be the Avengers.
There is a powerful moment during the climatic battle in which all of the female superheroes rally around Carol Danvers. It’s a little on the nose but works as a testament to how far Marvel has come with inclusiveness (though there are still great strides to be made).
But all I could think about was who was missing.
Nat’s whole goal in Endgame is to get everyone back. And yet she, alone, is not there to witness the culmination. She’s not there to hear Steve say, finally, “Avengers Assemble”, even though they only retained some semblance of being a team due to her determination to keep them that way.
Marvel has always been intentional with its characters. I want to believe they didn’t kill Natasha as some misguided attempt at shock value. Her sacrifice to save Clint, the Avengers, and those snapped, is powerful drama. But it was an unnecessary disservice. Not to mention, are we really to believe there is some great Hawkeye story waiting to be told instead? So vital it’s being relegated to Disney’s new streaming service?
Natasha Romanoff was an original Avenger and the team’s only female. She always seemed perpetually on the verge of realizing her great potential. How tragic to arrive at the end of her story with her promise forever unfulfilled.