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Easter Eggs You Missed In Black Widow

Contains spoilers for "Black Widow"

At long last, the "Black Widow" movie has arrived and Scarlet Johansson's Natasha Romanoff is getting her due time in the spotlight — that is, if you don't count the time she spent mouthing off on Capitol Hill at the end of "Captain America: The Winter Soldier." Fans are in for a treat in the second female-led film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, though it's unlikely to be the MCU film with the greatest impact on the future of the franchise, given that it's a prequel. Set in 2016 after the events of "Captain America: Civil War," Black Widow's solo film is essentially a foregone conclusion, given that she met her end during the time heist in "Avengers: Infinity War," which established her death as a fixed point in time, meaning she won't be coming back to the MCU.

But that doesn't mean "Black Widow" has nothing to add; on the contrary, it introduces rich new characters in Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Alexei Shostakov, aka Red Guardian (David Harbour), and the final member of Natasha's faux family, Melina (Rachel Weisz), who herself has been through the infamous Red Room and is a Black Widow. In addition to potentially laying the groundwork for future stories, setting up the Raft escape in the "Civil War" mid-credits scene, and finally telling fans what happened between Black Widow and Hawkeye in Budapest, the film also offers a few sly winks at the MCU. Here are some Easter eggs you missed in "Black Widow."

Natasha channels her inner James Bond

When "Black Widow" moves to its present day timeline of 2016, our title hero is on the run from probably the busiest Secretary of State in U.S. history, retired General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (William Hurt), who's super-convinced he's got her pinned down in some building or other with all the exits covered. Natasha Romanoff calls Ross on his cell, warning him not to embarrass himself. When the S.W.A.T. team kicks down the door to a women's lavatory, Natasha steps out of an entirely different restroom aboard a ferry in Norway, which, at best, puts Ross six time zones and a continent away; embarrassing indeed.

As Nat settles into her new home, courtesy of her ally and supplier, Mason (O-T Fagbenle), she cracks a Norwegian beer and settles in to watch Roger Moore do his thing as Agent 007; apparently she's a big enough James Bond fan to quote the film line-by-line. This Easter egg comes in the form of her movie of choice, which Bond superfans will recognize as "Moonraker." The film is notable for being Bernard Lee's last turn as M (via IMDb) and there are other obvious parallels between "Moonraker" and "Black Widow." Both films feature an evil megalomaniac bent on world domination, pulling strings from a remote base in the sky — a space station for "Moonraker" antagonist Hugo Drax and the hovering Red Room installation of "Black Widow" big bad Dreykov (Ray Winstone). Both primary antagonists have a strong and silent heavy — Drax's chief henchman Jaws (Richard Kiel) and Dreykov's daughter-turned-puppet Antonia-slash-Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) — who only speaks once after their loyalty shifts and the threat is past.

Red Guardian wears his heart on his sleeve

When his sleeper cell-slash-family escapes the United States to Cuba, Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) is nothing but thrilled to be done with the milk run that had him buried in Ohio, of all places. After all, he was the  Red Guardian, the Soviet Union's first and only super soldier! He had no business flying under the radar in the American Midwest, stealing secrets; he belongs on the battlefront. When Natasha and Yelena rescue him from prison, he describes their time as a faux family pretty candidly: "So tedious, boring me to tears," for which he tells an obviously triggered Yelena he means no offense in deriding the only family she had ever known.

As the movie goes on, Alexei's affections for his fake daughters comes out from behind the gruff and rigid exterior he shows the world. But viewers paying close attention to his tattoos could have reached that conclusion much sooner. Sure, the "KARL MARX" ink across his knuckles does show he's a loyal Communist, but that's hardly an Easter egg, considering the image has been circulating since March 2020 (via Empire). Instead, pay special attention to Alexei's right shoulder as he's arm wrestling his fellow inmates in prison — oh, and have a translator or working knowledge of the Cyrillic alphabet handy. Those two roses on his bicep, one of which appears to have a drop of blood or tear falling from it? It just so happens that the names on the ribbon read "Наташа" and "Елена," which translate to Natasha and Yelena, respectively.

The Red Guardian was imprisoned in Hell

For that matter, we're wondering where exactly Alexei Shostakov has been imprisoned; aside from the gulag with the best prison tattoo artist in all of Russia, that is. For two brief glimpses, as Natasha and Yelena are seen flying to liberate him, their tablet showing the prison's layout gives away his location: Seventh Circle Prison. Fans of certain Marvel Comics properties will know that there's an eight-issue run of the Daredevil-Punisher team-up series called "Seventh Circle," but even though the Black Widow has been associated with both of those characters previously, it's unlikely that's the intended reference. 

It seems much more likely that "Black Widow" director Cate Shoreland and writers Eric Pearson, Jac Schaeffer, and Ned Benson are referencing — with apologies to writer Charles Soule and artist Szymon Kudranski — a much more profound work: Dante Alighieri's "Divine Comedy," more specifically, "Inferno." As laid out by Guy P. Raffa's "Danteworlds: A Reader's Guide to the Inferno" (via the University of Texas at Austin) the seventh circle of Hell is where sinners who've committed violence — perhaps, when operating as the Soviet super soldier Red Guardian — are tortured by centaurs and harpies. Fans of classical Greek mythology may recall harpies — loathsome, screeching creatures with the head of a woman and the body of a great bird — harassed Aeneas in Virgil's epic poem the "Aeneid," spoiling his crew's food so they could not eat. That sure sounds like a certain pair of prison guards who've stolen the baked goods Alexei's fans have sent him.

Red Guardian isn't the only Russian Marvel character in Black Widow

Before his liberation from the Seventh Circle Prison, Alexei Shostakov regales his fellow inmates with the tales of his glory days as the Red Guardian — Marvel Comics' Soviet-Russian foil to Captain America — as he nonchalantly takes on all comers in arm wrestling. It's clearly a tale they've heard before, but one prisoner  — credited as Muscular Gulag Inmate (Olivier Richters) to avoid spoilers — doesn't buy Alexei's story, pointing out that Captain America was still a Cap-cicle in 1983 or 1984. Alexei isn't amused, asking "Are you calling me a liar, Ursa?" before slamming the man's arm to the table, breaking it. "Look at the big bear," he says mockingly. It looks like we just met Mikhail Uriokovitch Ursus, aka Ursa Major, a Soviet mutant who is able to transform into a brown bear. 

It's not the last time Alexei's heyday is mocked; at Melina's farm, he tries to comfort Yelena, only to have his concern rebuffed. "The only thing you care about is your stupid glory days as the Crimson Dynamo and no one wants to hear about it," she says. It appears to be meant as an insult — with Yelena either mocking his former code name or actually forgetting it — which Alexei corrects. But Yelena has actually invoked yet another Russian Marvel character, one we're unlikely to see in the MCU in a version faithful to the source material. Why? Crimson Dynamo was the name Anton Vanko  — father to "Iron Man 2" villain Ivan Vanko, aka Whiplash (Mickey Rourke) — took when wearing his own powered armor (via Fandom). 

Yelena and Natasha are two sides of the same coin

Throughout "Black Widow," Natasha and Yelena are set up as opposites. Having both gone through the brutal Red Room program after their cover family was split up in 1995, the elder Natasha was subject to psychological conditioning, whereas Yelena went through at a time when candidates could be chemically subjugated. It's what Alexei Shostakov had stolen from the North Institute, Melina later reveals: the key to unlocking free will. The characters path's diverged after both emerged from the Red Room; each is a brutal assassin but Natasha was able to walk away on her own while Yelena was only freed after her mission to recapture the antidotes failed and she was exposed. 

Several shots throughout "Black Widow" point to similar piercing patterns in the lobe and cartilage of Natasha's left ear and Yelena's right ear. Sure, it's possible they simply have similar tastes in body jewelry, but Yelena explained the first choice she ever made for herself was buying that tactical vest; it's unlikely she hit up a body mod studio on her way to the Budapest safehouse. The characters' respective piercings visually establish them as mirror images, two sides of the same coin — which is set up by the narrative — as seen in the above image.

Yelena has taken on the mantles of Black Widow and White Widow in Marvel Comics. With White Widow, Red Guardian, Ursa Major, and Crimson Dynamo appearing in some form, "Black Widow" may have laid the foundation to bring the Winter Guard to the MCU.

Black Widow feels the butterfly effect

As Yelena and Natasha are holed up in the rafters of a Hungarian subway station, once the former applies her long-awaited tourniquet, the two discuss the latter's previous time hiding out in Budapest. Nat's already made a reference to Clint Barton, aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), in telling Yelena that the holes in the safehouse walls were made by arrows, not bullets. She then reveals that she and Barton spent two days hiding out there previously, at which point the camera shows a series of games played on a ventilation duct. There are a few games of tic-tac-toe — one of which looks to have been won twice by whomever was playing with X — and a game of Hangman, which someone seems to have lost. We're not exactly sure how, considering "B-tt–f–" seems to pretty clearly spell "butterfly," but it wouldn't make for much of an Easter egg if it was that straightforward.

Said insects have been cropping up occasionally in the MCU, with the butterflies in "WandaVision" being the most recent example. Perhaps the most direct connection is to Layla Miller, aka Butterfly, a Marvel Comics mutant with a broad range of abilities (via Fandom); one of her powers is the ability to reanimate living things, but without restoring their souls. It's an intriguing reference, given the exchange on Vormir, in which Natasha traded her life to get Clint the Soul Stone. Given that the letters the losing party tried appear to potentially spell out "movant," someone who petitions an authority to rule a certain way, there's a much larger conversation to be had.