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The Best Decisions Black Widow Made In The MCU

In a testosterone-fueled franchise filled to bursting with burly, god-like superheroes, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) contains one significant outlier in the shape of Natasha Romanoff aka Black Widow. An ordinary human who had spent decades as a covert assassin, Natasha relied more on her brains than muscle to win battles. 

Nat was one of the OG Avengers at a time when the roster was filled almost exclusively by men. However, she was far from the token female character who was only there to look good. Over the course of more than a decade, fans followed Black Widow on a turbulent personal journey filled with triumphs but also heartaches. 

At long last, after Natasha had already completed her journey within the main MCU timeline, fans finally got to watch her in her own solo movie. It added further depth to the character, while also setting up Yelena Belova as the next character to take up the mantle of Black Widow. Let us take a look at some of the most important decisions taken by Natasha Romanoff over the years that had a major impact on her life, Earth itself, and the universe at large.      

Defecting from Russia

Natasha's (played by Scarlett Johansson) story began on the streets of Russia, where Natalia Alianovna Romanoff was born on December 3, 1984 in Stalingrad. Her fate was sealed before her birth. A clandestine government program called the "Red Room" deemed her genetic potential to be immense. Accordingly, the Room purchased Natasha from her family and inducted her into their school for assassins, a plot point inspired by real-life examples.

As a member of the Room, Natasha was subjected to extreme training and brainwashing to turn her into the perfect assassin. Growing into adulthood, Nat was given the code-name "Black Widow," and sent on a number of missions around the world to perform killings on behalf of the Red Room. Despite having been an assassin her whole life, Natasha secretly yearned to break away from the life of a killer-for-hire. 

Opportunity knocked when she came into contact with Clint Barton aka Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and was presented with the chance to defect from Russia and become a US citizen. Natasha seized the offer and became a SHIELD operative under Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Thus began Black Widow's path to redemption and her journey towards becoming a part of the greatest superhero team in the world.

Befriending Clint Barton

A life of lies, secrecy, and distrust was all Natasha had ever known, and it was all she thought she was capable of. But destiny forced her to reassess her priorities and principles when Natasha came into the crosshairs of SHIELD. Nick Fury deemed Black Widow a growing threat to global security, and sent Clint Barton to Russia to take her down. 

Nat was made aware of Barton's mission, and the two legendary assassins squared off in an epic covert battle. The fight ended prematurely when Clint saw in Natasha not a ruthless killer, but a traumatized person looking for a way out. Upon his recommendation, SHIELD offered Nat the chance to defect to the US if she could kill Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the head of the Red Room.  

Nat accepted the offer, and she worked with Clint to bomb the building housing Dreykov. In the aftermath of the mission, Clint and Nat spent days hiding out together, and developed a strong bond of friendship. In a lot of ways, Clint was the first person Natasha could ever truly trust, and one of the most valuable people in her life. Their friendship endured all the way to the bitter end, when the two found themselves alone together on the cliffs of the planet Vormir in search of the Soul Stone. 

Joining the Avengers

After joining SHIELD, Nat tried to start her new life and put the past behind her, but that was easier said than done. She continued to be haunted by guilt over the many lives she had taken as a Russian assassin. Even working for SHIELD, Fury routinely entrusted Nat with the kind of tasks that other agents would find morally questionable.

While Nat always completed such assignments with perfect efficiency, she secretly yearned to lead a more heroic life than that of an assassin. And then Natasha learned of the "Avengers" initiative, which would bring together a group of extraordinary individuals to take on the kind of threats not even SHIELD was equipped to handle. 

Natasha's entry into the Avengers team was as Fury's covert eyes and ears. But after becoming a member, Nat devoted herself to becoming a true hero. Someone who not only fought monsters, but tried to do the moral thing rather than whatever the government wanted. Due to her new role as an Avenger, Black Widow became an empowering figure for little girls everywhere, and a guiding light for the superhero community as a whole. 

Getting closer to Bruce

While Natasha had good friends in her life now, she was still used to keeping everyone at arm's length. That changed after she met Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), the genius scientist tormented by his monstrous alter-ego the Hulk. When every previous attempt to strongarm Bruce into working for the government failed, Nick Fury sent Natasha to try to coax him out of hiding.   

Bruce and Nat's relationship got off to a rocky start, since he viewed her as a manipulative government agent, and she had every reason to fear Bruce turning angry and green. But over time, Nat and Bruce actually started growing closer. She was the only one who could reach out to the Hulk in full rage mode and help him transform back into Bruce. The Nat-Bruce romance caught many fans off-guard. But there was something undeniably sweet about seeing two broken individuals with such painful pasts finding some measure of comfort in each other's company. 

Opening up emotionally for the first time, Nat confided in Bruce her desire to start a family despite not being biologically capable of having children. Even after the relationship inevitably ended, both Bruce and Natasha continued to have a soft spot for each other. Perhaps in some unknown corner of the MCU multiverse, things worked out differently, and Nat and Bruce were finally able to put their pasts behind them to start a new life together.

Breaking off from SHIELD

Ever since the start of the MCU, SHIELD represented mysterious but all-encompassing government might. It's the organization with seemingly unlimited resources and knowledge, which has access to alien objects of unimaginable power, and can also at a moment's notice assemble Earth's Mightiest Heroes to take on any sort of threat to the planet.

But SHIELD's bona fides began to be called into question ever since 2012's "The Avengers," when they were shown to be secretly building weapons of mass destruction using alien tech. Things got even uglier in 2014's "Captain America: The Winter Soldier," which unveiled that a faction of the evil HYDRA organization had been infiltrating and controlling parts of SHIELD for years. 

On the heels of the revelation, Natasha had to decide where her priorities lay. Despite SHIELD being responsible for her transition from covert Russian killer to America hero, Nat did not hesitate to work with Captain America and Nick Fury to expose SHIELD's vulnerabilities. It was clear by that point that Natasha had stopped relying on any one organization to give her a sense of identity or purpose.   

Helping train new Avengers

While no one could question Black Widow's work ethic or capabilities, they could (and did) constantly question her behavior towards the people she was working alongside. Given Natasha's long history as a double agent, it is hardly surprising that both Iron Man and Captain America were deeply suspicious of her motives at different points.  

This kind of attitude naturally got in the way of Nat forming deeper bonds with anyone other than Clint, and later Bruce. Despite growing accustomed to having her allies mistrust her motives all the time, Natasha proved she was all in as a member of the "Avengers." Along with Cap, Nat was in charge of training the new crop of members in mission-related matters. 

At the start of 2016's "Captain America: Civil War," we see Black Widow teaching Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) how to carry out a covert operation. Later after their team was declared renegades by the US government, Natasha continued to watch out for their interests, jumping in at the last minute to save Wanda and Vision (Paul Bettany) in 2019's "Avengers: Infinity War." Despite being viewed as the ultimate double-agent, Nat had nothing but loyalty in her heart for her teammates.  

Getting between Iron Man and Captain America

"Captain America: Civil War" saw the Avengers at their lowest. Thor and Hulk were off the roster, and the remaining members had fallen to infighting. The source of contention was the Sokovia Accords that Captain America refused to sign, and which Tony Stark aka Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) saw as necessary for international cooperation.

Although Nat technically sided with Tony on the issue, she took a far less belligerent attitude towards Steve than Tony did. In fact, Nat tried hard every step of the way to de-escalate the growing conflict and make Tony and Steve come to the table to try to work out an agreement. She was also working with Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman) to try to get to the bottom of his issues with Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan).

When Bucky's involvement proved to be the flashpoint for the all-out war between Team Cap and Team Iron Man, Natasha once again kept her eye on the bigger picture. Realizing that there was a deeper reason behind Steve's actions, she turned against Iron Man's team at the last moment to give Cap and Bucky the chance to get away. The move caused Tony's distrust of Nat to grow even deeper, but Nat stuck to her belief that she had acted in the best possible manner — and later events proved her right.  

Apologizing to Yelena

After the events of "Captain America: Civil War," Natasha took some time off from being an Avenger to go solo. That was when she came into contact again with Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh). Natasha and Yelena had both been trained by the Red Room, and were once part of a pretend spy family together.

After the family cover was blown, Nat and Yelena were torn apart and did not see each other again for decades. Despite years of brainwashing and being kept apart, Yelena never forgot her pretend-big sister. When the two finally met again, Yelena could not hide her love for Natasha despite still hurting because Nat never tried to look for her. In the end, Natasha realized she still saw Yelena as her sister, and the two were reunited. 

Even if the reunion did not last for long, it helped resolve the feeling of guilt that Natasha had carried with her for years over the way things ended with Yelena. Thanks to Nat's love, Yelena was also able to put some of the demons of her childhood to rest, and prepare to follow in her big sister's footsteps as a superhero.   

Reuniting with her fake family

In 2021's "Black Widow," Natasha goes back to Russia to deal with the ghosts of her past. The ghosts in question are Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour), Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz) and Yelena Belova. Together, Nat and the others had once been part of a Russian spy network posing as a regular American family. 

At first Natasha only worked with the others out of necessity, and still in some way held them responsible for the trauma she had endured as a child, particularly Alexei and Melina. But as the movie progressed, Nat started to realize the futility of holding on to past grudges, and the fact that the other three did genuinely love her despite their family life having been a lie.

By the end of the movie, Natasha decides to forgive and forget about past mistakes, and the four former Russian spies come together to create a new family unit with genuine love and support for each other. The family life is cut short once again by the fact that Natasha is still a wanted criminal. But her experiences in Russia helped Nat put to rest many of the demons from her past, and gave her a new sense of appreciation for the "Avengers" family she had left behind. 

Ending the Red Room

While Natasha had faced many foes in the past, the "Red Room" program represented everything that was wrong with her life ever since infancy. It was the same program that had torn Natasha away from her birth family and turned her into a world-famous assassin haunted by guilt and depression over the many people she had killed over the years. 

That was why when Natasha was given the chance to end the Red Room once and for all, she did not hesitate to take the opportunity. It was a difficult task, since Nat was a wanted fugitive. She would be going into Russia without any external aid, and taking the help of people she had not met or trusted since her tweens. However, Natasha knew she had to do everything possible to make sure no more girl children would have to endure what she did in her childhood.

After a grim battle, Nat finally came face-to-face with Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room whom she once thought she had killed. Overcoming Dreykov was not easy, and Nat literally had to beat herself bloody to get over her "Black Widow" conditioning. But in the end, Natasha was able to eliminate Dreykov once and for all, end the Red Room, and even save the life of Dreykov's daughter (Olga Kurylenko) whom Nat mistakenly believed she had once killed.  

Keeping Fury's beeper running

One of the most underrated relationships in the MCU was the one that developed between Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff. Fury was not the type to have many friends, and neither was Natasha. Instead, both believed in keeping things close to the chest and keeping their allies at arm's length. 

Nevertheless, Fury was the first person other than Clint who truly believed Natasha wanted to defect from Russia and work for the US government. Over the next few years, Nat became one of Fury's most trusted agents. Even though they did not share all their secrets with each other, both trusted the other implicitly to always be working towards the greater good. That was why, after Fury got dusted away by Thanos' snap and the Avengers found his secret beeper left behind, Natasha knew better than to ignore the device's importance. 

Despite Fury never having told her anything about what the beeper was for, Nat insisted that it be kept turned on, confident that whoever Fury had been trying to contact would be an important ally in their time of desperate need. Thanks to Natasha's faith, Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) heard the beeper, and finally returned to Earth to join the Avengers.  

Leading the Avengers

2019's "Avengers: Endgame" saw the superhero team at their lowest point ever. Half the roster had been dusted away. Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America were struggling with personal issues of guilt and depression. And the remaining Avengers who were in fighting shape had no idea who or what to fight to undo the effects of Thanos' snap.

It was Natasha, of all people, who became the team's rallying point in this time period. Despite usually preferring to keep a low profile within the team, Nat stepped up to the plate and acted as the leader that everyone needed. She helped organize and maintain a record of all the heroes who had been lost in the snap, and set up channels of communication with the government, the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Captain Marvel.

Thanks to Nat's efforts, the Avengers continued to function as a team instead of splintering off into random factions or drifting apart over the 5 years since the snap had taken place. When Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) finally arrived on the scene with a plan to undo the effects of the snap, he found the Avengers together and ready to do whatever it took to get back all that they had lost. Natasha also personally went to find Hawkeye and bring him back into the fold. 

Accepting the Time Heist plan

For five long years, the Avengers struggled to find a way to undo Thanos' act of wiping out half of all life in the universe. Despite the combined resources of heroes and civilizations across the universe, there seemed to be nothing that could be done except deal with the losses and try to move on. 

Then Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) dropped in on the Avengers, babbling something about a "quantum realm" and time-travel. Tony Stark did some math and figured out there was plenty of truth to Scott's confused rants, and suddenly the Avengers had the chance to go back in time, get the infinity stones before Thanos, and undo the effects of the snap.

It was a terribly risky plan laden with difficulties. Not only was there very little chance of it actually working, but the Avengers were in danger of losing even more members to untested time-traveling technology. In the end, as the new leader, Natasha made the decision to go ahead with the time-travel-heist plan as a last ditch attempt to save the world. Fortunately, the gamble paid off, even though it exacted the greatest personal cost from Natasha.  

Sacrificing her life to save the Universe

Out of all the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff was generally seen as the least heroic, in terms of being a former professional killer and double agent. In fact, when Natasha was invited to try to lift Thor's hammer in "Avengers: Age of Ultron," she refused point-blank because she already knew she would not be considered worthy. 

However, as the events of "Avengers: Endgame" proved, everyone underestimated Natasha, including herself. After traveling to the past, Nat and Clint arrived on the planet Vormir in search of the Soul stone. There they were told that in order to get the stone, one must first sacrifice that which they hold the dearest. Clint had already lost his whole family, and welcomed the chance to put an end to his misery by sacrificing his own life. But Natasha was having none of it. 

She had already decided to make the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the Avengers, and the entire universe. Despite Clint's best efforts to stop her, Natasha willingly jumped to her death in exchange for Clint gaining access to the Soul Stone. And so Black Widow's tortured, roller-coaster life ended with the ultimate sacrifice that turned the often-distrusted former assassin into a martyr whose loss sent shockwaves of grief across the MCU. While the fandom mourned Nat's loss, Scarlett Johansson herself was satisfied with how things played out for her character.