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The most exciting moment in ‘Black Widow’ isn’t the credits scene

Published Jul 11th, 2021 10:33AM EDT
Red Guardian
Image: Marvel Studios

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Black Widow

is out in theaters and available on Disney+ Premier Access. From the moment Marvel announced the Black Widow movie, we all knew the film would be a prequel story. Natasha Romanoff (Scarlet Johansson) already died on the big screen, playing one of the most critical roles in beating Thanos. Black Widow can only be the origin story the hero never got, with little impact on the future of the MCU. Many Marvel fans already know that much is true. The film is a great Marvel story that has little impact on the bigger picture in the MCU. But there is a great Red Guardian vs. Captain America gem in the movie that might turn out to be even more exciting than the film’s post-credits scene.

Before we go any further, I’ll warn you that significant spoilers follow below.

The post-credits scene

We talked not once but twice about the Black Widow post-credits scene even before the film launch. Val (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) visits Yelena (Florence Pugh) in Ohio, at Nat’s grave. We learn that Yelena has been working for Val for quite a while, and the anti-Nick Fury machiavellian spy gives the new Black Widow an exciting mission. Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) is Yelena’s next target. Val describes Clint as the man responsible for Nat’s fate in Endgame.

There’s nothing about Red Guardian or Captain America in any of this. We’ve already explained why the scene is so exciting. First of all, it delivers one of the primary Black Widow connections to the future of the MCU. Secondly, it reintroduces Val and establishes another potential team of superheroes. So far, Val has recruited Yelena and US Agent. Finally, it sets in motion events that will impact other MCU stories, with Hawkeye possibly being one of them.

But let’s rewind…

Black Widow Red Guardian
Red Guardian (David Harbour) in Black Widow. Image source: Marvel Studios

Red Guardian vs. Captain America

After meeting Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour) early in the film, we reacquaint ourselves with the Russian operative some 21 years later. He’s rotting in prison, and his Red Guardian days seem far behind. While arm-wrestling other inmates, Alexei tells them a story about how he faced Captain America in his best days. It’s a story the inmates already know, and some of them dare dispute.

Alexei says he fought Captain America in ’83-’84, at a time when Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) was already frozen in ice. It all seems like a blatant lie, one Alexei desperately needs. He has to cope with his failures. He’s no longer the Soviet super-soldier that he once was. He’s stuck in prison, and the only family he had is long gone.

He later taunts Nat about Rogers, asking her if he ever told her about him.

What if it’s not a lie?

Could the Red Guardian vs. Captain America fight be real? Could it have happened in the mid-80s? And if so, was it Chris Evans’s Steve Rogers who fought Alexei? Or was it some time-traveling, multiverse-hopping Captain America?

Alexei knows who Steve Rogers is. The Black Widow action happens between Civil War and Infinity War. He would recognize his face. So Red Guardian would think he fought the MCU’s Steve Rogers.

Harbour told Inverse that Alexei’s Red Guardian vs. Captain America stories are true for Alexei.

“There’s a thing, confabulation, where people actually just believe their lies to such a degree that even when confronted with reality, they can’t process it,” Harbour said. “It doesn’t make sense [to them]. I think Alexei is very much the same way. He lives this reality completely independent of what other people have seen or heard.”

“I will say they are absolutely true, 100 percent,” the actor says. “Part of the fun thing about Alexei is that I wasn’t interested in reality. He doesn’t even know that he’s lying.”

Black Widow director Cate Shortland thinks both are true. Alexei is lying, and he’s telling the truth. “I wanna see Alexei and Captain America together,” she said. “If we saw them together now, I think we know what would happen. I don’t want to see Alexei poo his pants. I think that’s what would happen. You’d find this little boy in the corner crying his eyes out.”

Will Red Guardian’s big fight with Captain America ever happen?

That’s one of the most exciting prospects after Black Widow. Yes, we’ll have another Black Widow in the person of Yelena. That’s already an exciting passing of the mantle. The character is hilarious, and she knows how to handle herself. And we definitely need more of Pugh in the MCU now that Nat is gone.

But imagine a story where Steve Rogers’s Captain America would have to battle a Red Guardian in the ‘80s. Such a story would have time-travel and multiverse written all over it. Sadly, it’s just wishful thinking for the time being. The closest thing we have to a Red Guardian vs. Captain America fight is the battle between Alexei and Taskmaster in Black Widow.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.