Hawkeye is the perfect eulogy for Natasha Romanoff

Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW..Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2020
Marvel Studios' BLACK WIDOW..Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson)..Photo: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2020 /

After Avengers: Endgame’s release in 2019, many Black Widow fans were devastated by the tragic death of original Avenger Natasha Romanoff. Even more so, fans were upset that she didn’t even get a proper funeral in the film, and her death felt like it had very little impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

These critiques mirror ones that have been said for the past decade of Marvel content: Marvel has mistreated Black Widow, up until the end.

She didn’t get her solo film until after she died, and she never truly felt as important or revered as the other Avengers, such as Thor or Captain America. Even in what most fans would call her best appearance in the MCU, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, she is a glorified wingman, trying to get Steve into a relationship for almost the entire film.

In a way, her death and remembrance specifically in the Hawkeye series, which premiered on November 24 on Disney+, has felt a bit like a meta-commentary on Marvel’s treatment of Natasha, and making her death hold weight after the less-than-impressive send-off she got in Endgame.

It feels like Marvel acknowledging their mistakes with Natasha, and trying to make up for them. Marvel is almost admitting: We didn’t treat her right while she was alive, and neither did those within the universe.

In Hawkeye, Natasha acts like a ghost haunting the series. Her death had a profound impact on Clint, who was inspired to hang up the Ronin suit and become a proper family man after watching Natasha sacrifice herself so he could live. He even has to leave the theater while seeing Rogers: The Musical with his family because seeing a pirouetting version of Natasha was enough to trigger memories of their last moment together.

In the most recent episode, Clint even speaks to Natasha while visiting the site of the original Battle of New York. He stares at a plaque with each original Avenger’s name on it and asks Natasha to forgive him for what he’s about to do. These moments of connectivity between Clint and Natasha sell their connection much better than the past ten years of the MCU ever had and show just how deeply Natasha’s sacrifice affects Clint’s daily life.

Besides the clear connection Clint still shares with Natasha and the grief he harbors over her death, Yelena’s introduction in episode 4 allows the show to fully explore Natasha’s death and her impact on the world, or lack thereof. Yelena presses Kate in episode 5, asking if Natasha was simply collateral damage in the Avengers’ heroics, forcing both Kate and the audience to see the pain that losing Natasha has caused her sister.

In episode 5, it’s also revealed that Yelena was snapped away by Thanos, causing her to miss five years, coming back to a world without Natasha. Seeing her point of view allows the audience to understand her anger and pain, especially in having been robbed of seeing her sister one last time. Even though it’s not explicitly stated in the series, I’m sure it was jarring for Yelena to reenter the world filled with memorials for Iron Man and Captain America, with nothing similar for her beloved sister.

Iron Man’s death rocked the people of the MCU to their core, enough to create memorials and publicly mourn together. Captain America’s choice left the people of the MCU to create musicals and museum exhibits about him. Yet the only thing memorializing Natasha is her gravestone in Ohio, which Yelena presumably erected.

Clint and Yelena seem to be the only two haunted by what happened to Natasha, but the series makes a point to force the audience to be included in their pain and remembrance as well.

Where the people of the MCU may never know the true extent of Natasha’s sacrifice, and they may not even care, Hawkeye serves as a way to allow Natasha’s legacy to live on, and give Black Widow the send-off she deserved.

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Hawkeye’s season finale airs Wednesday, December 22, 2021, only on Disney+.