The following story contains spoilers for Hawkeye Episode 4.
It doesn’t happen often, but there have been some cases through the years where the Marvel Cinematic Universe sets something up—whether through a scene or moment within a movie itself, or a post-credits stinger—and doesn’t follow through. Think Tim Blake Nelson’s Dr. Samuel Sterns transforming into The Leader at the end of 2008’s The Incredible Hulk, a moment which was never referenced again. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
Luckily, we know that to definitively not be the case with Black Widow’s exciting post-credits scene, which found Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ mysterious new character Val setting Florence Pugh’s assassin Yelena Belova on a warpath toward one Clint Barton. And in Episode 4 of Hawkeye, we get to see the beginning of that scene’s ultimate payoff.
While Black Widow follows Natasha Romanoff in the time between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War—and introduces viewers to her “family,” played by Pugh, David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz—the film’s post-credits stinger picks up after the events of Avengers: Endgame, with Natasha now deceased. In that scene, Val finds Yelena at Natasha’s grave, and shows her a photo of the person she’s claiming is responsible for her sister’s death: Clint Barton, in full Ronin garb.
Enter Hawkeye Episode 4; while communicating with Kate Bishop (who finds herself fighting Maya/Echo inside her own apartment), Clint doesn’t even realize that a masked, night vision-goggled assailant taking him on is in fact someone from his old friend Natasha’s past. A rumble ensues between all four characters we just mentioned, but by the end of the fight—after Yelena unmasks herself—Clint knows shit has just gotten real. We don’t know if he knows exactly who Yelena is, but even if he doesn’t, he can tell from her moves and those red electricity blasts what her background is (remember the Budapest mission that he and Natasha so often referenced).
Clint doesn’t tell Kate a whole lot—but he lets her know just by his shift in tone (and telling her to get lost) that he does know exactly what’s happening. And it’s not good. “Someone has hired a Black Widow assassin,” he says. “This has gotten very real, very quickly.” We’ll see in the coming episodes just how right he is—but as usual, he seems to be pretty close to the target.
Who is Yelena Belova again?
As depicted in Black Widow (which was released in theaters earlier this year and is now available to stream on Disney+), Yelena Belova was raised as Natasha Romanoff’s “sister,” though the two aren’t blood related. Along with “parents” Alexei Shostakov (a Russian take on a Captain America-esque Super Soldier) and Melina Vostokoff (a Black Widow herself), the four operate as a sleeper cell meant to steal intel from S.H.I.E.L.D. and return it to their handlers from the Red Room, an evil organization that Natasha eventually escaped from.
While Natasha eventually got away from her “family,” Black Widow brings everyone back together for a story that takes place between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame. Yelena and Natasha break “father” Alexei out of jail, and meet up with Melina eventually as well. The movie shows that the entire family really is that—a family—despite not being related at all. By the end of the film, Yelena is so devastated by Natasha’s death, that she’s willing to listen to Val—a stranger—when she tells her that Clint Barton is responsible for Black Widow’s demise (which occurred in Avengers: Endgame).
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What does Yelena want from Clint Barton?
Well, to be honest, she probably wants to kill him! Yelena was a highlight of Black Widow and certainly would be on whatever side Natasha was on; but she doesn’t know what really happened here. And as we’ve already seen in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with John Walker, Val gets her clutches in people and starts getting in their heads and giving them compelling narratives. She’s probably given Yelena a whole story about how Clint needs to die and she’s the one who needs to do it. We don’t know yet where the whole ‘Val recruiting people’ story is going, but this is certainly the beginning and continuation of it.
Also keep in mind that Yelena isn’t just purely brainwashed into evil, and she’s also, uh, very confident. Did you see Kate Bishop point her bow and arrow at her, and Yelena scared her off just by shaking her head? Sheesh, man. Credit to Florence Pugh for owning that single, dialogue-less moment (but anyone who’s seen her in Midsommar or Little Women prior to her MCU turn already knows just how good she is).
One thing’s for sure—we haven’t seen the last of Yelena Belova in Hawkeye.
Where could this all be leading?The final two episodes of Hawkeye figure to be super exciting and action-packed. We’ve been eagerly awaiting to see how one major villain would be folded into the story, and now we know that Clint is going to have to deal with Yelena—the direct fallout of losing Natasha—as well.
What’s likely to happen, though, is that Clint and Yelena will need to come to some sort of understanding. Yelena historically is not a villain, and in the comics eventually takes over the Black Widow mantle from Natasha. Maybe he can talk her out of whatever Val has been whispering into her ear.
It’s possible, too, that Kate and Yelena start to build some sort of relationship (if they get to share any further screentime). If Kate becomes the new Hawkeye, and Yelena becomes the new Black Widow, this would be following the spirit of the close relationship between the previous people to hold those titles, Natasha and Clint. Could Clint be a casualty as the story gets there? That much we don’t know.
As the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues to build toward its next major era and storyline, these are a few ways that things could wind up going.
Evan is an associate editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE.
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