Formation: The Homage to Natasha Romanoff

Avengers Endgame Spoilers Ahead

Natasha Romanoff is a complex, remarkably strong, incredible Avenger—the first female one to be exact, and an impeccable leader at that. And most importantly, Natasha Romanoff is a woman worth celebrating. She’s a woman who’s never left others alone and with that choice, success has often followed the battles she’s taken part in. Avengers: Endgame did a lot for Natasha’s character growth, but most importantly it reminded us of the heart and the nurturing spirit that’s always been beneath our Black Widow. I would’ve wished for the story to end differently, it’s safe to assume we all would have, but the legacy she’s left behind as a woman who believes and fights for others will always be worth celebrating.

The moment Clint and Natasha got to Vormir, my immediate and unwanted thought was “love is for children, I owe him a debt.” (Thanks a lot, brain for anchoring to that one line since 2012.) And I hate how right I was in the fear that Nat would be the one to go in that moment, but I suppose I understood it. I understood her decision because of who she is as a human and inadvertently, who she is as a friend. She’ll take the fall for anyone and stand before any bullet long before she lets any of her loved ones feel even an ounce of pain. And she’ll do it especially for Clint Barton. Natasha’s belief in being there for her family is something that’s been sprinkled into the films with great intricacy. For her, there are no monsters—no matter their stance, she’s always looked to the heart of who the being is. It’s seen with admirable potency in her ability to comfort Clint after Loki’s mind control and it’s seen remarkably in her ability to understand Bruce better than anyone else.

If you’ve listened to any of my podcasts on the Marvel Cinematic Universe, then you’ve heard me mention how the writing for Natasha has often bothered me. There’s always been so much more to her character than the words allowed us to see, which thankfully have still presented themselves on the screen because of Scarlett Johansson’s portrayal. (The silent moment of her crying into a peanut butter and jelly sandwich actually broke me. I’m talking full-blown tears right alongside her.) But while films in the past haven’t paid proper homage to who our Black Widow is, Infinity War and Endgame brought her story full circle beautifully. And for a while there, Black Widow was the only female representation of an Avenger we had—yes, few had come before her (Peggy Carter, Pepper Potts), but none had been granted the title she was and as our beacon of hope for what the future would represent, Natasha served as an impeccable paradigm. And that’s what makes the final female-driven formation against Thanos so riveting to have witnessed. (Cue Beyoncé’s “Formation.”)

As a result of the unwavering loyalty governing her decisions, when Natasha Romanoff tells anyone that they are not alone, she means it, and she especially means it when they’re fighting on the same side. It’s what makes her death at Vormir that much more gut-wrenching when you remember her quiet promise to always protect Clint. There’s a lot she’d allow, but for the family who has welcomed her in as “Auntie Nat,” losing their father wouldn’t be one of those things. And that’s just it, while it’s often never easy to find beauty in death, especially where representation and past writing errors are concerned, Natasha’s death wasn’t just for Clint—it was her job as newly appointed (self or otherwise official) director of S.H.I.E.L.D. It was her job to keep tabs and protect everyone because finding her family after growing up trained to be an assassin has brought her home. The Avengers have been her rock, her one constant— the most immaculate love she’s ever known. Whether it’d be for the Soul Stone on Vormir or an accidental house fire with only Rocket inside, Natasha would’ve inserted herself into the equation in order to save the other. And for her best friend, the greatest confidant especially, there’d be no questions. The same best friend who’d fight like hell against her to ensure she doesn’t win this battle because he, too would do anything for her.

That’s what makes the battle at Vormir so compelling because Clint refused to let go until she kicked herself off. Clint and Natasha have been each other’s person from the very beginning, as appropriate as the title is. (Did anyone else choke up earlier in the film when they caught the arrow necklace Natasha was wearing?) That’s a part of who she’s always been, Clint Barton’s person and most prodigious “pain in the ass”—as he’s been hers. From Budapest to New York to Vormir. The love that has run through their veins for the other has been a pillar of strength, and their belief in the other’s character is unprecedented. If you had told me back in 2012 that one day these two would fight against one another for the greater good like this, I’d burst into tears right then and there. It hurts like hell to have watched this, to have seen Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye burst into tears for the first time on-screen, but the poignant glory was then not only showcased in The Avengers saving the world, but in the exhibition that she is, in every way, the glue who’s always anchored them home.

Here’s the thing, despite finding some sort of a poetic conclusion to all this, it doesn’t erase the pain or sadness that’s now deeply felt for our first female Avenger. But when each of the ladies line up after Okoye assures Thanos that Carol isn’t alone in her fight against him, something magical happens. I’m content with the fact that though scenes similar to it may follow in the future, none will be as powerful, for this formation served its purpose with profound vitality. In true spirit of Natasha Romanoff’s promise that Wanda would never be alone, these ladies will stand by each other in whatever battle is ahead, side by side ready to take on whoever’s threatening them. And that, is poetic cinema at its best. A great number of indescribably badass, remarkably complex women promising that they’ll have each other’s backs through everything. I couldn’t have imagined a better homage to Natasha Romanoff or a moment as boldly moving that’d make an entire theater collectively cheer. If there’s any instant where I imagine her looking down with utmost pride, this was it. They won. The Avengers won and the ladies did so together — fighting side by side while lifting one another up. It’s what she would’ve done without question, and it brought light to her legacy with a transcendent moment that’s bound to inspire the next generation of little girls on the playground.

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