Despite the fallout of the Budapest that haunted Natasha for years, Black Widow hints that she may have not learned anything from the past.
Warning: This post contains Black Widow spoilers.
While the Budapest incident haunted Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) for a long time, it doesn’t seem like she learned anything from it in Black Widow. Ever since it was mentioned in The Avengers, the mission which involved Black Widow and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) had remained a long-running mystery in the MCU. It was once again mentioned in Avengers: Endgame as the pair was sent to Vormir to retrieve the Soul Stone, further piquing the interest of many. But, it wasn’t until Black Widow that Marvel Studios revealed exactly what went down in the Budapest operation.
During her defection, Nat’s final mission was to take out General Dreykov (Ray Winstone) — the head of the Red Room. The plan involved tailing his young daughter, Antonia (Olga Kurylenko), who was his location indicator. Once this detail was confirmed, Nat detonated the building that the father and child were in. It took Nat and Clint Barton 10 days before they were able to escape the city, two of them were spent in an air duct in a subway station. The incident undoubtedly made them close, but one aspect of it haunted Nat for a long time — the death of Antonia, who didn’t have anything to do with her father’s illegal activities.
In order to cope with the guilt, Black Widow convinced herself that the kid’s death was unpreventable collateral for the mission. However, it continued to linger in her conscience — so much so that when she realized that Antonia was programmed to be Taskmaster by her own father, the Avenger risked her life to make sure that she, too, is saved. In the end, Nat was able to make amends for this particular crime by taking down Dreykov and freeing his daughter; that being said, it doesn’t seem like she learned anything from the whole experience. Once she and Yelena (Florence Pugh) decided to go after the Red Room, their first mission was to break Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian (David Harbour) from prison, believing he knew where the base was. While they successfully extracted their foster father, they had to kill numerous prison guards and leave them all to die trapped in the penitentiary as the avalanche came down.
Chances are that these people were in the way of accomplishing the characters’ mission, it’s ironic that Nat can let them all die while also dealing with her guilt of the supposed murder of Antonia. Like her, most of them are most likely not engaged in nefarious activities. The prisoners may have done their respective crimes, hence why they’re in jail. However, the prison guards and everyone else working in the facility were simply doing their jobs when the escape and subsequent tragedy happened. If Nat was haunted by Antonia’s death for years, seeing these innocent bystanders die for her cause should also have a similar, if not stronger impact on her considering how many lives were lost during the avalanche.
So, while Nat was able to make up for her mistakes to Antonia by ultimately saving her in Black Widow, she basically committed the same crimes to the people who died during their attempt to breakout Alexei from prison. It doesn’t seem like she minded them at all, perhaps because she had more empathy towards a young innocent child-like Dreykov’s daughter was during the Budapest incident rather than grown-up men. But this shouldn’t be the case; at the very least, she should’ve felt remorse for what happened to them.
More: Black Widow: Unanswered MCU Questions
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