A question many fans have been asking ever since the opposing teams were first revealed for Captain America: Civil War was cracked open again with the release of the second trailer back in March, and like many good things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe it concerns Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow / Natasha Romanoff.
Long have we wondered, exactly what is Black Widow doing on the Pro-Accords side of the divide? As an ex-Soviet spy and ex-S.H.I.E.L.D. operative Natasha Romanoff is no stranger to pledging total loyalty to a system, which is why it may not seem immediately strange for her to be teaming up with Tony Stark / Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) on the side of the government when the shit hits the fan in [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409).
However, we were more than a little surprised to see Black Widow standing with Iron Man's when the first lot of promo images landed, largely due to the events of [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973), in which she featured heavily.
Black Widow was first introduced to the MCU back in 2010's Iron Man 2, and since then Johansson's Natasha Romanoff has become a fan favourite despite lack of representation both on-screen and in merchandise.
So when we learned that Widow was set to have a pretty central role in the upcoming Civil War it was a exciting piece of news, especially given the excellent treatment her character had previously received at the hands of the Russo Brothers in The Winter Soldier.
'Captain America: The Winter Soldier'
The Winter Soldier tested Natasha as much as it did Captain America / Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) himself, and she features heavily throughout the film.
In case you forgot, The Winter Soldier deals with the downfall of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the attempts made by Hydra double agents within their ranks to stir global chaos, with the aim being to trick the world into surrendering its freedom in exchange for security. This cumulated in "Project Insight": three heavily armed, satellite-linked Helicarriers designed to proactively strike out against potential threats before they even occured.
The central ideology of The Winter Soldier was concerned with the fallibility of institutions, namely those who are installed to contain and control the public, recalling attitudes of Cold War paranoia.
When Civil War rolls around Captain America refuses to support the Sokovia Accords because he still believes in personal freedom, the same reason he opposed Project Insight in The Winter Soldier (though there is of course also the Bucky element coming heavily into play).
Black Widow In 'Civil War'
So what about Black Widow? Her loyalty to Steve even when he was branded a fugitive during The Winter Soldier makes it feel a little odd that she would turn against him now. Especially when her other established loyalties lie with Hawkeye / Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner), who also stands with Cap when the shit hits the fan in Civil War.
As co-director Anthony Russo told Empire:
"It’s a great position to put Natasha in in this movie. In a way, her head is with Tony’s side of things, but her heart is with Cap in a lot of ways. It’s a really awesome spot for her as a character in the film."
When IGN visited the set of Civil War last year they witnessed Black Widow and Hawkeye using their respective skills to kick bits out of each other, and had a chat with the one of the movie's writers Christopher Markus about why Natasha's situation in particular is "especially complicated".
Of her character arc, Markus said:
"It's difficult, because [Natasha's] not trained to take sides. She's trained to be a duplicitous double-agent and have loyalties for sale. Obviously, she's well on her way to not being that person, but it's still… Standing up next to someone and taking a side and going 'No, I believe in this!' is counter to her nature. So in a way, it’s almost the toughest for her than anybody to go, 'This is my side and I'm sticking to it.'"
Why Team Iron Man?
But again, why Tony's side? Is Natasha still trying to scrub the red from her ledger by siding with the government or does she have another agenda?
Perhaps she is actually on Cap's side and joined up with Tony to spy on the opposition. There would be a precedent for this as both Tigra and Hulking infiltrated the other side as spies in the comics. And if someone's gonna do it here, it's probably gonna be Black Widow.
Joe Russo has promised a compelling character arc for Natasha as she struggles with the repercussions of her choices in Civil War, writing her into a corner as such in order for her to work her way out.
"We made some strong choices with Natasha in this movie and it's a tricky arc that she has to play in the film and it's something that... You always want to surprise people. You don't want to make choices that are easy."
Certainly it wont be easy to see her take up arms against Captain America and Hawkeye, and we've seen her in the trailers warning her friend off of his chosen path even as she sets out to take him down.
Is she too driven by guilt as Tony Stark is? And where will this new character arc leave her when the dust settles? Such are the questions we'll see answered soon enough as we approach the Civil War release date. Time to pick a side.