When the team allegiances were announced, many fans were shocked to discover that Black Widow was siding with Iron Man. After [Captain America: The Winter Soldier](tag:254973) saw Natasha and Steve form an unlikely yet loyal friendship, it seemed inconsistent for Nat to turn around and support Steve's adversary. Yet, the plot of [Captain America: Civil War](tag:994409) is far more complex than that, and, as with most of the characters, Natasha's motivations are totally understandable.
[ Warning: mild spoilers ahead ]
Ultimately, Natasha's choices in Civil War have a huge influence on the plot, and her journey is one of the most poignant and compelling.
When the issue of the Sokovia Accords is raised, Natasha immediately argues in favour of them. As the Avengers reconvene after the initial meeting we saw in the trailer, Natasha is one of the most vocal among them. She doesn't like the restrictions that will be placed on them, but as far as she's concerned there isn't another option. Fighting the Accords would mean sacrificing more than their freedom.
One of the most satisfying things about Civil War was how it wasn't, in the end, filled with bickering arguments and rising tension before the eventual climactic fight scene. Unlike previous Avengers movies, which saw the characters (specifically Steve and Tony) aggravate each other so much that they seemed incapable of having a simple conversation, Civil War, ironically, was the most civil Marvel film yet.
Of course, there were debates and arguments, but it felt real. Before the issue got more complicated when a certain character's freedom was compromised, Steve, Nat, and even Tony, tried to find some middle ground. And Natasha was able to play mediator, in her typical Black Widow fashion.
For months, fans have been wondering if Black Widow would play the role that Spider-Man fulfilled in the original Civil War comic book: caught between two sides, and moving from one team to the other. Without spoiling too much, suffice to say that the filmmakers definitely also considered this parallel, and it plays out in a very interesting way.
You could argue that Natasha sides with Iron Man so she can prevent this civil war from getting too vicious, in an attempt to minimise the casualties. But for all her efforts, Nat ends up sacrificing more than any of the other characters.
A Poetic Conclusion
The Winter Soldier was perhaps Black Widow's best film: we finally saw past the facade to Nat herself as she learned to trust her team-mate. And in the conclusion she threw away her carefully protected anonymity, fearlessly leaking S.H.I.E.L.D. files online.
At Winter Soldier's end Natasha walks away from Capitol Hill, smiling and triumphant, having stepped out of the shadows to take responsibility for what she believes is right. Civil War shows Nat doing much the same thing - following her decision to toe the line and supporting accountability - and yet by the end of the film her role has shifted dramatically.
About a month ago, the Russo brothers claimed that Civil War would change the MCU even more the The Winter Soldier did. They weren't exaggerating. The events of the film are explosive, altering the dynamic of this world forever. So where do we find Nat when the dust settles?
Well, we don't. Like most of the characters, Nat's fate is unsure at Civil War's conclusion. After she takes her stand, Natasha marches off into the shadows once more, leaving the audience wondering where she can go from here.
While The Avengers saw her swear to wipe out the red in her ledger, and in The Winter Soldier she helped end corruption, by the end of Civil War Natasha has followed her finely woven thread into a darker, uncertain future. And we can only hope that she can finally live her life the way she wants to.