While Scarlett Johansson will always be closely linked to the role thanks to her decade as Natasha Romanoff, most fans with even a passing knowledge of comic book lore will know that Black Widow is just a codename, one that’s been passed on to various characters over the years.
November’s prequel will give audiences their final chance to say goodbye to the original Avenger after many felt short-changed by her exit in Endgame, but there’s already been plenty of speculation that this is far from the last we’ll see of Black Widow. You don’t cast one of Hollywood’s fastest-rising stars in Florence Pugh only to give them a one-and-done role, and Yelena Belova has already assumed the mantle before in the pages of Marvel Comics.
Rumors have indicated that Pugh could make a seamless transition into being Johansson’s permanent replacement, and has even been linked to a surprise cameo in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The MCU as a whole is in the midst of sweeping post-Endgame changes with many marquee names reportedly set to be replaced, and in Yelena they have a ready-made and highly-trained operative to take care of all of the franchise’s espionage needs.
In fact, in a recent interview, director Cate Shortland admitted that Florence Pugh is ready and willing to become the MCU’s next major female star, with Scarlett Johansson more than happy to hand over the role as the studio’s resident Black Widow.
“Kevin Feige realised that the audience would expect an origin story so of course, we went in the opposite direction. And we didn’t know how great Florence Pugh would be. We knew she would be great, but we didn’t know how great. Scarlett is so gracious, like, ‘Oh, I’m handing her the baton’. So it’s going to propel another female storyline.”
Although it isn’t exactly an unexpected development, it nonetheless creates some hugely exciting opportunities to tell fresh stories with a new character in the MCU, albeit one with an established backstory. In any case, fans are already in the midst of the longest gap between new MCU movies in a decade, and the November release of Black Widow can’t come soon enough.