'Black Widow' Ending Explained: What Comes Next For The Marvel Cinematic Universe?

Natasha Romanov's (Scarlett Johansson) time has finally come — her long-awaited solo adventure is in theaters right now and is also available on Disney+ with Premier Access. This means, whether you opt to return to your local theater or pony up $30 to watch in your living room, you get to enjoy what may be Natasha's last hurrah and see the first new Marvel film in almost two years.

Like any Marvel movie, Black Widow comes with huge implications for the wider MCU, so once the credits start rolling, you're sure to be chock-full of questions. What happens now? What does this mean for Natasha? Haven't you seen that hairstyle before? And what's with her cool new vest? No worries, we've got you covered.

Major spoilers for Black Widow ahead.

What Happens to the Red Room?

Natasha's solo film is all about confronting her past, which is why Black Widow opens decades ago, in 1995, with a young Natasha and Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) being whisked away to the Red Room. There they are brainwashed and trained to become the world's deadliest assassins, so elite that they have the power to "start and end wars." Thankfully, Natasha not only escapes but defects to SHIELD and destroys the assassin training program. Or so she thinks.

We're told that her defection was solidified by killing General Dreykov (Ray Winstone), the mastermind behind the Red Room. But Dreykov both survives the assassination attempt and continues to run his Widow training program from the shadows. Believed to be dead, he goes un-pursued and finds a way to chemically condition the girls, to prevent any more betrayals or defections.

Of course, no plan is bulletproof: in Yelena's first appearance as an adult, she is freed from Dreykov by Red Dust, a chemical agent that works as an antidote to mind control. After reuniting with her sister, the pair set out to finish what Natasha started — taking down Dreykov's Red Room and freeing the other girls from his will.

To follow through, the girls recruit their surrogate parents. They break their "father," Aleksei Shostakov (David Harbour) out of prison, and we learn that he was once the Red Guardian, the Russian counterpart to Captain America. A fair bit of unresolved trauma comes up along the way, but ultimately Aleksei knows very little about the current Red Room and brings them to their "mother" Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), revealed to be the scientist behind the Red Room's chemical control.

After an awkward (and eventually insightful) family dinner, Melina reveals that she alerted the Red Room of their arrival and a plan hatches from there. They allow themselves to be taken directly to Dreykov, to defeat him and free the Widows all at once. Together, as a fun family outing, Natasha and her newly reunited pseudo-family destroy the Red Room by administering the antidote to the remaining Widows, blowing up Dreykov's sky base and killing him in the process. Without Dreykov to lead it, the Red Room dissolves. The only issue left is the many Widows still scattered across the Globe — luckily, Natasha has a plan for them too.

Who is the Taskmaster?

In her first attempt to kill Dreykov, Natasha made a difficult, morally grey decision. In order to be sure they would get their target, she tracked Dretykov's young daughter Antonia (Olga Kurylenko) into a building to confirm his location. Natasha chose not to back down from the opportunity to eliminate Dreykov and accepted Antonia's death as collateral damage. Years later, the deadly assassin known as Taskmaster is unveiled, and it's a heavily scarred Antonia. After equipping her with a chip, Dreykov made his daughter into his greatest weapon: a perfect mimic. He prepared her with footage of other fighters, forcing her to study their technique and ensuring that she could perfectly imitate whoever she was up against. Battling the Taskmaster, according to Yelena, is like fighting a mirror.

Natasha is able to free Antonia from Dreykov's control along with the other Widows. Though Antonia continues her pursuit once the Red Room is blown up, wrestling Natasha in the air and all the way down the ground, our heroine manages to hit her with Red Dust. In the end, she joins the freed widows in their escape.

What Will Happen to the Remaining Widows?

We now find ourselves with a surplus of Widows, which doesn't make up for losing our first and favorite in Avengers: Endgame, but does promise plenty of fun to come. As Yelena, Antonia, and the many Widows escape, a huge question hangs in the air: what will become of Dreykov's network of assassins?

Before destroying the Red Room, Natasha is able to download the content of Dreykov's console, which includes the locations of the many Widows, which she then hands to Yelena. It seems only fitting that Yelena will finish the job and set her many sisters free. In passing on the job, Natasha hands over the mantle as the MCU's Black Widow, putting the ball fully in Yelena's court. Finishing the job may be her next move, but what will Yelena do after that? Here's a hint: the end-credits scene presents an exciting possibility.

Where Does Black Widow Fit Into the Timeline?

Other than an opening scene about Natasha's childhood and an end-credits scene following her Avengers: Infinity War death, Black Widow takes place right after Captain America: Civil War. You can likely put that together based on the reappearance of General Ross (William Hurt), the U.S. Secretary of State who presents the Avengers with the Sokovia Accords. After that big airport battle, Natasha defects from Team Iron Man to Team Cap, helping Steve and Bucky escape by slowing down T'Challa. In violation of the Sokovia Accords, she begins Black Widow on the run.

There's also another fun hint at when Black Widow takes place: Natasha and Yelena have a number of adorable running jokes between them, and one of them lets us know that Avengers: Infinity War happens soon after this adventure.

After escaping the Widows in Budapest and resolving to take down the Red Room together, the sisters drive to meet Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle) and Yelena tells Natasha about the first thing she ever bought for herself: her many-pocketed vest. Natasha teases, but Yelena tells her the vest is more than an "army surplus" accessory. It's a symbol of having control over her life. Natasha, more than anyone, understands how important that can be and relents, admitting she does like the vest.

Yelena must take note of this because after the Red Room is defeated and the two prepare to go their separate ways, she hands the vest over to Natasha. Eagle-eyed viewers will recognize this as Natasha's future outfit, which matches her platinum blonde haircut and new quinjet, and all appear in Avengers: Infinity War.

Will We Ever See Natasha Again?

Natasha's death in Avengers: Endgame was padded by the knowledge that her solo film would follow her tragic end. We always had a sense that it would take place long before her demise, and never anticipated her coming back to life...but knowing we'd see her again made the death a little easier. So if you choked up seeing her gravestone in the end credits scene, you had good reason: this may end up being our last adventure with Natasha Romanov.

In an interview with Fatherly, Scarlett Johansson indicated that she certainly thinks of this as Natasha's final appearance. Johansson said:

"I have no plans to return as Natasha. I feel really satisfied with this film. It feels like a great way to go out for this chapter of my Marvel identity."

That being said, the Marvel Universe continues to expand in weirder and messier ways, including the upcoming What If...? series that literally resurrects dead characters in alternate universes. And then there's all the time-bending madness to come from Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, and the final episode of the Disney+ series Loki. All that to say, even if Natasha doesn't find her way back to the world of the living, there may be other opportunities for Johansson to return. She says so herself, adding:

"I would love to be able to continue to collaborate with Marvel in other ways because I think there's just an incredible wealth of stories there. Re-imagining this genre is something that I find very interesting. I think there's a lot of opportunities to tell these stories in different ways than audiences have come to expect."

Black Widow is in theaters now and streaming on Disney+ with Premier access.