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What happened in Budapest? The city in Hungary was mentioned in a throwaway line in 2012’s The Avengers and has remained a mystery of Natasha Romanoff’s past ever since. Something happened there that tied Natasha and Clint Barton together inextricably, but what that thing was, we never learned.

Until now. Black Widow, a prequel in which Scarlett Johansson will reprise her role as the super-spy, will reveal what exactly happened in Budapest and why Natasha is so “haunted” by it.

A press release from Marvel went into detail about Natasha’s ties to Budapest, “a city where she once participated in a mission with Clint Barton.” But that’s all we’ve known about Budapest in the MCU thus far — and it might have kept its reputation as a recurring gag, if not for Black Widow. The upcoming Marvel Studios solo film takes place partly in Budapest, but will be more than just a location where Natasha can throw down with Florence Pugh’s Yelena. The city has a significance to Natasha, which Johansson speaks about in the press release:

“When we first started talking about locations—back when everything was possible—we all agreed that we had to find out what happened in Budapest. I think Natasha is haunted. She has this huge sense of doom. There’s unfinished business and a sense of guilt that follows her around, and it all stems from what happened in Budapest. The film is not about what happened in Budapest, but it helps us understand the heaviness that Natasha walks around with and what her burden is. It gave us a great jumping-off point for a lot that goes on in the film.”

Black Widow producer Brian Chapek elaborates that Natasha is drawn to Budapest due to her history there. “What leads her to Budapest is a very important MacGuffin with a clue that reminds her of her past — a sign that comes from Yelena, who she realizes is in Budapest. They haven’t seen each other for 20 years,” Chapek said.

We’ll Always Have Budapest

Budapest is first mentioned in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in what seems to be a throwaway gag in 2012’s The Avengers. As the Avengers are fighting off the invading Chitauri, which are sowing chaos and destruction throughout New York City, Natasha remarks to Clint Barton, “It’s just like Budapest all over again!” To which Clint responds, “You and I remember Budapest very differently.”

Based on that brief exchange, we’d come to assume that Budapest was just a very explosive mission that Natasha and Clint were sent on (presumably sans aliens) — and at the very least, it’s a pretty funny throwaway gag.

But Budapest is mentioned again in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, in which undercover HYRDA leader Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) threatens Natasha by saying “If you do this, none of your past will remain hidden: not Budapest, Osaka, the Children’s Ward. Are you sure you want the world to see you as you truly are?” This suggests that Budapest was more than a funny line, it was a serious mission that still haunted Natasha.

We’ll find out what that mission was in Black Widow, when it hits theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on July 9, 2021.

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