One of the characters from Natasha’s past appearing in Black Widow is one of the film’s finest elements — and well worth returning to.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has expanded, increasing its roster of heroes and villains as Phase 4 of the universe enters full swing. And while Yelena (Florence Pugh) is an exciting new prospect for the MCU to focus on, and Taskmaster (Olga Kurylenko) presents several possible futures, the true gem of Black Widow is the utterly ridiculous but surprisingly somber Alexei Shostakov ( David Harbour) — aka Red Guardian, which ends in one of the film’s most shocking arcs.
Red Guardian has been reinvented for the MCU, repositioned as a father figure to Natasha (Scarlett Johansson) and young Yelena. Spending years together in America in deep disguise, Alexei is revealed to be the Russian equivalent of Captain America – having been given the Super Soldier Serum variant which gives him enhanced strength and durability. He was even positioned to become a superhero like Captain America, with his Red Guardian persona teased to be a potential game-changer for the Soviet Union.
But in the end, he was instead locked up for the secret he held, spending more than a decade rotting in a forgotten prison. Only when his adopted daughter returns to recruit him for their mission of bringing down the Red Room once and for all, does he feel freedom again?
Alexei quickly established himself as a boisterous figure, deeply loyal to the Russian ideas he had previously championed. He aims to turn his “family” into the perfect soldier for the dream – apparently failing to make the same connection with his adopted daughter that their “mother” Melina (Rachel Weisz) seems to have. He even praised how many kills they had earned over the years.
But as Black Widow progressed, the burden of everything she didn’t go through didn’t go away from her. Instead, Alexei found himself asking questions about himself and the cause they were fighting for. And, in one particularly bittersweet sequence, Alexei gets sentimental with Yelena, remembering how her favorite song, while they were undercover, was “American Pie” by Don McLean — even singing it sadly with remembrance while trying to explain to her why he raised her the way he did.
By the end of Black Widow, Alexei had thrown himself into the mission that his family had taken on — even effectively reclaiming the mantle of the Red Guardian and holding him alone with Taskmaster long enough for Black Widows to bring about the collapse of the Red Room and the release of other women caught in the eye program. – clandestine eyes. He even escaped with them, ensuring Alexei could return for further adventures in the MCU.
Hopefully, he does, because Alexei is a very sweet opposite of one of the MCU’s most persistent traits: poor dad. The MCU is full of bad dads, with the most notable being Thanos and his physically abusive relationship with his daughter. In essence, Thanos looked at Gamora and Nebula the same way Alexei looked at Natasha and Yelena.
But through his time reuniting with his family, it’s clear that Alexei is reconsidering everything he once believed in and fought for – especially considering what happened to his family. While he acts jolly and boisterous in prison, and when he talks about Russia’s great history, he seems to only find peace when he opens up and lets his own emotions show. Alexei – apart from consistently entertaining with his antics and imposing in fights – offers the MCU a chance to show how an absent and cruel parent can realize their mistake, and instead of being instantly forgiven or positioned forever as a villain, can have the ability and self-awareness to try. and make amends.
With Yelena (supposedly) poised to play a major role in the future of the MCU – and the post-credits sequence even teasing her next target – it will be interesting to see how she deals with the continued presence of someone like Alexei in her life, and if someone like that can change. to be better.
Directed by Cate Shortland, Black Widow stars Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow, Florence Pugh as Yelena Belova, David Harbor as Alexei Shostakov/Red Guardian, OT Fagbenle as Mason, and Rachel Weisz as Melina Vostokoff. The film is now in theaters and available on Disney+ Premier Access.