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Warning: spoilers for Black Widow are in play. If you haven’t seen the film yet, and want to remain surprised, there’s plenty of time to turn back and return once you’re caught up.
In the ledger of the late Natasha Romanoff, the first step to erasing her history of misdeeds was her defection to S.H.I.E.L.D. The events of that notorious mission in Budapest have been a mystery throughout her tenure as an Avenger, leaving a bit of a hole in the backstory of Scarlett Johansson’s character. But now Black Widow has revealed to the world just what happened during her time with Hawkeye in Budapest, as well as what the real consequences were. Last call to avoid spoilers, and though this was teased before the movie's release, we’re unsealing the records and talking what really happened on Natasha Romanoff’s mission of defection.
What We Knew About Budapest Before Black Widow
While not knowing a lot about the Budapest operation prior to Black Widow, there were some key pieces we did know. Mainly, this was a mission that saw Natasha Romanoff defecting from the KGB’s Red Room program and into the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division. Commonly known as S.H.I.E.L.D., Romanoff would become one of their top operatives, and a founding member of the Avengers. None of this would have been possible without Natasha’s sabotage of the Red Room program in Budapest.
After her recruitment by Clint Barton/Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), which came from him refusing to kill her on orders from S.H.I.E.L.D., that act of initiation would forge a relationship between the two Avengers, and bring her into the ranks of the clandestine Marvel organization. However, Ms. Romanoff’s memories of what exactly happened have been called into question in the past, with Black Widow revealing the truth once and for all.
How Natasha Romanoff Remembers Budapest
Natasha Romanoff’s memories of the Budapest operation are exactly the result she or Clint Barton would have wanted. As she described to her “sister” Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), the key portion of the operation was to destroy the Red Room, and more importantly kill its leader: General Dreykov (Ray Winston). Using a powerful car bomb parked outside of his office, Romanoff detonated the explosives and supposedly took out Dreykov and his daughter Antonia.
After supposedly completing their mission, and engaging in a massive fight (that was referenced in The Avengers), Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton holed up in an air duct for 10 days. Once they’d successfully avoided apprehension, Romanoff and Barton escaped Budapest, with Natasha then operating within S.H.I.E.L.D. The only problem is, the mission objectives she was convinced she had achieved with Barton actually weren’t achieved. Not to mention, all of the guilt that Natasha Romanoff felt over Antonia Dreykov’s death was unwarranted in its own right.
What Really Happened In Budapest, According To The Black Widow Movie
Though she thought that General Dreykov and his daughter were eliminated, and the Red Room officially disbanded, Black Widow reveals all of that to be 100% false. The vicious general survived his brush with death, and so did his precious daughter; albeit with a very scarred face. Antonia was key to her father’s continued operation of the Red Room program, which he evolved in the years between his supposed death and Black Widow’s chain of events. Now a floating fortress of indoctrination, the Red Room moved to a floating platform that General Dreykov used to keep his operations off the radar.
From there, he would run a network of Widows stationed throughout the world, “recycling” the girls he saw as unwanted into vicious assassins. Truly hidden from the world, he had another secret weapon in his possession, as he implanted a chip in his daughter Antonia (Olga Kurylenko) that would force her to obey his commands. With enforced submission, and her photographic memory, Antonia Dreykov would become the villain known as the Taskmaster; armed with the moves of Natasha Romanoff’s friends and colleagues, along with a hunger for learning.
How Black Widow Finally Allowed Natasha To Atone For Budapest
Black Widow finally gave Natasha Romanoff her chance to clear her failure to end the Red Room to rest. Taking down General Dreykov’s floating fortress with her “family,” the work that she and Yelena Belova did throughout the film saw the Widows in the Red Room freed from the General’s psychological conditioning, through an antidote known as Red Dust. Released into the wild, they would be led by Yelena, and they’d have another huge member joining their ranks.
Freed by Natasha herself, Antonia Dreykov is no longer the Taskmaster. Using the Red Dust that Yelena Belova recovered from her last mission as a Widow, Natasha exposed herself and Antonia to the substance. Weeping with relief, Dreykov’s daughter asks only one question: “Is he gone?” The Red Room had crash-landed, its Widows dedicated to freeing their compatriots, and its prized assassins deprogrammed once and for all. Natasha Romanoff could officially wipe Budapest and Antonia Dreykov’s death from her ledger... though we already know much of what happens next.
After almost a decade of questions, Black Widow finally gave us answers as to why Budapest was such a big deal, and how Natasha Romanoff earned her place in The Avengers’ starting lineup. Through this story, the world is also given an extended sendoff to a beloved character, whose quest to balance out the wrongs she’d committed in the past saw a very important piece of closure. Though naturally, this is only part of the story that’s told in Black Widow, as there are plenty of questions that still need to be answered.
If you’ve somehow read through this rundown on Budapest, and haven’t seen the film yet, you’re in luck. Plenty more details on Scarlett Johansson’s quest for atonement awaits you in the entirety of Black Widow, which is currently in theaters and available on Disney+ Premier Access. If you feel safe enough to head to a movie theater, then you’ve got your work cut out for you. But if you want to enjoy this latest MCU offering in the comfort of your own home, you should check out the current subscription offer available to newcomers. That is, if you don’t already have a Disney+ account on your ledger of entertainment.