MEGA-SPOILERS for Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will be found below.
Ever since Black Widow‘s greenlighting, I wondered if Marvel Studios would take the action back to Budapest. That definitely happened, once Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff answered a call from Florence Pugh’s Yelena Belova, who was hanging in the apartment of her older “sister.” This provided ample opportunity for the prequel of sorts (which followed the events of Captain America: Civil War) to deliver on all those references between Natasha and Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye/Clint Barton. In effect, those hints amounted to a long-running joke for fans.
Here’s how it began, in 2012’s The Avengers while the assembled O.G. MCU heroes fought The Chitauri. Natasha remarked that the experience is “just like Budapest all over again!” To that, Clint countered, “You and I remember Budapest very differently!”
This, of course, led everyone to wonder (as enthused fans do) what went down in this mysterious operation, or even if there was a romantic component involved. Thankfully for everyone, Clint (whose wife and family were later revealed, and they heartbreakingly disappeared in The Snap) and Natasha were revealed to be the best of platonic friends. During Avengers: Endgame, the two embarked for Vormir in search of the Soul Stone, and Clint remarked, “It’s a long way from Budapest!” Natasha grinned in response, before this more recent mission ended in a very different way.
As even the most casual Marvel watcher knows, Natasha didn’t make it out of Vormir alive. Natasha sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone, beating Hawkeye in a determined scramble to leap to death. At that point, it felt like we might never hear what went down in Budapest (since Hawkeye obviously couldn’t deliver the goods during a rambling speech at a non-existent funeral), but Black Widow filled in those blanks.
After Natasha confronted Yelena in that Budapest apartment, Natasha revealed her belief that Dreykov (the man responsible for running the Red Room) is dead. Yelena attempts to correct her, and then Natasha unloads the history of how she and Hawkeye spent ten days fighting during a shootout with Hungarian forces, and a building blew up, and all of this was her final step to defect to S.H.I.E.L.D. That’s when Yelena breaks the news: Dreykov is still alive, and he’s cranking out Widows in a secret location. Natasha, apparently, killed his daughter instead of Dreykov himself, and Natasha failed to check for his body to confirm death.
Later, we learn that Dreykov resurrected his daughter and transformed her into The Taskmaster (an identity reveal that felt disappointing and runs in a different direction than the comics), but at least we have some Budapest answers: Natasha and Clint’s operation meant to disable the Red Room architect and secure her eventual place in the Avengers. Also, this information goes a long way to emphasize Natasha’s unfinished business, which was even more “unfinished” than she realized. As for Hawkeye’s fate, watch out, Clint Barton. It sure looks like Yelena Belova will be coming for you, even though the motivating factor there is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine’s lies. In other words, we’re gonna be putting Disney+’s Hawkeye show on the viewing calendar once there’s a release date.
‘Black Widow’ is currently in theaters and streaming on Disney+ via Premier Access.