Black Widow is finally here, which means we at last get to find out who's hiding beneath Taskmaster's intimidating mask. It's been a huge mystery throughout the buildup to Natasha Romanoff's solo outing – but the terrifying figure's true identity was hidden in The Avengers all along.
During the events of the Avengers' first superhero team-up, Loki is imprisoned on the SHIELD helicarrier. Black Widow goes to talk to him, and mentions the red in her ledger. The trickster promptly brings up her past sins, much to Natasha's apparent dismay.
"Can you wipe out that much red?" the God of Mischief asks her. "Dreykov's daughter, São Paulo, the hospital fire?"
As Black Widow revealed, the backstory of Hawkeye and Natasha's infamous Budapest adventure is actually very dark. The final step in Natasha's defection to SHIELD sees her kill Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room. Natasha was fully aware that Dreykov's daughter, Antonia, was with him when she gave the okay to blow him up. She believed them both to be dead, and Antonia collateral damage in her mission to take out Dreykov.
But, it turns out, Dreykov survived – as did Antonia. The explosion left her with facial scarring, and led to her becoming Taskmaster, who is capable of copying anyone's fighting style exactly, once she's seen it.
Natasha is visibly disturbed by Loki's words, but it turns out to just be a ploy. Once he tips his hand and reveals the Hulk is part of his plan, Natasha passes the information on, and coolly thanks the trickster for his cooperation. This moment is also referenced in Black Widow, when, after Natasha has goaded Dreykov into revealing the extent of the Red Room's global influence, she echoes her words from The Avengers: "Thank you for your cooperation."
We still don't know what happened in São Paulo, or what the hospital fire is, and we're unlikely to ever find out considering Natasha sacrificed herself in Avengers: Endgame. Still, the reveal of what really happened with Dreykov's daughter is fascinating.
"What's great in the film is, you see that [Natasha] physically has to face what she's done," director Cate Shortland told GamesRadar+ and Total Film of Taskmaster's true identity. "It's not a fragment [of that]. It's real. And so she's really facing her worst nightmare. I almost see Taskmaster as being her psyche, 'This is what I've done, and it's coming back to get me.' The androgyny of the character is really interesting."
Black Widow is in theaters and on Disney Plus Premier Access now. If you're all caught up, check out how to watch Marvel movies in order for the ultimate movie marathon, and find the best Disney Plus prices and deals.