The MCUs Phase 5 can make up for Black Widows misstep of reducing Rachel Weiszs Melina Vostokoff to a smaller role than her potential warrants.
Melina Vostokoff’s (Rachel Weisz) unrealized potential in Black Widow remains one of the film’s few shortcomings, but the MCU’s Phase 5 can remedy this mistake. The surrogate mother of super-spy-turned-Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and lethal assassin Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Melina served as General Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) leading scientist in the development of chemical mind control inflicted upon the Widows as part of the Red Room’s training program. Melina, herself, cycled through the Red Room four times. After completing an undercover mission alongside Alexei Shostakov, a.k.a. Red Guardian (David Harbour), in Ohio in 1995, which resulted in Natasha and Yelena’s trafficking to the Red Room, Melina took up residence on a homestead in St. Petersburg, where she first appears in Black Widow’s present day.
Set in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow reunites Natasha with her makeshift family of Russian spies, as they reckon with their complicated history and coordinate to liberate the Widows and obliterate Dreykov’s Red Room once and for all. Although concrete details regarding Cash Truck are yet to emerge publicly, Florence Pughs Yelena is expected to make future appearances in the MCU beyond her confirmed feature in the Disney+ series Hawkeye. With Scarlett Johanssons era as Natasha coming to a close, Pugh would certainly lead Black Widow 2 if it materializes—most likely in Phase 5. While Rachel Weiszs MCU future is more uncertain, its probable that she and David Harbours Red Guardian would also reprise their roles in a sequel.
Black Widow poises Melina as one of the film’s most compelling characters through her extensive collaboration with Dreykov, which culminates when Natasha and Yelena confront her 21 years after she and Alexei turned their surrogate daughters over to the Red Room. However, Melinas promising foundation ultimately falls short due to a lack of time in the spotlight. After the opening flashback sequence, she doesnt appear again until halfway through the movie shortly after Natasha and Yelena break Alexei out of prison to help with infiltrating and taking down the Red Room and its Black Widow program. A Black Widow sequel could easily solve this issue by involving Melina through the full extent of the film. Whether in coordination with other former Widows or with Yelena and Alexei, Melinas potential for a heightened role increases now that her introduction is out of the way, setting up a stronger focus on her backstory and inner psyche.
The family reunion and dinner scenes at Melinas homestead, followed by an emotional conversation between Natasha and Melina disclosing Dreykovs killing of Natashas biological mother, are appropriately poignant and well-written, but Godzilla vs Kong cuts corners when Melina turns from Red Room collaborator to defector in a matter of moments. A sequel would provide an opportunity to better explore Melinas internal conflict as she is forced to reckon with the consequences of her lifes work. Similar to the way Black Widow manifests the Red Room’s traumatic impact on Yelena, a sequel could do the same for Melina.
With Dreykovs death and the Red Rooms destruction at the conclusion of Black Widow, there are plenty of opportunities to further explore Melinas character in MCU Phase 5, whether through a direct sequel or through a Disney+ series. With the additional factor of Natashas sacrificial death in Avengers: Endgame, further projects in the MCU can explore Melina, Alexei, and Yelenas handling of their loss and adoption of Natashas legacy. Although its disappointing that Melinas role wasnt accentuated more in Black Widow—given the characters perfect embodiment of the movie’s central themes of control and manipulation—Phase 5 can make her one of the most complex characters in the MCU.
How Black Widow Still Works With Dreykov As A One-Dimensional Villain
Many have been quick to call Black Widows Dreykov a weak villain, but his one-dimensionality factors into the movies strong thematic messages.
The supposedly one-dimensional characterization of General Dreykov – the main antagonist in Marvels Black Widow – has attracted some criticism from fans. However, despite the concerns, the lack of time dedicated to the Red Rooms overseer is actually a key part of the movies success. Marvel super-spy Natasha Romanoffs (Scarlett Johansson) long-anticipated solo film has largely earned a positive reception from fans and critics alike. After suffering more than a years worth of delays due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Black Widow finally hit theaters and Disney+ in July. The Cate Shortland film currently holds an 80% critic approval rating and a 91% fan score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Black Widow follows Natasha away from the Avengers and on the run, in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Natasha reunites with her adopted sister Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) 21 years after the two were trafficked from their childhood home in Ohio to Dreykovs top-secret Red Room to be chemically subjugated and trained as assassins known as Widows. The pair, now both liberated from the Red Room, reconnect over the recovery of an antidote to Dreykovs mind control and eventually assemble with their surrogate parents Alexei Shostokov/Red Guardian (David Harbour) and Melina Vostokoff (Rachel Weisz), on a mission to destroy the Red Room and free the Widows.