Marvel Cinematic Universe fans had a lot of expectations for Black Widow. Chief among them was the promise of a new slate of villains, which may or may not thread through the films that follow it. Notably, the Taskmaster, who was teased in promotions for the film, caught audiences’ imaginations. But despite hope that the character would be an antagonist extraordinaire, the Taskmaster’s origin story in Black Widow turned out to be a lot smaller and more personal than fans might have expected.
Warning: Spoilers for Black Widow follow. The Taskmaster was viewed as a significant threat to Natasha partly due to the character’s role in the comics. In those, he’s a Brooklyn-based wannabe superhero who winds up on the wrong side. He involves himself with multiple Avengers, from Ant-Man and the Wasp to Iron Man and Captain America. That’s why fans thought this fighter with an uncanny knack for imitating his opponents might come back in later films.
But it the film, Taskmaster was not born with the superpower of “photographic reflexes.” He’s not even a he.
Instead, the Taskmaster was Dreykov’s most dastardly creation of all. Like the Black Widows under his command, the Taskmaster was a chemically brainwashed servant, unable to disobey orders. But she was not just any well-trained fighter: After nearly dying, she was taken from death’s door, rebuilt from the ground up, and made into the ultimate killing machine.
And where did Dreykov find this dying girl? In his own offices, sitting right in front of him, her body half-blown to bits when Natasha Romanoff gave the order during her Budapest mission to take him out. The Taskmaster is Dreykov’s daughter, Antonia, one of Natasha’s biggest regrets that she believed her whole life she’d never be able to take back.
Once Natasha knew the truth, her goal became less about defeating the Taskmaster and more about freeing her. If either she or Yelena could free the rest of the Black Widow fighters and kill Dreykov, they could release the Taskmaster. It wouldn’t make up for Natasha’s choice all those years ago, but it would be the first step toward making things right.
Once freed, the Taskmaster seemed dazed but relieved to learn her father was dead. Along with Yelena and the rest of the Black Widows, she escaped before Thaddeus Ross showed up to start arresting people. (Listen, when an enormous, secret Bond-villain type laboratories fall out of the sky without warning, someone needs to be arrested. It’s in the Thaddeus Ross handbook.) That means she could show up again in further adventures down the line.
But even if she does, it wouldn’t make sense for the Taskmaster to be a powerful villain. Instead, she’ll likely be on the side of heroes. Or will she? After all, Yelena isn’t exactly teaming up with the Avengers either. At least not yet.