While some lines in “Black Widow” reference events that take place within this fictional universe, others speak more directly to the all-consuming meta-narrative surrounding the film — namely, the fact that despite being an incredibly popular character and an original member of the on-screen Avengers, it took more than 10 years for Black Widow to get her own solo movie. And by the time it finally happened, she was already dead.
To its credit, the script leans into this persistent injustice instead of pretending it never happened, a choice that starts when Yelena tells Natasha why the master of the Red Room, General Dreykov, never came after Natasha despite the fact that he escaped death at her hands. “I mean, the clue is in the name,” Yelena says. “Dreykov kills you, one of the big ones comes to avenge you.” This brings Natasha up short for a moment. “Wait,” she asks, “what are ‘the big ones?'” At which point Yelena, naturally, brings up “the god from space.”
This exchange can be read as a reference to Tony Stark’s “if we can’t protect the Earth, you can be damned sure we’ll avenge it” line from “The Avengers” or to the Hulk’s informal nickname, “the Big Guy,” which is part of the lullaby Natasha uses to calm him down in “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” But mainly, it’s a reference to the fact that Black Widow has always been treated as secondary to her male companions.