Natasha Romanoff spent much of her life only relying on her own abilities and forging her own path. She even says in Black Widow that she works better solo (as if she wasn’t working with the Avengers prior to this) But throughout her journey in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and especially in Black Widow, she realizes how important both of her families are to her.
Because as we see in Black Widow, she isn’t as much of a lone wolf as she’d like everyone to believe, especially when it comes to Yelena Belova, who was raised alongside her as a sister. Let’s talk about the sisterly bond between Natasha and Yelena, which is the driving force and heart of the movie.
**Spoilers for the movie Black Widow lie within**
Natasha and Yelena have a fascinating dynamic in Black Widow. It comes from their shared history as well as the time they have spent apart from each other, both undergoing brutal training and dangerous missions.
Despite their shared background, they are very different, and one thing Marvel tends to do well is explore the affections and rivalries that can spring up between siblings. This dynamic is everywhere, whether you’re Wakandan royalty or Asgardian gods or daughters of Thanos from space. Sibling relationships are complicated and can be fraught, but they can also be deeply loving, and this is the centerpiece of Black Widow.
Yelena is the little sister who looks up to Natasha (though she may deny it at first), and was younger and more vulnerable in their early “American” life. Nat doesn’t consider their time together in Ohio to be real, something that hurts Yelena’s feelings.
“It was real to me,” Yelena says when Nat continually doubles down on their “family” not actually being time spent as a family. The two go back and forth on how they interact with each other, and these exchanges make their sibling relationship even more accurate and lived in. Your siblings can be annoying, frustrating, and maybe even horrible—maybe your brother tries to steal your place while your father is in Odinsleep—but ultimately they’re your family. Those bonds mean much can be forgiven or worked through, that’s exactly how these two deadly assassin sisters interact with each other.
Yelena and Natasha in Black Widow work so well because their relationship is instantly recognizable despite their outsize actions and the high stakes of their lives. Yelena is frustrated that her older sibling doesn’t see their time together the same way she does, and Natasha is the older sibling who just brushes her kid sister off. It’s textbook siblings and it’s exactly the kind of dynamic I wanted between the two of them to have from the jump.
What we see in Black Widow is two women trying to figure out what they mean to each other years after the fact. They were separated from each other for decades and went through something horribly traumatizing together. But at the end of the day, they discover that they still see each other as sisters and would clearly do anything for each other. This makes the fact that Natasha sacrificed herself for the Soul Stone and doesn’t get to continue to fix her relationship with Yelena that much worse.