WARNING - This article contains spoilers for Black Widow.
"Just like Budapest all over again."
Natasha Romanoff first name-dropped the Hungarian city in 2012's The Avengers, and fans have been feverishly speculating ever since. What happened in Budapest? Why is it such an integral moment for Black Widow and Hawkeye? Who else was there?
Fans were reminded of the European mystery in 2019's Avengers: Endgame, when Clint Barton notes "we're a long way from Budapest" as the duo fly the Benatar to Vormir. Once a Black Widow solo film was publicly confirmed at San Diego Comic-Con 2019, it became all but confirmed that fans would finally learn about what went down overseas.
With three release date delays, fans had to wait a little longer than initially expected to get their answers. Pushes aside, Black Widow is finally here, and the Budapest Operation has finally been detailed in full.
WHAT WENT DOWN IN BUDAPEST?
Black Widow ended a decade-long mystery.
In the film's second act, Scarlett Johansson's Natasha Romanoff describes the "Budapest Operation" to Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova. The mission was her final step in her initiation as a SHIELD agent.
The mission saw Romanoff target Ray Winstone's Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room, in an assassination attempt. With the help of Hungarian Special Forces, Romanoff says she and Clint Barton rigged explosives in a hotel Dreykov was expected to be staying at. A flashback showcased the event transpire, as a younger Natasha calls for the detonation once she sees Dreykov's daughter, Antonia, enter the building.
Once the building is brought down, Romanoff and Barton were forced into hiding to avoid being captured. The two hid in a train station vent for ten days before they were able to successfully leave the country.
Unfortunately for Natasha, the mission didn't go as she thought. Both Dreykov and Antonia made it out alive, with the latter being transformed into the brainwashed Taskmaster.
A DECADE-LONG MYSTERY ENDS
The suspense of Budapest can finally be put to rest.
Over the years, speculation has run wild about Natasha and Clint's overseas operation. Aside from Hawkeye and Black Widow, fans theorized on everyone from Nick Fury to the Winter Soldier having a role in the mission. While Budapest only involved the two characters who first brought it up nine years ago, it does tie in another aspect of Natasha's lore.
"Can you wipe out that much red? Dreykov's daughter. São Paulo. The hospital fire. Barton told me everything."
About a week before he began clocking in at the time-travel DMV, a much more sinister Loki taunted Black Widow by revealing events of her past. While São Paulo and the hospital fire remain unknown, Dreykov's daughter is directly linked to the Budapest Operation.
Knowing this movie would include a character named Dreykov, fans connected the dots months before Black Widow hit theaters. That said, not many saw what happened with "Dreykov's daughter" as being a synonym for the events of Budapest.
Even though Natasha calls Antonia's presumed death necessary collateral to bring down the leader of the Red Room, her desire to "wipe out" the red in her ledger as far back as 2012 reveals she did feel remorse for her actions.
Interestingly enough, Natasha's darkest moment came in a SHIELD mission. When Loki taunts her in 2012, many expected all three events he named as operations she executed before she joined the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement, and Logistics Division. Considering the organization was revealed to be parasitically infiltrated by HYDRA just two years later, it's not entirely surprising SHIELD was carrying out sinister missions like Budapest.
Black Widow is in theaters now and is also available on Disney+ via Premier Access.