WARNING - This article contains spoilers for Black Widow.
One of the most anticipated introductions in Black Widow was Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova.
Starring opposite Scarlett Johansson, Pugh was tasked with the tall order of portraying a brand-new character that has a lifetime of history with one of the most tenured heroes in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only was Pugh able to accurately convey a lifelong relationship, but she left fans begging for more Yelena Belova.
Fortunately, audiences won't have to wait long to see Pugh suit up again. TheDirect.com exclusively reported last fall that the actress would be appearing in the Hawkeye series, which was all but confirmed by Black Widow's post-credits scene.
Speaking of that post-credits scene, it left the MCU faithful questioning Belova's loyalties.
WHO'S SIDE IS YELENA ON?
Despite operating as a good guy for most of Black Widow, the future allegiances of Florence Pugh's Yelena Belova are uncertain.
The post-credits scene shows Belova visiting her late sister's grave in the present-day before she is approached by Julia Louis-Dryfus's Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Belova remarks that Val is "not supposed to be bothering [her] on [her] holiday time" while noting her presence at the graveyard "makes [her] look desperate."
Val laughs off Belova's comments as she presents her with her next target: Jeremy Renner's Hawkeye.
BACK TO HER ROOTS
On the surface level, it appears Belova is returning to her roots as an antagonist. With her sister gone, Belova might be going back to the only thing she knows.
Belova worked as a mercenary for the Red Room for years before accidentally receiving the mind-control antidote. While she was under Dreyykov's spell during her past bad guy work, there's reason to believe she'd return to a life of crime.
Another infamous mind-controlled MCU mercenary once noted he "remembers all" of his victims. Once freed from his trigger words, Bucky Barnes focused on repairing his life, even going as far as to make amends with those he wronged.
The biggest difference between the Winter Soldier and Yelena Belova is the former carried out assassination missions for seven decades. Belova's portfolio is a fraction of her Hydra counterpart. On top of that, Belova doesn't exactly have a Steve Rogers or Sam Wilson left in her life actively trying to help her recover.
Fans saw what the five-year gap turned Clint Barton into. Couple a half-decade decimation with a deceased sister, and Belova's dark side may have no choice but to return.
While most have classified JLD's Val as a full-fledged antagonist, the mysterious madame has yet to do anything truly evil.
Debuting this past April in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Val offers Wyatt Russell's John Walker a new lease on life after the world has cast him off. Rebranding the government-appointed Captain America as US Agent, Val doesn't clarify what Walker's first mission will be, but does note that "things are about to get weird."
On the contrary, Val not only gives Yelena a clear assignment, but their conversation implies the two have been working together for quite a while. It remains unknown what Belova did for Val before this post-credits scene, but there's reason to believe it was work that teetered the line between good and evil.
An unwritten rule of cinema suggests that Val won't be a complete bad guy, which begs the big question of her goals. Why is she assembling a team? What is about to get weird?
Val might be creating her own roster of Thunderbolts to combat the impending Secret Invasion. With an enemy that can shape-shift, Val needs a squad of ruthless killers. Walker isn't afraid to bludgeon his enemies. Belova doesn't hesitate to attack her sister when they reunite. She may have Belova "targeting" Hawkeye to recruit him, as fans know just how relentless Barton's Ronin persona can be.
That said, target feels a lot more like a murder mission.
Between Walker's Super Soldier status and the events of Vormir, Val is an encyclopedia when it comes to MCU events. Knowing her expertise on the past, it's a fair to assume Val has a grasp on what the future holds. If she is indeed preparing for a Skrull takeover, she might already know the identities of the shape-shifters living amongst the MCU.
Could one of those Skrulls be Hawkeye?
Yelena Belova's MCU future is one to keep a close eye on. The Red Room trainee has numerous avenues to go down whether she moves forward as an Avenger, an antagonist, or somewhere in between.
Fans will learn more about Belova's allegiances when she returns in Hawkeye later this year.