Taskmaster's Evolution in 'Black Widow' and Beyond
Warning: major third-act spoilers for Marvel Studios’ Black Widow follow.
Black Widow is finally out in the world after years of anticipation, but many Marvel fans are upset with one particular third-act twist. Instead of a wisecracking mercenary with natural mimic abilities, Taskmaster turns out to be a ghost from Natasha’s past that bears little resemblance to the comic book version. It's quite clear that Olga Kurylenko’s Antonia Dreykov is not Tony Masters. Her mimicry stems from a chip implanted in her neck and she remains a silent warrior throughout the movie save for one line, but that doesn’t have to be the end of her story.
While the identity reveal angered lots of people, I think it worked just fine for Black Widow. Taskmaster’s personal connection to Natasha was more interesting than the character being a scorned ex-boyfriend or a hired gun. However, we aren’t here to discuss the twist itself, since my fellow contributor Brian already examined it here. Instead, I want to look to the future and see where Antonia can go from here.
The MCU's Tony Masters
There are a couple of routes Marvel can take to make Taskmaster more comic-accurate if that’s what they want to do. Antonia was labeled as part of the “Taskmaster Program” in the Red Room, so it’s entirely possible that she’s not the first person to don the hood. Tony Masters could’ve been one of Dreykov’s assets in the past before striking out on his own, leaving Dreykov to start the Taskmaster Program in his wake. The program’s goal may simply be to replicate what Masters could do naturally, with Antonia being the only successful test subject.
However, I think it’s more likely that Antonia slowly becomes the MCU’s version of Tony Masters. Right off the bat, the name Antonia can be seen as a feminized version of Tony. Seeing as how Antonia’s only line in the entire film is “Is he gone?”, referring to her father, it’s clear that she wanted to be free of Dreykov’s control. With her father dead and her free will regained, I can see the MCU’s Taskmaster taking on a new name in future projects: Toni Masters.
Antonia Dreykov's Future
We don’t know what Antonia’s personality is like beneath the mask since she didn’t get to be much of a character in Black Widow. That doesn’t mean she can’t become something truly special in the future, though. Taskmaster is too interesting of an enemy to use only once and Marvel doesn't tend to waste their villains. I wouldn’t be surprised if Antonia sets out to use her abilities for her own ends, but I doubt she’ll be a straight-up bad guy when she returns. On the other hand, Taskmaster as a hero seems like another huge deviation from the comics. Instead, I think it’s likely that Antonia returns as part of Val’s team, making choices for herself but still in a position to play the role of an antagonist.
Taskmaster should return sooner rather than later. Antonia can operate in a morally grey area regardless of her feelings towards Natasha and Yelena, but I don’t want her reduced to a villain. She was also one of Dreykov's victims and that impact should be explored as much as possible. With that in mind, working for Valentina won’t erase that aspect of Antonia’s character but could still put her in conflict with any number of Avengers.
Black Widow is now playing in theaters and is also available on Disney+ via Premier Access.