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Why the biggest plothole in Avengers: Endgame was the most devastating for longtime fans.

Warning: Massive spoilers ahead for Avengers: Endgame.

With just one crucial scene Avengers: Endgame managed to both infuriate and destroy me more than any human being will ever be able to do.

The new Marvel blockbuster, which has already broken all previous box office records with its $1.2 billion opening weekend, is the conclusion of a generation-defining movie saga which comprised of 22 films spanning more than a decade and in many cases, it actually managed to stick the incredibly difficult finale landing.

There were epic battle sequences, tear-inducing reunions and enough perfectly timed comedic beats on hand to bring a sense of fun to even the darkest of scenes, and despite the fact that my heart is still beating a little too fast for comfort after basking in its epicness, I cannot help but think that this final iteration of the saga has let us all down.

The fault with Avengers: Endgame lies in the treatment of Scarlett Johansson’s brilliant but always terribly underutilised Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow and the sequence of events that led to her death midway through the film.

There’s been a lot of dirt slung at Marvel for suspected ‘plotholes’ within the film brought on by the character’s time travel, particularly Steve Roger’s (Chris Evans) decision to live in the past and grow with his true love Peggy Cartert, but I’m more of the opinion that the rules of time travel as proposed in this particular universe bend enough to allow these events to take place without messing with the main timeline.

No, my gripe is much less of a plothole and more of a plot misstep or even just a blatant disregard for good storytelling in the haste to off an extra character before getting stuck into the final battle.

In Endgame the Avengers break up into teams to travel back in time and collect the Infinity Stones with the aim of reversing Thano’s tragic ‘snap’ that decimated half of all living creatures on Earth.

"The fault with Avengers: Endgame lies in the treatment of Scarlett Johansson's brilliant but always terribly underutilised Natasha Romanoff, AKA Black Widow." Source: Marvel.
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As part of the plan, longtime friends Natasha and Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) are tasked with retrieving the Soul Stone by travelling to the 2014 version of Vormir. The catch here, however, as anyone who has watched Avengers: Infinity War would be able to tell you, is that the only way to acquire the Soul Stone is by sacrificing someone you love first.

In this case, that means hurtling them off the edge of the cliff and onto the blood-spattered rocks below, just as we saw Thanos (Josh Brolin) do to his adopted daughter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) in Infinity War. 

Neither Natasha or Clint are prepared to let the other sacrifice themselves for the stone, but after a fight where they both attempt to hold each other back and dive off the cliff, it is Black Window who ends up giving up her own life and falling to her death as a heartbroken Clint watches on.

Once you've finished ugly crying through this scene, however, it quickly becomes clear that it should never have happened in the first place.

First of all, much meticulous planning from The Avengers went into the execution of the Infinity Stones retrieval mission, to the point where we were treated to a full montage of their strategy sessions which included a breakdown of the stone's various locations and the obstacles in the way of procuring each one.

Now I'm no superhero, but would this not have been the moment for Nebula (Karen Gillan), who knew the exact details of how her adopted sister Gamora died during Thano's retrieval of the Soul Stone, as did Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr), to raise her hand and point out the potential flaws in this plan?

There's also the gnawing afterthought that Clint didn't exactly abide by the iron-clad rules set in place for someone to take possession of the Soul Stone, as he technically didn't sacrifice Natasha and actively tried to prevent her death right up until the very end.

But plotholes and missteps aside, there's a bigger reason why long term Marvel fans, myself included, have been left furious by the death of Natasha Romanoff.

As the only female Avenger in the original six, Natasha's final storyline was not about her, her character arc or even her legacy, and was instead designed to fuel the emotional plotlines of her male counterparts.

Despite being one of the most captivating and complex characters in the Marvel universe, Natasha was often relegated to the position of a second-rate sidekick (for Captain America) or a lukewarm love interest (in the case of Mark Ruffalo's Bruce Banner).

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Her storyline and emotions were also always used as a device to get us to care about the existence of Clint Barton (who is a beloved character due to the way we've seen him through Natasha's eyes) and yet despite all these missteps we were always on her side.

In the first half of Endgame we finally get a taste of what a more fleshed out Natasha could have been like, as she takes over as leader of what's left of the Avengers, and for once it appears that she's finally her own character.

Until they off her just a few scenes later... allowing her male co-stars to have a brief, brooding moment together on her behalf that only succeeds in driving them all into the second act of their story.

This is actually a popular yet highly detested story device  known as "fridging", a term coined by writer Gail Simone for the website Women in Refrigerators in 1999.

It is used to describe scenes where female characters are injured, raped, killed, or depowered solely as a plot device to further male character's storylines. It stems from a comic book where a hero returns home to find his dead girlfriend's body stuffed in a fridge and to be frank, Marvel should have known better.

The anger does not stem from the fact that Natasha died, but more from the idea that her endgame mattered less than the others.

Avengers: Endgame offers up some truly breathtaking moments, such as Steve Roger's wielding Mjolnir and some truly heinous scenes, such as the outdated and unoriginal fat jokes used to give Chris Hemsworth's Thor a touch of humour, yet its treatment of female characters has a very long way to go.

And before you try to defend the film, please know that one mere moment of all the female Avengers gathering together on the battlefield does not a female-friendly moment make. That particular Endgame moment felt shoehorned in and tokenistic, especially compared to the Infinity War battle moment between Natasha, Wanda (Elizabeth Olsen) and Okoye (Danai Gurira). Now, that was an empowering moment.

Of course, there is still the unconfirmed Black Widow standalone movie that is allegedly in development with Marvel, but considering it will probably be a prequel film, it will do little to course correct the careless end to Natasha's story.

Let's hope the next chapter of the Marvel universe treats its female characters a little better this time around.

Avengers: Endgame is playing in cinemas Australia-wide now, it is rated M. Make sure you bring lots of tissues. 

For more stories like this, you can follow Mamamia Entertainment Editor Laura Brodnik on Facebook.  You can also visit our newsletter page and sign up to “TV and Movies”  for a backstage pass to the best movies, TV shows and celebrity interviews (see one of her newsletters here). 

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