Black Widow might not be with the Avengers anymore (at least for now) but she's still kicking butt in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her upcoming film will give fans a look into how Natasha Romanoff became the Black Widow and who the mysterious people from her past are.
But make no mistake. This isn't an origin story and this isn't a prequel that goes all the way back to the beginning. Instead, Black Widow is based between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. Which gives us a rather unique timeline for the film's big baddie, Taskmaster.
Although the release date is coming up fast and the final trailer has just dropped, we're still in the dark about who Taskmaster is. But we do know what he's up to.
Who is Taskmaster, the main villain in Black Widow?
Taskmaster was an interesting choice to be Black Widow's bad guy because, in the comics, the villain may often battle the Avengers, but he doesn't have many ties to Black Widow herself. They cross paths in the big battles. We've seen Taskmaster battle Spider-Man, Captain America, Ant-Man, and Iron Man in smaller battles or one-on-one but he's never been Black Widow's biggest foe and they don't have much history together.
Which is why choosing Taskmaster as the villain provided the Marvel Cinematic Universe a unique opportunity to create a very original story, but still tie it back to the comics that fans know and love. Choosing to place the film between Civil War and Infinity War allowed them to fill in the gaps of what Natasha was up to but it also allowed them to introduce Taskmaster during a unique time in his comic book history.
The first thing to know about Taskmaster is that he has "photographic reflexes" which means that all he has to do is see someone do something and he can mimic it immediately, assuming that it's not a superhuman skill. He's trained in martial arts, sword fighting, marksmanship, and combat skills not from practice but instead from seeing heroes with those skills fight.
While he uses his acquired skills for crime, he is also able to use them to be a combat trainer. He's paid to train others, mostly villains, how to fight like Avengers and other heroes.
Around the time of the superheroes' Civil War, Taskmaster was captured by the government and ultimately recruited by the Committee on Superhuman Activities (CSA) in order to track down Captain America, who was recruiting his own team to fight against the recently-passed Superhuman Registration Act.
The head of S.H.I.E.L.D., Maria Hill, gave Taskmaster a full presidential pardon for agreeing to test the defenses of the new Hellicarrier and he then was sent to help the CSA to train new heroes on how to fight like specific Avengers in what was called the Fifty State Initiative. But things went south when Norman Osborn took over the Initiative and began welcoming in super-criminals. Taskmaster was then charged with training the new villainous recruits on how to appear as heroic fighters by day and supervillains by night.
If Black Widow were to follow this timeline, then Taskmaster would be training for the Initiative while the movie takes place. In the new trailer, we see a group of women in black suits, following the exact same movements and holding a gun in the exact same way. Could it be Taskmaster training new recruits, Black Widow style? Perhaps the Initiative is more far reaching than we know.
In the final trailer, we got a little more insight into what his training will look like.
One of the strangest revelations in the final trailer is that Taskmaster is running the Red Room, where Natasha was initially trained herself. The fact that he's capable of training these women in the same style as Black Widow isn't the surprising part. The shocking part is that the women who are being trained are "manipulated. Fully conscious but no choices."
We'll have to wait and see exactly what this means because we don't get much more insight than that. Unlike a lot (and we do mean a lot) of Marvel villains, Taskmaster doesn't have any mind control or manipulation ability.
He would not be able to mentally manipulate someone to do his bidding simply by willing it, so how are the new recruits being forced to do things against their will? Is he working with another villain to make it happen or is he using another method to force them to do what he wants?
Who is playing Taskmaster?
There's been a lot of discussion as to who Taskmaster is in the new film, with some guessing that Rachel Weisz is behind the mask, but it seems more likely that she'll become the supervillian Iron Maiden instead.
Which would play into Taskmaster needing some assistance in controlling the recruits, considering that, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Rachel mentioned that her character would be dealing with a very secretive science experiment. Perhaps an experiment that plays into Taskmaster's plans? Perhaps she's the partner that the combat trainer needs.
Taskmaster's real name of course isn't Taskmaster and it took quite some time for Marvel to establish what his identity is. It's actually Tony Masters. As of right now, there's no one listed in the cast by that name either, although there are quite a few actors in the movie that do not yet have a character name attached.
But there is one named person on the cast list that we don't know much about: Mason.
O-T Fagbenle, who you might recognize from The Handmaid's Tale, is playing Rick Mason and the only thing we know about him is that he's an old flame of Natasha's and that he's a freelance special agent. The other thing that we know is that Mason was missing throughout the Black Widow trailer.
Although Mason is not Tony Masters, it could be that director Cate Shortland is changing Taskmaster's narrative. A post shared on 4chan and Reddit distributed what is believed to be insider intel confirming this rumor, but it remains just a rumor.
The villainous trainer's identity is likely to remain a mystery until Black Widow is released on May 1, 2020.