Marvel’s Black Widow: Bad Blood Episode 5, “Flashback City”

In this episode, the Black Widow reaches the VECTOR Institute – but she finds more than she expected to…

Let’s discuss Bad Blood.

NOTE: This review will contain spoilers!

 

Art by Jamie McKelvie

 

Quick recap time:

Having learned from Bruce Banner that someone’s been stealing samples of deadly pathogens (bioweapons?) from various research facilities around the world, Natasha heads for the site of the most recent theft – the VECTOR Institute, where the latest stolen sample (a deadly pathogen engineered in the Red Room and used in assassinations) had been secured. She was also tracking down Bucky Barnes until his trail went cold in Albania, but she learned enough to guess that whatever was done to her might also have been done to him. Then the Winter Soldier turns up at the VECTOR Institute, and Natasha panics…

This episode is very aptly named. It also feels very short, given that it consists more or less of a single scene. However, given that this scene involves not only a nail-bitingly tense fight between the Black Widow and the Winter Soldier but also a flashback (of sorts) to Natasha’s time in the Red Room, being trained by him, there is quite a lot going on, and a lot to chew on for the reader.

For this largely uninitiated reader, the background information here is very welcome – and kind of heartbreaking.

Mikki Kendall does a wonderful job of blending together the present and the past, of showing us both who these two people are and who they were, and the clash between not only the Soldier’s fractured, split sense of self but also the Black Widow’s, makes this an incredibly compelling episode.

If I wasn’t already invested in this story, I most certainly would be after this.

So Natasha panics upon realising she has to deal with the Soldier, not Barnes, and her immediate reaction is to pack away any sort of emotional attachment and handle this as the Widow – but then she quickly realises that Barnes/the Soldier are both present; Barnes reacts to her presence with violence because he’s still sick, and his thoughts and instincts are very confused. Natasha knows them both well enough to be able to bring the fight to a stop, and she gets through to him well enough to get him somewhere safer. Whatever happens after this is for the next episode; this one was the interlude of sorts that we needed in order to introduce Barnes/the Soldier as he is, right at that moment.

And oooh boy, none of this is good.

The Winter Soldier is deadly enough when he’s operating at full strength. Throw in an illness severe enough to be confusing Barnes’s instincts, and you’ve got one messed up soul.

And it’s up to Natasha Romanoff to take care of him.

This will either be fine, or it will be a heartbreaking disaster. Possibly both!

I’m here for it. I’m not prepared.

Oh god.

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