In this episode, Natasha learns something interesting, and the emotional gloves come off. I’m here for all of it.
Let’s discuss Bad Blood.
Note: This review will contain spoilers!
It turns out that Natasha’s attackers from the end of the last episode were a couple of VECTOR Institute employees, trying to take care of a potential security breach. … Silly boys. Natasha quickly discovers that, in fact, they were being bribed to keep infiltrators (her and the Winter Soldier, specifically?) away from someone important inside the Institute, named Karbayeva. So now, naturally, Natasha is wondering why she’s being kept away from this person. Is this connected to whatever is happening to her and Barnes, to the recent thefts, or something else entirely? Meanwhile, she’s also got her complicated history with Barnes himself to deal with…
This episode switches from Thickening The Plot to Complicating The Relationship, and it doesn’t pull its punches post-switch either. Beyond simply showing us that there’s a lot of very fraught history between Natasha and Bucky (and the Widow and the Soldier), this takes us into what is clearly some very lovingly crafted shipper territory – and this shipper is entirely here for it. Everything about this relationship so far is pushing my buttons, and I can’t and won’t pretend I’m not gleeful about it, even while it’s ABSOLUTELY DESTROYING ME LINDSAY SMITH HOW DARE YOU.
What really gets me is the nuance of all that complicated history, where it meets the broken natures of these two people in the centre of it all and how things play out between them, now. Natasha is entirely too self-aware not to realise that she has feelings for Barnes, or that indulging them now would potentially be a very bad idea – for a whole boatload of reasons. No doubt Barnes knows that too – but he is, as Natasha observes, not someone who is as readily capable of shutting down everything but the need to get a job done. He is the Soldier, and the Soldier is a part of him that can’t be removed or ignored – but he never started out that way, and could have lived a much softer life if he’d been given the chance.
(But I maintain the belief that, just maybe, the same might have been true for Natasha once upon a time and yes, that is also hitting me in the feelings. However self-aware she is, that certainly doesn’t mean that Natasha can’t lie to herself; her attempts to turn away from things she feels speak of a desperate sort of fear or uncertainty, as much as any kind of professional practicality.)
When Barnes isn’t regressing into the Soldier mindset, he is full of pain, self-loathing and, to my view, a need to be understood – fully – by someone who understands what he’s gone through and where it’s left him. That someone is Natasha, and while I’m pretty sure their relationship is far too complicated to play out into any kind of predictable romance, I have to say I’m invested for that reason as much as any other. Whether I ship them or not, this is a deeply fascinating bond we’re seeing between them.
Can two people as messed up as these ever have any kind of Happily Ever After? Probably not. Will this story continue surprising me? God, I hope so.