Avengers: Endgame had a Herculean task; to complete the story arc from Avengers: Infinity War and do it in a way that satisfied fans. The story arc that had begun in Infinity War, involving Thanos erasing half of the Earth’s population with the Infinity Gauntlet, needed to be concluded. But how? As the Avengers would soon discover, Thanos had destroyed the Infinity Stones shortly after “The Snap”. One of the ways to undo the damage was suggested by Scott Lang (Ant-Man), involving several teams of Avengers going back in time and extracting Infinity Stones from that time period.
Black Widow and Hawkeye were sent to Vormir to extract the Soul Stone. It required as payment for its removal that which you loved most be sacrificed. Both had their reasons for wanting to make that sacrifice, and both had reasons not to. As long-time friends, partners, and (in the comics at least) lovers, it was gut-wrenching to watch them decide. Black Widow ultimately became the candidate, but only because she literally fought Hawkeye off to do it. Here are five reasons her sacrifice was justified, and 5 reasons that it should have been Hawkeye.
10 WHY IT WAS JUSTIFIED: SHE WANTED TO BE A TRUE HERO
While being part of the Avengers pretty much secures you a reputation as a hero (you’re on a team of superheroes, after all), Black Widow’s dark past didn’t always make her feel like one. Unlike some of her more altruistic teammates, like Captain America and Thor, she’d done a lot of things she wasn’t proud of prior to her induction.
As a highly trained agent in the Black Widow Program, this included contracted hits and assassinations. Though she was given a Secret Serum not unlike Captain America that gave her genetic enhancements, the ignobility of her missions meant she never felt like she belonged among her peers. Dying a hero’s death to save the world (and her friends) would make up for that.
9 WHY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HAWKEYE: SO NATASHA AND BRUCE COULD BE TOGETHER
There was a period of time in the Iron Man, Captain America, and Avengers movies where Natasha was semi-flirtatious with several male members of her cohort. Though Tony Stark would come to cement his love for Pepper Potts, and Steve Rogers couldn’t get over Peggy Carter, Bruce Banner emerged as an unlikely contender for her affections.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron their relationship was explored in some depth, though he was unable to make any commitments because of his monstrous nature. Sensing a kindred spirit, herself possessed of a dark side, she declared she would run away with him if he wanted to leave the Avengers behind. Sadly their possible romance will never be explored.
8 WHY IT WAS JUSTIFIED: HAWKEYE HAD A FAMILY
If there was even a remote possibility that Hawkeye could get his family back, Black Widow wasn’t going to let him pass up the chance. With the snap of Thanos’s fingers while wearing the Infinity Gauntlet, he’d managed to rob Clint Barton of his wife and two children, and only with the Infinity Stones together again could the effects of “The Snap” be undone.
In Avengers: Age of Ultron, a touching moment between Bruce Banner and Natasha implies that neither he nor she can ever have children due to sterilization. With it so difficult for her to have a family of her own, no doubt she would feel guilty for surviving when Hawkeye had a chance to get back his.
7 WHY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HAWKEYE: HE PUT HIS FAMILY AT RISK
After “The Snap”, Hawkeye lost his entire family. His wife and two children were gone in an instant, leaving him the sole survivor. He couldn’t find Thanos, so he took out his frustrations and pain on the criminals, druglords, and murderers that in a cruel twist of fate were not killed off by Thanos’s use of the Infinity Stones.
When the Avengers are successful in undoing the destruction Thanos caused, his family is returned to him. But he can’t erase the past five years of slaughtering entire drug cartels and gangs in Tokyo. Those left alive will undoubtedly come looking for him and his kin seeking their own revenge.
6 WHY IT WAS JUSTIFIED: SHE'S A LONE WOLF
Black Widow has always been a loner, happiest with her own company. There are several reasons for this that aren’t entirely personality oriented; the Black Widow Program brainwashed her into forming no attachments to others, thereby making her a superior killing machine untethered to anything that might compromise her missions.
Speaking of missions, she often worked alone, except for when she worked with Hawkeye in Budapest (a point they mention in many films). It was her initial partnership with him and by osmosis, the rest of the Avengers, that made her feel a sense of connection. But at heart, she will always be a lone wolf separate from the pack.
5 WHY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HAWKEYE: BLACK WIDOW DIDN'T DESERVE TO BE SIDE-LINED
For years, Black Widow served as the only woman on an all-male superhero team, and while everyone else received their own stand-alone films (and trilogies), she didn’t. Marvel Studios kept assuring fans the Black Widow film would come, but now with her untimely death, it seems the only way it can is in a prequel capacity.
Her character has been effectively side-lined for much of the films in all three phases of the MCU timeline. She has offered narrative support for the plotlines of her male peers, and she has provided emotional support for their character arcs. There was far more to her story than we got to see, and she deserved to have her character fleshed out.
4 WHY IT WAS JUSTIFIED: SHE LOVED CLINT BARTON
While never explicitly stated in the films leading up to Avengers: End Game, Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton have a romantic connection, though they couldn’t consummate it for various reasons. One being that Black Widow was married to her job, and Clint was actually married. It was perhaps because of the former that the latter was the case, leaving Clint to seek a rural life on an Iowa farm.
In the comics as well as the films, Hawkeye and Black Widow worked together as S.H.I.E.L.D. agents for years, growing close on harrowing missions. In the comics, they did become intimate, whereas in the movies, Black Widow’s silent love for him is why she would have sacrificed herself.
3 WHY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HAWKEYE: BLACK WIDOW HAS BEEN ENTIRELY IN CHARGE FOR FIVE YEARS
In the five years since “The Snap”, the Avengers (and the rest of the world) did a variety of things to cope in the aftermath of losing half the world’s population. Captain America continued his PTSD support group. War Machine continued protecting various parts of the globe. Tony Stark lived a decidedly un-playboy life in a remote cabin on a lake. Black Widow maintained the status quo at Avengers Headquarters.
As the only person single-handedly holding down the fort, she was the first line of communication for any superheroes or survivors that would have normally been speaking with someone like Nick Fury. She had important things to be taking care of, unlike Hawkeye, who was busy being a vigilante renegade.
2 WHY IT WAS JUSTIFIED: THE AVENGERS SUCCEEDING WAS MORE IMPORTANT TO HER
While there’s no doubt that both Hawkeye and Black Widow wanted to sacrifice themselves for the good of the team, there are fundamental differences in their positions. Whereas Hawkeye would do anything for the Avengers, he would do more for his family. The Avengers were Black Widow’s family, and therefore she was willing to sacrifice her life so that they would succeed in their mission.
Natasha built up a unique report with each of her colleagues, even though she wasn’t always the most loquacious or easy to get to know. She opened up in her own way, and she valued their abilities and their insights, and they respected hers just as much in return.
1 WHY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN HAWKEYE: HE'S SEMI-RETIRED
For the five years before their trip to Vormir, Hawkeye had been busy slaughtering drug cartels and gang members all around the world. He had made it his life’s purpose to balance out the injustice of his family being taken from him while murderers continued to thrive.
Black Widow, by contrast, was much less selfish and had made it her purpose to keep the lines of communication open between all superheroes still in existence at Avengers Headquarters. But prior to “The Snap,” when the Avengers needed Hawkeye, he was most commonly found on his farm in Iowa, and couldn’t be bothered saving the world. If left to live, Black Widow would have done more for more people.