‘Black Widow’ Writer Explains Origin of Film’s Taskmaster Twist
The following post contains SPOILERS for Black Widow and specifically about the character of Taskmaster. You might have been able to guess that fact from the headline that reads “‘Black Widow’ Writer Explains Origin of Film’s Taskmaster Twist,” but just in case there was any uncertainty, now there is not.
According to social media, some fans are upset about Black Widow. Not because the film is bad necessarily, but because they feel that it is some sort of betrayal of the character of Taskmaster, a longtime Marvel Comics villain who makes his Marvel Cinematic Universe debut in the film. In the comics, Taskmaster has the ability to mimic the fighting moves of anyone he sees, making him a formidable opponent for any superhero. In Black Widow, he has much the same powers — except he is not a he, he is a she. It turns out that this Taskmaster is actually the grown daughter of General Dreykov, the leader of the Red Room that trained and brainwashed Black Widow in the first place.
While this is a clever twist, the change to Taskmaster’s origin (and probably more importantly her gender) has left some viewers cranky. If you’re wondering why Marvel made this change to the character, look to the interview Black Widow screenwriter Eric Pearson gave to Collider, where he explains the motivations for the new version of the character. For him, it all came down to explaining the mysterious crimes that Natasha Romanoff made in her past, which have been alluded to in early movies but never explained — and dovetailing that secret with her origin in the Red Room, where women are brainwashed into becoming elite assassins.
“I was very much in the camp,” Person said, “of she has to have knowingly done something that would haunt her. It can't just be, ‘Oh, I was going after a bad guy and some people accidentally got hurt’. It has to be, ‘I chose to hurt an innocent, especially an innocent girl, as a means to an end ... And then the idea of, ‘Okay, if that’s Dreykov's daughter and he's this guy who has the ability to manipulate and deconstruct the brain, what if in trying to save his daughter, we could rebuild it and discover this new photographic reflex thing where she’s not fully who she was, but she has this extra talent? That's kind of how I came to it.”
Personally, I thought Taskmaster worked just fine for all the reasons Pearson listed. First of all, when they never revealed the name of the actor playing Taskmaster prior to the film’s release, you had to know it was going to be some kind of surprise. For whatever reason, I always assumed it would be a woman. (Personally, my guess was Rachel Weisz’s character, simply because she appeared so briefly in the movie’s trailers.) If you were expecting someone else to be revealed as Taskmaster — like maybe O-T Fagbenle’s Rick Mason — it’s not Marvel’s fault that you were mistaken. You’re supposed to be surprised! That’s why it’s a twist!
Plus, it’s not like Taskmaster had some richly detailed and incredibly famous origin story from Marvel Comics. He doesn’t. Mostly he’s a tough guy in a skull mask who copies people’s fighting movies. Which is exactly how he’s portrayed in Black Widow, except he’s secretly a woman under the mask. They didn’t turn Taskmaster from one of the greatest fighters in the Marvel Universe to someone who just really enjoys baking pies from scratch. It’s still very recognizably the same character. And she works well within the themes of the film.
Black Widow is in theaters now and streaming on Disney+ for subscribers who pay for Premier Access.