[Warning: this post contains major spoilers for Avengers: Endgame.]
For years the MCU has harbored two known human spoiler grenades, Mark Ruffalo and Tom Holland. But there may have been a recent addition who could have detonated right before our very eyes weeks ago, without any of us knowing. To simplify: Scarlett Johansson may have referenced their fate on live television. (By the way, this would be an excellent time to stop reading if you haven’t seen Endgame yet.)
The cast of Endgame appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live earlier this month and were (seemingly) as tight-lipped as ever. When Kimmel mused that he felt like he was witnessing the last gathering of the Avengers, Robert Downey, Jr. was quick to respond with the typical on-message vagueness: “Well, the future is very uncertain.” Though Kimmel seemed perfectly fine with moving on, Johansson leaned over to pat Downey, Jr. and jokes, “Don’t lie to him, we’re never coming back.” (Skip to 1:25 to catch the moment.)
The audience laughs the interruption off as the joke that it likely was, but for those who have seen Endgame (again, if you haven’t, stop reading now), the moment could be viewed as a slick hint at the deaths of both Natasha Romanoff and Tony Stark. In the film, Natasha sacrifices herself in order for the team to acquire the soul stone and for Clint Barton to return to his family, who were all initially victims of the Thanos Snap. Her decision leads to the team’s success, leading to an epic battle that comes to an end once Stark gets his hands on all of the stones and snaps away Thanos and company. Unfortunately, Stark doesn’t survive his moment of bravery and ultimately dies from the immense power of the stones.
So yeah, Johansson claiming that they are never coming back as a unit might not be so far-fetched, in retrospect. Still, this is Marvel we’re talking about, and characters have certainly reappeared after their death before (there’s a whole ancestral plane in Black Panther, after all). There are plenty of inventive ways for either of them to come back, especially now that time travel is a canonically possibility and a Black Widow standalone film is on the horizon.
There’s also a very real possibility that Johansson joked without knowing the fate of either her or Downey, Jr.’s characters. Between filming alternate endings, only receiving sections of scripts, and not seeing much of the film until its premiere, there were plenty of ways to keep Marvel’s most knowledgeable veterans in the dark. It wouldn’t be the first time.