‘Avengers: Endgame’: Fans Pointed Out a Heartbreaking Detail After the Time Heist

One of the more controversial aspects of Avengers: Endgame was the death of Black Widow. Her death was unexpected by many Marvel Cinematic Universe fans, and those fans also felt Natasha got the short end of the stick in farewells. Tony Stark got a grand funeral and Natasha Romanoff got the briefest of goodbyes.

Depending on how you look at it, however, Natasha’s end may not be all that superficial. In examining the scene where the other Avengers mourn their passing, fans and other writers have found the scene represents the classic stages of grief.

What are the stages of grief?

Chris Hemsworth speaks onstage
Chris Hemsworth | Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images

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Most everyone who has experienced grief knows it is very difficult to process, and even after the immediate trauma passes, the grief never truly goes away. In 1969, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler Ross wrote a book that divided grief into five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. 

In the denial stage, the bereaved disputes the loss and refuses to accept it. They can’t believe it can be true, or they cannot process that their loved one has left them. The truth hasn’t sunk in. Anger comes when the bereaved lashes out, often saying hurtful things they don’t really mean. This is the release of emotion that sets the stage for bargaining,  where a loved one asks a lot of “if only” or ‘what if” questions. 

Depression comes next, when the reality of the loss finally sets in. Acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that the person is over the loss, but it means they find ways to cope with it and live their lives as best they can.

The Avengers represent the stages of grief

Fans on Reddit rewatched Natasha’s death scene and found that the Avengers’ reactions represented the different stages of grief. Here’s how one fan explained it: 

Denial: Thor – “why are we acting like she’s dead? We have the stones right? As long as we have the stones we can bring her back, right? So stop this shit! We’re the Avengers; get it together!”

Anger: Bruce – throws bench across the lake

Bargaining: Steve – promises to make her sacrifice worth it

Depression: Tony – barely talks, obviously is internalizing his emotions

Acceptance: Clint – “we can’t get her back. It can’t be undone. It can’t…. Look, I know that I’m way outside my pay grade here. But she still isn’t here, is she? It can’t be undone. Or at least that’s what the red, floating guy had to say!”

The Avengers have shown grief in other ways

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The fans on Reddit are not the first to see the five stages of grief in the Avengers. Other writers have applied it in more general terms and not confined their analysis to any one scene. The Kubler Ross stages don’t always apply to a specific death; they can also apply to unfathomable losses, such as the wiping out of half of life. 

In another analysis, the five stages are present even before Natasha dies. A writer at The Pop Break pointed out that after the snap. Thor is Denial, Anger is Hawkeye Steve is Bargaining, Natasha is Depression and Hulk is, of all things, Acceptance. Perhaps the Professor Hulk guise is better than a lot of fans thought. 

Since the five stages can be interpreted so differently (one could argue that Thor is depression when he lets himself go), it’s likely that the filmmakers didn’t intend for the heroes to embody the stages of a psychiatric theory.

But even if they didn’t, the analysis gives Endgame an extra layer of emotional richness. Perhaps Natasha didn’t get such a truncated sendoff after all. At least she has her prequel coming out in November.