Melina Vostokoff’s (Rachel Weisz) unrealized potential in Black Widow remains one of the film’s few shortcomings, but the MCU’s Phase 5 can remedy this mistake. The surrogate mother of super-spy-turned-Avenger Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) and lethal assassin Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh), Melina served as General Dreykov’s (Ray Winstone) leading scientist in the development of chemical mind control inflicted upon the Widows as part of the Red Room’s training program. Melina, herself, cycled through the Red Room four times. After completing an undercover mission alongside Alexei Shostakov, a.k.a. Red Guardian (David Harbour), in Ohio in 1995, which resulted in Natasha and Yelena’s trafficking to the Red Room, Melina took up residence on a homestead in St. Petersburg, where she first appears in Black Widow’s present day.
Set in between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Endgame, Black Widow reunites Natasha with her makeshift family of Russian spies, as they reckon with their complicated history and coordinate to liberate the Widows and obliterate Dreykov’s Red Room once and for all. Although concrete details regarding Black Widow 2 are yet to emerge publicly, Florence Pugh’s Yelena is expected to make future appearances in the MCU beyond her confirmed feature in the Disney+ series Hawkeye. With Scarlett Johansson’s era as Natasha coming to a close, Pugh would certainly lead Black Widow 2 if it materializes—most likely in Phase 5. While Rachel Weisz’s MCU future is more uncertain, it’s probable that she and David Harbour’s Red Guardian would also reprise their roles in a sequel.
Black Widow poises Melina as one of the film’s most compelling characters through her extensive collaboration with Dreykov, which culminates when Natasha and Yelena confront her 21 years after she and Alexei turned their surrogate daughters over to the Red Room. However, Melina’s promising foundation ultimately falls short due to a lack of time in the spotlight. After the opening flashback sequence, she doesn’t appear again until halfway through the movie shortly after Natasha and Yelena break Alexei out of prison to help with infiltrating and taking down the Red Room and its Black Widow program. A Black Widow sequel could easily solve this issue by involving Melina through the full extent of the film. Whether in coordination with other former Widows or with Yelena and Alexei, Melina’s potential for a heightened role increases now that her introduction is out of the way, setting up a stronger focus on her backstory and inner psyche.
The family reunion and dinner scenes at Melina’s homestead, followed by an emotional conversation between Natasha and Melina disclosing Dreykov’s killing of Natasha’s biological mother, are appropriately poignant and well-written, but Black Widow cuts corners when Melina turns from Red Room collaborator to defector in a matter of moments. A sequel would provide an opportunity to better explore Melina’s internal conflict as she is forced to reckon with the consequences of her life’s work. Similar to the way Black Widow manifests the Red Room’s traumatic impact on Yelena, a sequel could do the same for Melina.
With Dreykov’s death and the Red Room’s destruction at the conclusion of Black Widow, there are plenty of opportunities to further explore Melina’s character in MCU Phase 5, whether through a direct sequel or through a Disney+ series. With the additional factor of Natasha’s sacrificial death in Avengers: Endgame, further projects in the MCU can explore Melina, Alexei, and Yelena’s handling of their loss and adoption of Natasha’s legacy. Although it’s disappointing that Melina’s role wasn’t accentuated more in Black Widow—given the character’s perfect embodiment of the movie’s central themes of control and manipulation—Phase 5 can make her one of the most complex characters in the MCU.