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We need to talk about that Red Guardian moment in ‘Black Widow’

Who is the Red Guardian? Will we learn more about him?

David Harbour in “Black Widow.”
David Harbour as Alexei Shostakov in “Black Widow.”
Marvel Studios

Warning: This article contains spoilers for “Black Widow” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.”

One of the most unanswered questions coming out of “Black Widow” is about the battle we never saw between Red Guardian and Captain America.

Who is Red Guardian?

In “Black Widow,” we meet Alexei Shostakov (David Harbour), a former superhero who went by the name Red Guardian. Red Guardian, who is Russia’s version of Captain America, is also the adoptive father of Black Widow.

Red Guardian vs. Captain America

In “Black Widow,” Alexei makes a lot of references to Red Guardian’s fight with Captain America. He suggests that the two had a massive confrontation in the past, and he seems pretty convinced that it happened. We know that Alexei often boasts himself up in the film, and that he might be living in his own pseudo-reality. So there’s a chance that this is all a lie.

But Alexei even asked Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) if Captain America ever mentioned his battles with Red Guardian to her. She pushes it off — not really denying it or accepting it.

Why Red Guardian vs. Captain America couldn’t have happened

A fellow prisoner tells Alexei that Captain America was still frozen under ice during the ’80s and ’90s, when Red Guardian would have been at his peak of powers. So there would have been no chance of that fight actually happening.

“So, in other words, he has to be so bombastic because he can’t stop and feel these things, you know the failures they made,” Harbour said at a virtual press conference for the film. “So he has to build around him a world of, like, a confabulate story, a psychotic reality where he is the hero.”

And it is true — Captain America was frozen under ice after his battles in World War II. He wasn’t brought back to Earth until the mid-2010s, when the Avengers team was first starting up. So the fights would have not been possible.

Any answers about Red Guardian vs. Captain America?

I have one idea — and it’s sort of a stretch. In “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” we meet Isaiah Bradley, a Korean War veteran who was given the Super Soldier Serum in the 1950s. Per the Marvel Wiki, he was assigned to kill the Winter Soldier (Bucky Barnes, who is more than 100 years old). But he failed to do so and was then arrested. In the 1980s, he was freed from prison and then faked his death. He lived in isolation.

This might be a stretch, but here’s a possibility the Red Guardian tangled with Isaiah Bradley sometime during those ’80s years. If Isaiah still had a Captain America uniform, this would make the battle all the more possible. It’s a stretch, but it’s one theory.

Will we see Red Guardian vs. Captain America?

Harbour said at a virtual press conference for “Black Widow” that there’s a 25-year gap for Red Guardian that we don’t know about yet. We don’t know what happened before he was arrested, nor do we know what it was like when he lived in prison. But, as I wrote for the Deseret News, Harbour said it would be a fun avenue to explore.

“I do think that the classic Cold War thing is a really fun and funny dynamic between these two guys and the fact that they basically came up as nuclear warheads like in an arms race together. I think it’s just a really great concept that could be explored further,” he said.

And Harbour suggested he would love to share some screen time with Anthony Mackie’s Sam Wilson, who recently became Captain America.

So will we see something like this in the future? It’s possible. Or it could be making something out of nothing. But if you’re looking for answers about the Red Guardian versus Captain America fight, you have as much as you need to know.