This review contains spoilers.
Avengers: Infinity War is no Wonder Woman.
To be honest, there’s no Marvel movie that quite compares to the feminist joy of watching Gal Gadot triumph on screen, largely because there just isn’t a female-led Marvel film to compare it to. Marvel’s female characters are too often written for the express purpose of adding complexity, tragedy or romance to a male character’s story instead of directing their own. That’s not to say that Marvel hasn’t started weaving complexity into its female characters’ stories, however—complexity that’s arguably more relatable than the graceful power of Amazonian women.
In a brief but undeniably powerful final Infinity War battle, Black Widow, played by Scarlett Johansson; Scarlet Witch, played by Elizabeth Olsen; and General Okoye, played by Danai Gurira, join together in an all-female fight that epitomizes the complicated feminism of the Marvel Universe. As she tries to protect her lover, Vision, Scarlet Witch is targeted by the villainous Proxima Midnight, a minion of the movie’s Big Bad, Thanos. With Vision incapacitated, Scarlet Witch finds herself losing the upper hand in her fight with Proxima.
That’s when Proxima menacingly states that no one is coming to rescue her.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In an instant, Scarlet Witch is joined by General Okoye and Black Widow. In a moment of solidarity, Black Widow declares: “She’s not alone.” In beautifully brutal style, Black Widow, General Okoye and Scarlet Witch team up to dispatch of Proxima. It’s a short scene, over in a flash, but its meaning reverberates beyond the moment.
Natasha Romanoff spent years as a child in a Soviet training facility, where she was overworked and abused, until she became the fearsome Black Widow. Scarlet Witch, also known as Wanda Maximoff, survived political upheaval in the fictional Eastern European state of Sokovia—and vicious scientific experiments that transformed her into a superhero—and appears in Infinity War in full command of her identity after struggling throughout Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War to reclaim ownership of her body and powers after years of manipulation.
Scarlet Witch journeyed from being afraid of to being in control of her powers; Black Widow’s character has followed a more redemptive ark of recovering who she is under her abilities. Both women share a history of trauma, but their stories vary enough to show the diverse manifestations of abuse.
General Okoye’s backstory is less clear. In this year’s blockbuster Black Panther, Okoye won the hearts of viewers for her formidable strength as leader of the Dora Milaje, Wakanda’s all-female bodyguards to the king. Okoye’s loyalty is never more clear than in Black Panther’s final battle, when she declared her fealty to her king and country above her lover W’Kabi.
In their separate ways, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow and General Okoye are written as women who have had to stand up against those who asked them to be less than themselves—which makes it all the more powerful when they come together to fight not just with, but for each other. In the Marvel Universe established beyond Infinity War, Scarlet Witch, Black Widow and General Okoye are three incredibly layered female characters—and their banding together is an act of feminist solidarity.
“She’s Not Alone” is not the same call-out against sexual assault and harassment as our contemporary #MeToo movement, but it shares similar undertones. It’s a moment of commonality among women who have shared too much—and a promise between them to fight together moving forward.
It’s no wonder then that the movie closes with a post-credits scene heralding the approach of Captain Marvel, the first female superhero to receive a movie of her own in the Marvel Universe. Despite Infinity War’s heartbreaking conclusion, a woman is coming to remind the universe that it is not alone.