Black Widow: Bad Blood is a serialized novel released in a new episode/chapter every week on Serial Box. Today I’m recapping and reviewing episodes eleven and twelve so beware of mild spoilers for all episodes so far.
After episode ten ended with Nat blacking out at the glittering gala she had infiltrated with Bucky, episode eleven, “The Carrot and the Stick” opens with Nat suffering through the second wave of the illness she was infected with at the start of the story. The virus forces her to suffer through nightmare after nightmare but at least Bucky is there to support her through the night, doing all her can to provide some comfort.
Upon awakening and after the worst has passed, Nat surprises Bucky by suggesting that perhaps the billionaire Allan Holt is also being used just like they are. She has reached this conclusion thanks to his surprisingly kind treatment of them both the previous evening. The pair talk through their concerns and suspicions but Nat is unsure how much of her generous mood can be attributed to the lingering effects of the virus.
Taking Holt up on his offer for them to visit his secure facility and destroy their stolen blood samples themselves, the pair reach the site and discover an underground bunker more suited to a Bond villain than a philanthropist. Technologically advanced biosecurity is everywhere, but as the two are led deeper and deeper into the labyrinth, something still doesn’t seem right about Holt.
This is a short episode that is largely taken up with detailed descriptions of the innovative security implemented by Holt at his facility. While this is great at tension building ready for the next chapter, it was the opening of this episode that I enjoyed the most. Like several before, this episode has strong fanfiction vibes as Bucky nurses Nat back to health with a cold wet cloth and soothing words, but while I (and no doubt many other readers) were hoping for something a little more intimate, the book is determined to make us continue living in hope.
Natasha’s shift in her attitude toward Holt took me by surprise – the same effect it had on Bucky. While this decision initially confused me, I found myself appreciating it for the element of doubt it would cast over Bucky and Nat’s next meeting with Holt later in the episode.
In episode twelve, “A Rock and a Hard Place”, Holt finally reveals the reason he stole Nat and Bucky’s blood, explaining to them his plan and giving us the answers we have been waiting for. Unlike a traditional supervillain plan to take over the world, Holt’s motivations are more genuinely philanthropic, however, that doesn’t prevent them from being utterly horrifying. While Nat and Bucky reel from the twisted revelations they have been presented with, Holt informs them that the last wheels are already in motion and attempts to trap them so that his efforts can finally come to fruition.
Holt, however, had failed to take his business partner – Viscose – into consideration. Determined to have his revenge after being taken down by Nat in Chicago, Viscose inadvertently gives Bucky and Nat the opening they need to begin bringing Holt’s plans down around him – literally.
This is the episode we have been waiting for as we finally see how all the pieces fit into place and just what Holt’s plan is. This is a fairly typical Marvel villain plan but there is a neat twist to it too that may leave you with an uncomfortable feeling regarding your own genetic privacy.
Another disturbing element is Holt’s total belief that what he is doing is the best choice for humanity. His conviction is similar to that of Thanos with both characters believing that only they are capable of making the hard choices needed to save the Earth/universe while never considering whether it should be up to them to make those decisions. It is this conviction that throws Nat’s instincts off. Holt genuinely believes himself to be a good person and that Nat and Bucky will be on his side so he doesn’t treat them as his enemies – something she is simply not used to.
I can’t wait to read the final two episodes of Black Widow: Bad Blood and discover how this story ends. Until then, look out for my recap of Jessica Jones: Playing with Fire episodes eight and nine later this week.