• Thunderbolts will dig into the unexplored history and complexities of the relationship between Yelena Belova and Red Guardian.
  • Yelena and Alexei’s bond is tested by grief and loss, with the death of Natasha and the Blip potentially having an impact on their dynamic.
  • The team dynamic in Thunderbolts could bring Yelena and Alexei closer together or create a prominent rift, with Alexei potentially being both an ally and an annoyance to Yelena.

Thunderbolts will explore new elements to the relationship between Red Guardian, aka Alexei Shostakov, and Yelena Belova, including elements of their past. Yelena Belova and Red Guardian were first introduced in Black Widow as part of Natasha Romanoff’s long-estranged fake family from when she was a child. By the end of the movie, their bond had been renewed, with Yelena and Natasha once again leaning on one another as sisters and accepting their deeply flawed surrogate parental figures. Yelena and Red Guardian will return in Thunderbolts as part of the team, which also seems to include U.S. Agent, Taskmaster, Ghost, and Bucky Barnes.

On the BoxLunch Holiday Gala red carpet, Screen Rant exclusively spoke with David Harbour about Thunderbolts. He teased that the movie will dig further into the unexplored history of Yelena Belova and Red Guardian, including potentially more of their lives together in the Midwest. Harbour also discussed how Yelena, much to her chagrin, needs Alexei to help her become more complete. Check out Harbour’s full quote below:

David Harbour: So they have a lot of unexplored history. There’s a lot of details that the director, Jake, has gone into the great care of what their life was like in the Midwest when they were doing all that spy stuff. And then, a lot of that comes up in really fun, interesting, beautiful ways, which, like in the Black Widow movie came up with that song, American Pie. And there’s just a lot of complexity between me and Florence’s character, which I love.

And also they’re two people that… she can’t stand, but she needs some because she’s incomplete in a certain way that he may be able to help her with. I think that’s always so beautiful. Because I feel like our relationships are always so… Sometimes we don’t get to choose the people that complete us. The people that we really need. I think that they exemplify that in their own way. It will be fun to bring that to life in the movie.

How Thunderbolts Can Expand Upon The Relationship Between Red Guardian & Yelena Belova

Yelena and Alexei’s relationship was fraught throughout Black Widow, with Alexie’s inability to recognize what he had done wrong and Yelena needing to protect herself. However, it came to a head when Yelena confronted Alexie about his selfishness, and he stepped up to help and protect his family. Thunderbolts will be an opportunity to explore how the loss of Natasha and the Blip have impacted their relationship.

Related: Marvel’s Thunderbolts: Cast, Release Date & Everything We Know

Yelena lost the most important person in her life and a key part of the family unit that ties her and Alexei together. This grief could be what sparks a further exploration of their past. While the dynamic between these characters can be comedic with Yelena’s sharp wit and deadpan responses to Alexei’s boastfulness and exaggeration, the relationship itself is full of complexities that can be even more prominent with this team. Their connection likely means that they will be one another’s closest allies and the person that they each trust.

However, Yelena’s trust has been burned largely because of Alexei’s own actions. This team could bring them closer together or create an even more prominent rift between the pair. The fact that they are on this team together opens the door to interesting possibilities, with the pair either working well together or the Red Guardian being an annoyance that Yelena may be stuck dealing with. Yelena’s path may be different from Natasha’s, but they each needed to find their way after escaping the Red Room. Yelena’s efforts to fix what was broken are likely very different from those of Natasha’s with Alexie, it seems, being a key part of the equation in Thunderbolts.

Thunderbolts exclusively hits theaters on July 25, 2025.

  • Marvel’s Thunderbolts

    Release Date:

    Jake Schreier

    Sebastian Stan, Wyatt Russell, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Tim Roth, Daniel Brühl, Florence Pugh, David Harbour, Olga Kurylenko, Harrison Ford

    Not Yet Rated

    Adventure, Action

    Lee Sung Jin

    There is little known about Marvel’s Thunderbolts other than it will start as a group of current and former villains that will team up and conduct operations under the orders of the United States Government. General Thaddeus E. “Thunderbolt” Ross ran the original team. The rumored cast currently includes characters such as Yelena Belova and Taskmaster of Black Widow fame, Baron Zemo, Ghost, The Abomination, U.S. Agent, and potentially Bucky Barnes, A.K.A. the Winter Soldier.

    $200 million

    Marvel Studios

    Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

    Marvel Cinematic Universe

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