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When your bomb exploded, it nearly killed my Antonia. I had to put a chip in the back of her neck. In the back of her neck. Look at her. You find it difficult to look at her. I, too! She, she watches everything. And she can do it. She's a perfect mimic. And she fights just like all of your friends.
~ Antonia to Black Widow about Dreykov, free from her brainwashing.
Antonia Dreykov, also known as Taskmaster, is the secondary antagonist of the 2021 superhero film Black Widow while also being a character previously mentioned in The Avengers.
She is a commander of the Red Room who is tasked with hunting down Black Widow and bring her home years after her defection from the Soviet Union. She is the (former) right-hand of General Dreykov, who is also her father who placed a chip inside her, giving her full control of her body and mind. Becoming Taskmaster, Antonia is able to mimic and copy the fighting styles of anyone she observes. She and the Black Widows were freed from her father's control upon his death, allowing her to be free from his control.
She was portrayed by Olga Kurylenko, who also played Etain in Centurion, as Andy Lister played the character in suit. As a child, she was portrayed by Ryan Kiera Armstrong.
Antonia is the daughter to the Soviet General Dreykov, who was the overseer of the Red Room, which was a top secret program where young women were trained to become assassins. Due to his position, he was a wanted man by the organization S.H.I.E.L.D., who sent agents Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton to eliminate him. Natasha would use Antonia to get to the general, and learned that he moved his base in Budapest.
When her father was in his office in Budapest, Antonia visited him and was nearly killed in a blast set off by Romanoff and Barton. Antonia and her father survived the explosion, but she was left severely disfigured and burnt from the flames. Due to cerebral cortex being damaged, General Dreykov decided to save his daughter by planting a chip in the back of her neck, which allowed Antonia to null her senses and give her complete control over her mind and body. Antonia and her father were believed to have been killed in the explosion by Natasha, who felt guilt for killing an innocent person to eliminate her target.
After having the chip implanted in her neck, Antonia was able to mimic the fighting styles of anyone she saw in combat by observation. Seeing potential in his daughter for the Red Room, General Dreykov had her brainwashed by Melina Vostokoff's chemical, which gave him full control of Antonia and the Black Widows. Antonia lost her freedom to her father, who could remotely control her to assassinate targets for the Red Room. Antonia was designated "Project Taskmaster", and Dreykov would only deploy her under extreme situations or on top priority missions. Due to her reputation among the Black Widows, Taskmaster was believed to control the Red Room since she was commander, but it was truly her father who was in control.
Can you? Can you wipe out that much red? Dreykov's daughter?
~ Loki to Black Widow.
She was mentioned in The Avengers by Loki Laufeyson, who learned of Natasha Romanoff's past when he enthralled her colleague, Clint Barton. During his interrogation, Loki responded to Natasha's statement of wanting wipe her "red ledger", telling her could she wipe out what happened to "Dreykov's daughter".
When Red Room operative Yelena Belova escaped with the "red dust", General Dreykov decided to task his daughter to find Yelena and obtain the substance. Taskmaster learned that Natasha Romanoff was given the red dust, and ambushed Romanoff while she traveling through Norway. During their battle, Taskmaster analyzed Romanoff's moves, which allowed her to counter any of Black Widow's attacks, much to the latter's shock. Taskmaster defeated Romanoff by kicking her off of the bridge, but discovered that the red dust was taken. Antonia would learn information of Romanoff and Belova's whereabouts in Budapest, and continued her pursuit of the two assassins with the Black Widows. Taskmaster failed to kill the two, however, as Belova tricked Antonia by having her believe the two escaped via a manhole.
Taskmaster was given a lead on their whereabouts by Melina Melina Vostokoff, who informed Antonia that the two came to her home alongside Alexei Shostakov to learn more about the Red Room. Arriving to Vostokoff's home, Melina advised that they should take the three to the Red Room Academy so they could be executed by the general. During the interrogation between Dreykov and Romanoff (who was disguised as Vostokoff), the general ordered Antonia to remove her helmet, revealing her scarred face to a shocked Natasha. She was then ordered by her father to kill Vostokoff and Shostakov, as he knew that they were working to free the Black Widows with red dust. Taskmaster encountered the two and battled Alexei, but she was stopped from killing Shostakov by Melina imprisoning her in a cell.
Taskmaster was later freed from her cell by Natasha out of guilt, and the two proceeded to fight as Belova killed General Dreykov in his helicopter. Antonia was defeated by Romanoff, who caused her helmet to come off and proceeded to spray the red dust into her face, freeing her from her father's control. Falling to the ground, Antonia asked Natasha if her father was gone, and left the area with the other Black Widows to have a free life.
Powers and Abilities
Photographic Reflexes: She can copy any move she sees, being able to replicate her target's fighting style by observing and studying them. After watching the fighting styles of the Avengers, she was able to mimic their skill sets, which she used on top priority missions. Additionally, Taskmaster would mimic anyone's ability via their weaponry, such as mimicking Captain America's shield mastery and Hawkeye's bow mastery.
Master Martial Artist: She is master at hand to hand combat, having copied the fighting styles of the Avengers while watching their clash in 2016. She demonstrated great fighting skills while fighting with Black Widow, whom she had previously mimicked. Antonia was able to handle her own against Natasha on two occasions, and Red Guardian, who's physiology was enhanced by the Soviet version of the super soldier serum.
Shield Mastery: After copying Captain America, Taskmaster is highly skilled at using a shield in combat offensive or defensively.
Sword Mastery: Taskmaster is highly skilled at using a sword in combat. This best demonstrated during both fights against Black Widow.
Knife Mastery: Having studied the Winter Soldier, Taskmaster can use knives in close quarter combat.
Master Marksman: Taskmaster is a expert marksman, having studied and mimicked Hawkeye's archery skills and the Winter Soldier's weapon handling.
Master Acrobat: Having copied and studied the agility of Black Widow and Spider-Man, Taskmaster is able to use acrobatics during combat.
Shield: She carries a collapsible circular shield to fully mimic the fighting style of Captain America, who wielded a vibranium shield during the course of his superhero career.
Sword: Taskmaster carries a collapsible single edge sword similar to a katana or ninjato.
Bow: She carried a bow similar to Hawkeye, whom she had mimicked from his clash with Iron Man's faction in 2016. Upon mimicking his fighting style with a bow, Taskmaster carried one to use in combat.
Chiappa Rhino: Taskmaster carries this revolver holstered on the right thigh.
Combat knife: Taskmaster carries a combat knife holstered on the right leg which was used during the fight with Red Guardian.
Suit: Taskmaster wore a tactical armored suit when operating on missions. The helmet is retractable and can be removed by a button on the right gauntlet. The mask also contains a heads up display which analyzes battlefield data.
Retractable claws: The gloves contain retractable metal claws similar to Black Panther.
Retractable blade gauntlet: The left gauntlet contains a retractable blade similar to Crossbones.
Since the announcement of the film's cast, Taskmaster's actor was never listed in the lead-up to the film. It wasn't until the release of Black Widow that Taskmaster's actor was finally confirmed to be Olga Kurylenko, which in turn revealed that the MCU incarnation of the Taskmaster is female.
A different Taskmaster voiced by Crispin Freeman appears in the video game Captain America: The Winter Soldier - The Official Game. This version of the character allies himself with Sin and King Cobra in their conflict against S.H.I.E.L.D., stealing several Iso-8-powered nuclear warheads from Project Pegasus with the intention of bombing major cities. Taskmaster leads Captain America into a trap, planning to kill him, but is ultimately defeated and surrenders, allowing himself to be taken into custody by S.H.I.E.L.D. and interrogated by Black Widow. As of the events of Black Widow, this version of Taskmaster is no longer considered canonical.
Despite the fact that Taskmaster is portrayed by a female, most of her stunts and masked scenes were portrayed by her body double, Andy Lister, who is a male.
Taskmaster is the ninth gender swapped character from their comic book counterparts, following Jeri Hogarth, the Ancient One, Fenris Wolf, Ghost, Mar-Vell, Morgan Stark, Gabriella Rosetti and Karli Morgenthau.
She is also the second incarnation of Taskmaster to be gender swapped with the first version debuting on Deadpool MAX.
This incarnation of Taskmaster received mixed reception from fans not only because of her combat suit deemed too generic design-wise that some would find certain aesthetics of it seemingly taking cues from Lord Zedd's appearance, but also her background as a mostly silent technologically-enhanced, brainwashed super-soldier who could match the protagonist's combat abilities effectively the retelling of Bucky Barnes's own specifically during his time as Winter Soldier.