The Red Room is a top secret Soviet brainwashing and training program. The program takes young women and turns them into the world's deadliest and most elite assassins.
The girls chosen are put through strenuous daily training, including hand to hand combat training, acrobatics, weapons training and tactical skills. Occasionally two girls are chosen to violently spar against each other; weakness is not tolerated and the loser is killed by their opponent.
The girls are forced to watch video projections such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, however the videos are full of subliminal messages including "Instill", "Fear" and "Pain", slowly brainwashing the girls. During sleep all "students" have both their hands handcuffed to the the bed frame preventing escape.
The girls' training also includes intense ballet dance lessons, where their instructor orders them to repeat their routine over and over again, so they can become "unbreakable". Many times, when the girls get trained in the use of firearms, they get to have actual people as shooting targets for practice.
- "The ceremony is necessary, for you to take your place in the world."
"We have no place in the world."
- ―Madame B. and Natasha Romanoff
The "Graduation Ceremony", which takes place after the agents have successfully passed a series of physical and mental tests, involves the young women being forcefully sterilized. Removing their ability to bear children, supposedly makes the Red Room graduates better killers; they never have to experience such weakness as worrying more about a family than their mission.
Every morning, one of her instructors entered the room and opened the handcuffs that tied each girl to her bed. One of those mornings, Underwood shared a piece of bread she managed to hide with one of her friends, Anya, whom she later had to fight with as part of their training under the watch of her instructor. Though it looked like an even match at first, Underwood managed to overpower Anya and grabbed her by the neck. With a gesture, her instructor ordered Underwood to kill her friend, and she subsequently broke her neck.
Years later, Peggy Carter, Dum Dum Dugan, Junior Juniper and Mike Li infiltrated the Red Room Academy. There they found a little girl crying in a corner of a room. Dugan approached the girl, Eva, and told her they were there to help and they would not hurt her. Eva stopped crying and slowly touched Dugan's bowler hat, nodding when he asked her if she liked the hat. Dugan asked Carter the reason they were called "bowler hats", and Eva seized the opportunity to quickly stab Dugan, take his gun and shoot at Juniper. Carter managed to disarm Eva, but she was too fast and was able to escape, while Juniper died on the ground.
Eva later reappeared from inside a pipe and killed Li with a shot to the head, and while Sawyer retaliated, Eva managed to shoot him in the leg, escaping from the gunfire.
- "What if I fail?"
"You never fail."
- ―Natasha Romanoff and Madame B.
Decades later, a young Natasha Romanoff, would be raised and trained in a similar program, after being recruited to the KGB. There, she endured both an education and indoctrination into the world of spy-craft. Romanoff soon became regarded as one of the best students of the program, with her supervisor stating that she never fails. When the time came for her to go through the graduation ceremony, Romanoff pretended to fail in her physical exams but Madame B. realized that she was faking so she made her go through it anyway.
During her time as a master spy and assassin, she would earn the code name "Black Widow", due to her ruthless effectiveness. Because of her growing threat to global security, Romanoff was quickly noticed by S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Director Nick Fury, who sent Agent Clint Barton to eliminate her. However Barton disobeyed the order, instead recommending she be recruited for S.H.I.E.L.D. With the support of Director Fury, Romanoff later defected from Russia and joined the ranks of S.H.I.E.L.D. and later on the superhero team, the Avengers.
Romanoff is still haunted by the memory of her training, and even views herself as a monster because of it.
- In the comics, the USSR had a "Black Widow OPs" in which young female orphans, are brainwashed, and trained in combat and espionage at the covert "Red Room" facility. Natasha Romanoff was one of these women. Agent Carter showrunners Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas stated in an interview that the Russian Assassin Program is the precursor to the Black Widow Program.