Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel Studios
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 promised fans a cameo by a “well-known performer” playing a “grounded” character — and boy was that an understatement. While the previous Disney+ Marvel Cinematic Universe series WandaVision was busy hyping up non-existent cameo appearances, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier more than delivers on what its creator Malcolm Spellman and other reports teased. In fact, I would go as far as to say that this cameo is in my top three, next to Matt Damon playing Loki in Thor: Ragnarok, and the return of J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson in Spider-Man: Far From Home. If you haven't seen it, please go watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 before you continue reading.
Spoilers ahead for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 “Truth”.
Early into the latest The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode, after John Walker (Wyatt Russell) has been stripped of the Captain America title and his military rank due to his episode 4 actions, he sits on a bench and complains to his wife Olivia (Gabrielle Byndloss) about how the US government “doesn't understand what it takes to be Captain America. It's not like I'm just going to disappear.” Olivia tells him to focus and take things one step at a time, but before she can finisher her sentence, the Walkers are interrupted by someone's footsteps. Very loud heels indeed.
A stranger dressed in dark purple from top to bottom approaches them and introduces herself as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. “Actually, it's Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine,” she adds. It's Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the star of award-winning comedy series such as Veep and Seinfeld. In fact, Louis-Dreyfus has won eight Emmys for her acting, including six in a row for Veep. Marvel has a history of tapping comedians for its movies and TV shows — WandaVision villain Agatha Harkness, played by Kathryn Hahn, was the latest — but this is as big as it gets for the MCU.
Back to the cameo — Valentina then squeezes herself between Walker and his wife, and then says that she would have done the same thing as him, back in Lativa: killing the Flag Smasher. Olivia interrupts her to ask who she is, but Valentina just hands her a card without even looking in her direction. She continues speaking to Walker, telling him she knows that he took the Super Soldier Serum and adds: “It has made you very, very valuable to certain people. I actually think it was the second-best choice you've ever made in your life.”
The first best choice? Valentina says it's tied with marrying the “fabulous firecracker” Olivia, though she's really toying with them. “Picking up the phone when I call you,” Valentina then adds to Walker, making it absolutely clear whom he works for now. Valentina then tells him not to worry about the shield — she knows he doesn't have it anymore — and then lets him on a “little dirty state secret”. The Captain America shield doesn't actually belong to the US government; it's a legal grey area of sorts.
“I'll be in touch,” Valentina says as she gets up and leaves. Olivia hands the card she got to Walker, who discovers that there's nothing on it. It's just black on one side and white on the other. What's that supposed to mean?
In the Marvel comics — according to the official Marvel.com website — Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is an alias of a Russian spy who works for a secret network called Leviathan. She and her family were relocated to Italy during the Cold War and given their “de Fontaine” identities. After her spy parents are supposedly killed by Russian agents, Valentina would go on to be recruited by the newly-formed SHIELD and trained as a super spy in her own right.
But Valentina was in fact a double agent working for Leviathan. Valentina has had a long run in Marvel comics, being part of dozens of stories featuring Captain America and Nick Fury. She was even called Madame Hydra at one point. But many of these are incompatible with the MCU given the time and place we're now in. That said, the MCU has a habit of tweaking origin stories anyway, so don't expect any of this to play out as such. The only thing that will seemingly hold true is her Russian link, as a report by Vanity Fair has revealed.
Spoilers ahead for an upcoming MCU movie.
Immediately after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 released Friday, Vanity Fair said that Louis-Dreyfus was first meant to appear as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in Black Widow, the Scarlett Johansson-led standalone movie. Black Widow was originally designed to release prior to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has switched the order. Black Widow is now slated to debut July 9 in cinemas and on Disney+ with Premier Access.
Given Black Widow revolves around Natasha Romanoff's (Johansson) links to the Soviet spy training facility Red Room, it seems that Louis-Dreyfus' Valentina will retain her Russian origin story. What her story has been since remains unclear though. Vanity Fair wonders if Marvel will still keep her presence in Black Widow but it also claims that people familiar with the matter have said that Marvel has “big ambitions” for Louis-Dreyfus.
That means we will see a lot more of Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in the MCU Phase Four. Could she be the next big bad in the MCU? Or will she be limited to the next few movies? Well, that's something we will just have to wait to find out.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 5 is now streaming on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 6 — the series finale — releases on April 23 at 12:30pm IST / 12am PT.
Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast, has a double bill this week: the OnePlus 9 series, and Justice League Snyder Cut (starting at 25:32). Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts.