A deep dive on that new arrival in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Well... we didn't see this coming.
Marvel has been pretty exceptional at keeping secrets.
Sure, fans have decades upon decades of comic books to mine for information, but because the Marvel Cinematic Universe hasn't been slavish to the original plots and characters in their adaptations, things can often take an extremely unexpected turn.
However, when it came to the fifth and penultimate episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier - extremely appropriately titled 'Truth' - the sudden arrival of a new character came with the one-two punch of a surprise.
One, that the Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine was a part of this story at all, and two, that they are being played by none other than comedy icon Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
On the latest episode of TBR Spotlight: The Falcon and the Winter Solider [LISTEN from 13.15 below] Rory and Eoghan talk about their shared reaction to the sudden arrival of both the actress and the character in the episode.
Arriving on the scene with the silencing click-clack of her heels in the hallway following John Walker's "other than honourable discharge", Fontaine introduces herself in a manner very familiar to Nick Fury did back during the post-credits sequence of the first Iron Man: all business cards and impending phone calls.
During her brief appearance, she reveals that she knows... well... a lot. She knows Walker took the serum. She knows that Walker doesn't have Captain America's shield. She knows that the US government doesn't actually own the shield to begin with.
How does she know all this? We don't know, and it almost doesn't matter, because it is a tremendous shorthand to get across Val's power, influence, and connections.
Instead of going through every single iteration of who the character was the comics, we're going to list the three most likely routes that her character is going to take within the MCU.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is the Power Broker
It makes a certain kind of sense, doesn't it? We've never actually met the Power Broker, so it could be anyone, and we see Val obviously fits the bill. In the comics, Madripoor was one-time ruled by Madame Hydra (we'll get to that), and she was also the leader of several terrorist organisations, so she could also be pulling the strings behind the Flag Smashers.
The only cons against this idea are that Sharon Carter's actions in this most recent episode seem to indicate even more strongly that she is the Power Broker (more on that in the above Spotlight episode), and then there's the below quote from Val. "Valuable to certain people", but maybe not valuable to her? Could be a mind game, could just be careful wording, but we reckon there is more to it than that.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is Madame Hydra
Who is Madame Hydra, you may ask? Well, we need to go back to Val's origins. After her rich Italian parents were killed by a resistance movement, she decides to put her skills and assets to good use. Eventually, she becomes one of the leading members of SHIELD, and also, Nick Fury's girlfriend.
However, depending on which comic book story you've been following, she ends up being a sleeper Russian agent and turning on SHIELD. This may explain why it is rumoured that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was actually supposed to initially appear in Black Widow, before the pandemic pushed that movie's release back by over a year.
If that is the case, and she appears to be drafting John Walker here - and, going out on a limb, potentially drafting Black Widow's sister Yelena (Florence Pugh) in that movie - then she could be putting together The Thunderbolts. This is a superhero team that is made up almost entirely of reformed supervillains, who try to fill the void left behind by the Avengers.
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is a Skrull
One of the other major comic book story arcs is that Val, while a high ranking SHIELD member and Fury's girlfriend, was actually a Skrull all along. In that plot, it was so the Skrulls could find Fury's location, but as we know, within the MCU, Fury is currently in deep space working with the Skrulls themselves. Also, the movie interpretation of the Skrulls that we got in Captain Marvel is quite different to the comic books, so the plot would need some shapeshifting of its own to make sense in this context.
However, we do know that Marvel have Secret Invasion on the way, a six-episode Disney+ show based on the infamous Skrull infiltration storyline, so this could very much be setting that up.
But, back to this episode of The Falcon of the Winter Soldier, just as quickly as she arrived, she's gone, promising to return. We can't wait.