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The following story contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 5.
Fans expecting to be surprised by a returning character in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's fifth episode instead got something different: a super-famous face being introduced as an entirely new character.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is now a part of the MCU, and made her entrance as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine in a scene recruiting a now-disgraced John Walker.
The scene felt almost like an inversion of Samuel L. Jackson's first scene as Nick Fury, recruiting Tony Stark. And that may have been on purpose.
Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe have been conditioned to expect the unexpected. Would this character from this movie show up? Will this superhero jump over from another universe pop in, establishing the multi-verse? Marvel knows that's the kind of unexpected that we're all expecting, though. So they figure to just play things simple and surprise everyone with some stellar casing, which is exactly what The Falcon and the Winter Soldier did in Episode 5, bringing in 11-time Emmy winner and literally everyone's favorite TV star Julia Louis-Dreyfus as the long-named Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine.
Louis-Dreyfus' entrance is a dramatic one, in a scene that almost mirrors Samuel L. Jackson's first scene in 2008's original Iron Man as Nick Fury. A long entrance, followed by a reveal, an introduction, and a pitch. As a disgraced John Walker sits, dejected, Valentina is here to tell him that he still has value. And it seems to be coming from a pretty sinister place.
A Vanity Fair piece by Joanna Robinson put the pieces together that the comedy legend's appearance in the MCU has seemingly been a long time coming. In a 2019 piece for the same publication, Veep showrunner David Mandel suggested that Louis-Dreyfus should play a Marvel villain. Co-star and fellow Emmy-winner Tony Hale suggested along the same lines. “Selina was so atrocious, but then you loved her at the same time," he said. "And I think that makes a really good Disney villain.”
She sounded up to the challenge at the time, too. “Swinging around on wires and kicking people in the face…shooting fire out of whatever you shoot fire out of. I would dig that,” she said.
What does Julia Louis-Dreyfus' appearance as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine mean for the MCU?
Ever since the credits began rolling on Avengers: Endgame, one question has at the very least been creeping in the back of every MCU fan's head: who's the next big, major villain going to be? We're going to get our single-film baddies, obviously, but we're talking potential Thanos level. Remember, Thanos was first teased in the credits of 2012's The Avengers before appearing in 2014's Guardians of the Galaxy and another credits scene in 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron. By the time we finally saw Josh Brolin's epic villain at full strength, it was 2018 in Avengers: Infinity War, and we'd been getting glimpses, teases, and hints for six full years of movies.
The point? Familiarity goes a long way. Think about how fun it was to see Zemo again in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. A lot of the MCU's villains have been subpar, but it's hard to not think about the potential squandered by leaving characters like Jeff Bridges' Obadiah Stane or Michael B. Jordan's Erik Killmonger to only one movie.
Louis-Dreyfus' Valentina figures to change that. The Vanity Fair story above hinted that the character could appear in Black Widow, and that before all the delays and schedule adjustments, that was the MCU's plan. Could she take on a Nick Fury-esque role in the formation of Marvel's own team of supervillains, the Thunderbolts? She's already got John Walker making alternate suits and waiting for her call. That team was led by Helmut Zemo in the comic version, but Episode 5 showed him taken into the rightful custody of Wakanda's Dora Milaje.
But did he not give off bizarro world Tony Stark vibes for his entire time in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Think about it—rich guy, cool outfits, deflecting with humor, and chartering private jets? Zemo and Walker didn't get along before, but if anyone could bring these two onto the same side, it would be Valentina, just like her foil, Nick Fury, did with a certain Iron Man and Captain America.
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