Recently appearing on Vanity Fair's Still Watching podcast, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier producer Nate Moore hyped up Episode 5 ("Truth") of the hit MCU series. The big rumor? We'd meet a new Marvel character, and we did — just probably not one most folks were expecting.
"Episode 5, I think, gets to bring a lot of the threads that maybe felt disparate or not fully-formed together," he said. "You get to see the conversation the show is gonna try to have with the audience. Episode 4 is gonna be a lot of people's favorite episode for some action reasons and some character turns. But [Episode] 5 really gets to be the culmination of the theme. Both from an acting standpoint and from a filmmaking standpoint, I think it's our strongest episode."
How right he was...
***WARNING! The following contains major plot spoilers for Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier!***
The latest installment had a lot going on: John Walker (Wyatt Russell) is fired as Captain America, Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly) opens up about his tragic past as an African American super-soldier, Sam (Anthony Mackie) starts training with Steve's shield, Bucky (Sebastian Stan) agrees to start making genuine amends for his past misdeeds, and Elaine Benes makes her Marvel Studios debut.
Get out! *forcibly pushes Jerry*
Sorry, we mean that Seinfeld and Veep favorite Julia Louis-Dreyfus made a surprise appearance as Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, aka sometimes Madame Hydra. Created by Jim Steranko in the late '60s, she's a character with close comic book ties to both S.H.I.E.L.D. and HYDRA. Brimming with confidence and mystery, Ms. Fontaine confronts Walker shortly after he gets the sack, telling him that he was right to take the super-soldier serum. It's a choice that's made him "very, very valuable to certain people." She hands Walker a blank business card, says she'll be in touch, and walks away without another word. During the short post-credits scene, we see Walker forging his own Captain America shield and continuing down the path that leads to U.S. Agent.
What does it all mean? Well, according to Vanity Fair, Fontaine was originally supposed to make her first-ever appearance in Black Widow. That became impossible when the film was delayed several times by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the duty of launching Phase 4 of the MCU fell to WandaVision.
However, VF speculates that Black Widow's post-credits scene may involve Fontaine asking Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh, who will also appear in the upcoming Hawkeye series) to join a Suicide Squad-esque team of former bad guys. Traditionally, both Fontaine and Yelena are depicted as Russian spies, giving them common ground. In addition, the idea of a group of villains-turned-heroes already has a precedent in the comics with the Thunderbolts, who were founded by none other than... Baron Zemo.
As such, fans are now theorizing that Louis-Dreyfus's Fontaine is a dark reflection of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), who is actively recruiting members for an anti-Avengers Initiative. Like we said earlier, Val has strong connections to Fury in the comics (the two were once romantically linked) and what's more: she had a large role to play in the Secret Invasion comic run, another famous arc that's getting the TV show treatment at Disney+. Oh, and she was a member of Femme Force, an elite S.H.I.E.L.D. squad run by — who else? — Sharon Carter!
Now, we can't say all of this with 100 percent certainty, but it does feel like some serious groundwork is being laid here for Phase 4 and beyond. The concept of rehabilitated antagonists fighting alongside the Avengers against the next major threat is just too good — and creates plenty of great conflict in the meantime. Kevin Feige & Co. would be crazy to let it pass by!
Episodes 1-5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are currently available to stream on Disney+. The series finale premieres on the streaming service next Friday, April 23.