Who is [spoiler] playing on Falcon and the Winter Soldier? Why that Marvel cameo is a big deal

Falcon Winter Soldier Julia Louis-Dreyfus
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

They only appeared for a little over two minutes in total – but their impact could be felt for years to come.

Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 5 tucked away a surprise cameo that will not only impact the lives of some major Marvel characters, but is likely to get fans speculating over what the next move is in a chess game that could span the entirety of Marvel Phase 4.

Intrigued? Let’s dive into who this new character is, where you recognize the actor from, and why it’s all such a big deal.

Major spoilers for Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 5 follow…

Following his caught-in-4K act of murder in Latvia, John Walker was hauled in and reprimanded by the US government for his actions. While he made no friends in the assembled panel sat across from him, it was a mysterious figure outside the hearing who offered him a new path. Yes, it was the "award-winning" actor that was previously speculated upon.

Arriving in high heels and walking right into Walker’s life with a confident strut, the woman (played by Veep and Seinfeld star Julia Louis-Dreyfus) introduces herself as Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Correction: Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine. Just don’t call her Val.

Valentina explains that Walker is now "very, very valuable" to certain people and hands him a black business card with no writing on it. She departs – but not before saying she’ll be in touch with Walker when the time comes.

So, who is she? Like so many of Marvel’s latest introductions, the answers can be found in the pages and panels of its comic books.

There, Valentina Allegra de Fontaine was a one-time SHIELD operative who shared a romantic relationship with a certain Nick Fury. She even led the ‘Femme Force’, a group of female SHIELD agents.

But it’s her darker past that will set tongues wagging. Not only did she ‘defect’ to Hydra and set herself up as supervillain Madame Hydra, she was later revealed to be a Russian double agent for the spy group Leviathan.

So, her intentions are unlikely to be pure of heart. Interestingly, she could even be used in a role that was once thought to be reserved for another MCU character.

In the comics, General Ross (played in the MCU by William Hurt) helped set up a team of anti-heroes and villains, including The Punisher and Red Hulk, called The Thunderbolts. In essence the anti-Avengers, they were able to take on covert missions and more morally gray tasks without answering to any official authority.

With Ross set to show up in Black Widow – and, curiously, the Contessa was originally set to appear in the same movie – it stands to reason that the two might be in cahoots and bringing together their own team to operate in the shadows. First up? John Walker. And now that Baron Zemo has been shipped off to supervillain prison The Raft, it might only be a matter of time before the Contessa comes calling.

Expect parts of Marvel Phase 4, and its attached post-credits scenes, to eventually build up a supervillain group using that black business card as a way to set up either the Thunderbolts or even the Dark Avengers. Valentina might not even be the one ultimately pulling the strings – but she’s the first one to step out of the shadows. And she’s planning something big.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.