Warning: This article contains SPOILERS for episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Just as John Walker’s tenure as Captain America seemed to come to an end, a surprising face offered him a new path.
The episode began right where the previous one left off as, after watching Karli kill his best friend Lemar in a fight, John Walker (Wyatt Russell) brutally attacked a Flag-Smasher, beating him to death with that iconic shield.
Walker had a brutal fight with Sam (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky (Sebastian Stan), who managed to defeat him despite Walker having taken the Super-Soldier Serum. Sam then took back the shield.
With the world having witnessed him killing an unarmed man on camera, a military tribunal had no choice but to strip Walker of not only being Captain America but his formal military ranks and dishonorably discharge him.
A stunned Walker was with his wife in a hallway when walking up came a woman played by 11-time Emmy Award-winning Seinfeld and Veep star Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
She gave Walker a blank card and told him that a group she represented thought he’d done the right thing and were willing to help him.
She then identified herself as Countessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine and “don’t call me Val.”
Who is Countessa Val?
Created by Jim Steranko during his seminal run on Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD in 1967, Countessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine has been a key figure in SHIELD’s history.
While much of her past was kept secret, it would later be revealed Val had been a Soviet mole hired into SHIELD, but Fury was fully aware of her past and using it to help the organization. A skillful spy, Val would have a years-long on-and-off relationship with Fury and even briefly run SHIELD herself.
After briefly being replaced by a Skrull imposter, Val would go undercover as the new Madame Hydra, secretly helping Fury bring the organization down.
More recently, Val has been part of JANUS, a mysterious new spy organization whose motives are unknown.
Lisa Rinna played Val in the 1998 Nick Fury Agent of SHIELD Fox TV movie opposite David Hasselhoff as Fury.
What this means for the show
Bringing in Val seems unexpected, but it was supposed to happen on the big screen a year ago.
The casting of Loius-Dreyfus, best known for her comedic roles, is a surprise, but then, the MCU has a history of offbeat actors who end up working wonderfully in a role (see Chris Pratt as Star-Lord).
It’s unclear whether Val is working on her own or for an organization and, if the latter, what their goals are. Her reaching out to Walker is intriguing as the episode’s mid-credits scene shows Walker building his own shield, indicating he will take on the identity of U.S. Agent.
This played into other significant developments in the episode as Sam talked with Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), the unwilling recipient of the Super-Soldier Serum in the 1950s. After Bradley spoke about the nation “never letting a black man be Captain America,” Sam was inspired to train himself using the shield.
Also, Bucky was tempted to kill Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) but instead turned the man over to the Wakandan authorities to spend the rest of his life in prison.
The episode culminated in Karli hiring Batroc to join her and a small army of Super-Soldier Serum-enhanced Flag-Smashers to attack a United Nations conference. The episode ended with Sam opening a case containing a new suit.
The arrival of Countessa Val indicates that even after Falcon and the Winter Soldier ends next week, a longer-range plot within the MCU will be happening.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Season 1 finale streaming April 23 on Disney+.