The following contains mild but arguably insignificant spoilers from Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, now in theaters.
Marvel’s Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (now in theaters) caught us up on an MCU character we first met in Disney+’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier series, and who had only been seen one other time since.
You previously knew Julia Louis-Dreyfus‘ character as Countess Valentina Allegra “Don’t Call Me Val” de Fontaine, but as revealed during Wakanda Forever, it is now CIA Director de Fontaine to you.
Oh — and Director de Fontaine is also apparently the (flirty) ex-wife of veteran CIA operative Everett Ross (played by MCU vet Martin Freeman)! We will discuss the long-term significance of that in a moment….
WHEN DID WE FIRST MEET THE COUNTESS?
Near the end of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s run, eight-time Emmy winner Louis-Dreyfus made her debut as Countess Valentina Allegra de Fontaine, an enigmatic woman of considerable means who befriended a disgraced John Walker fka Captain America (played by Lodge 49‘s Wyatt Russell) and wound up refashioning him as U.S. Agent.
Val next popped up in the Black Widow movie’s mid-credits scene — which originally was intended to be the character’s first appearance in the MCU — to hand assassin Yelena Belova (played by Florence Pugh) her next assignment: Clint Barton. Yelena wound up pursuing that target in Disney+’s Hawkeye series.
HOW DOES WAKANDA FOREVER SET UP VAL FOR MARVEL’S THUNDERBOLTS?
As announced in September, Pugh, Russell and Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s Sebastian Stan have been cast in Marvel’s Thunderbolts team-up movie, continuing the character arcs for Yelena Belova, John Walker and Bucky Barnes.
Louis-Dreyfus, along with Black Widow‘s David Harbour (as Alexei/Red Guardian) and Olga Kurylenko (as Antonia/Taskmaster), and Ant-Man 2‘s Hannah John-Kamen (as Ava/Ghost), round out the cast.
With Val now heading up the CIA, that puts her in a unique position to — as many speculated she was doing with John Walker — groom, recruit, assemble, outfit and deploy the titular Thunderbolts, a Suicide Squad-esque team of antiheroes. Especially given how in Black Panther 2 she was hankering to square off against Wakanda, had Everett Ross not stepped in.
Jake Schreier (Lodge 49, Kidding) will direct the Thunderbolts movie, off a script by Eric Pearson (Black Widow). Shooting starts next year with an eye on a July 26, 2024 release, where the movie will close out Phase 5 of the MCU.