This post contains spoilers for Black Widow and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
A new character is cementing her place in the MCU, and with her comes a barrage of questions. Who is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus)? How does she know so much? What is she up to? And how is she allowed to own an iPad? Obviously, these are all equally important questions and, as he tends to do, MCU mastermind Kevin Feige has begun vaguely hinting at some answers.
Feige recently confirmed that Contessa is indeed up to something, pointing to her latest appearance in the end credits of Black Widow. He said:
She’s doing something… She seems to be in recruitment mode. Does Yelena already work for her? They seem to have a connection at that point. Yes.
Feige also admitted what big fans of Louis-Dreyfus he and the team behind Marvel Studios are — and rightfully so. Between both projects, Louis-Dreyfus has netted less than 10 minutes onscreen, but her character promises to stir up trouble with plenty of humor to boot. As Feige said, “The future is bright for the MCU because Julia is in it.” He also went on to add that her inclusion in the universe was a long time coming:
The notion of bringing her into the world was always something, if we could find the right thing, was something we wanted to do. And when this role came about and the opportunity to have her in [Black] Widow, and [The] Falcon [and the Winter Soldier], and maybe in some other things coming up, she was totally on board and really into it. So it’s an amazing addition to the world, and I look forward to people being surprised by just where she’ll show up next.
What Exactly is Contessa Valentina Up To?
In the post-credits stinger for Black Widow, Contessa made her second appearance in the MCU, after getting close to Falcon and the Winter Solider’s John Walker (Wyatt Russell). This also marks the second time we’ve seen her enlist a character in her schemes, this time setting Yelena Belova (Florence Pugh) on the hunt for Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner). There’s something very familiar about her scenes — the mystery behind her, always knowing more than she should, and always offering an “opportunity.” It’s all very reminiscent of Phase 1 Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), slipping into solo adventures just in time to put an offer on the table. And if that’s anything to go on, then Contessa is most certainly putting a team together.
Much like Fury, Contessa knows much more than she should – often about events she wasn’t even present for. She tells Yelena that Hawkeye is responsible for Natasha’s death, which is certainly an example of stretching the truth but isn’t entirely incorrect. But the only people present for Natasha’s final moments were her, Clint, and Red Skull. So how did that info get back to her? Given her connection to Yelena and their brief banter about getting paid more, Contessa must have a powerful organization behind her. This could also be why she knows so much about government secrets: she recruits Walker directly after he’s been discharged from the military and lets slip a secret about Captain America’s shield not being government property. Not long after, she provides him with a new suit, names him the US Agent, and promises things are about to get “weird.”
Should We Consider Contessa A Villain? Maybe Not…
By all accounts, Contessa is playing in serious villain territory. In addition to snatching up an unhinged (and newly serumed) John Walker, she manipulates him into working outside the government and later encourages Yelena to murder an Avenger. The secrets, the plotting, and the long red overcoat scream danger. Even the Nick Fury mirroring sets off alarm bells — speculation says she may be putting together a Dark Avengers team (maybe the Thunderbolts).
But despite all the signs pointing to villainous intentions, one tiny detail in Black Widow says otherwise: she uses an iPad.
In possibly the weirdest fashion yet, Marvel may have spoiled the future of this character. The post-credits scene features her telling Yelena about Clint’s involvement in Natasha’s death by showing a picture of him on her iPad Mini. Apple famously forbids filmmakers from letting villains or “bad guys” use their products onscreen, so does this mean Contessa isn’t the big bad we thought she’d be?
Well, maybe it’s not that simple. So far, she’s causing nothing but trouble for our heroes. Setting people up on revenge missions isn’t exactly helpful. And just because Contessa isn’t the “big bad” doesn’t mean she can’t do any harm. Intentions be damned, we’ve watched S.H.I.E.L.D., the US Government, and others “trying to help” stand in the way of our heroes. Contessa doesn’t have to be capital E evil to be a major obstacle.
If this tells us anything, it’s that she won’t be as clear-cut as we may have assumed. Maybe she even has good intentions with her new group, but we still know very little about the organization behind her and how their intent matches hers. For now, just keep an eye out for Apple products, see if we can’t suss out any other morally grey pseudo-villains.
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