One of the MCU's most noticeable trademarks is its interconnected storytelling. Characters or plot points introduced in one Marvel film reappear and are paid off in others; and thanks to Disney+, those connections have only increased. For instance, recent episodes of Hawkeye on Disney+ have established ties to past Marvel films and series, which includes its new Phase 4 characters.
For instance, in Episode 4 of Hawkeye, Natasha Romanoff's sister Yelena Belova entered the fray, followed by the jaw-dropping reveal of Vincent Di'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk, aka Kingpin, in Episode 5.
Yelena's jump from Marvel movie to Marvel series, in addition to Fisk's crossover from Netflix to Disney+, appear to be connected; but who established that connection may be a character MCU fans know but have yet to see in this particular series.
Val's Connection to Marvel's Hawkeye
"Kind of a cutie, don't you think?" - Val, Black Widow
In the post-credits scene for Black Widow, audiences saw Yelena Belova mourning at Natasha's grave when Julia Louis-Dreyfus' Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine stepped into the frame.
Val, as she prefers to be called, showed Yelena an image of Clint Barton in his Ronin suit, describing him as Yelena's next assignment and the one responsible for her sister's death.
Marvel fans - and anyone who has seen Avengers: Endgame - know that's not true, meaning Val is manipulating Yelena and intentionally framing the OG Avenger. The question, of course, is why?
After all, audiences have never seen Val interact with Clint before, yet she hand-delivers the assignment to Yelena in Ohio despite her claim of being allergic to the Midwest. Val also makes a quip about not getting a raise, implying someone else has commissioned her to do this. Could that someone be a powerful figure that Clint knows?
Val's Connection to Wilson Fisk's Kingpin
"Couldn't have worked better if I planned it myself. Oh. Well, maybe I did. No, I'm kidding, I didn't. Or did I?" - Val, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
After a string of hints pointing towards Wilson Fisk/Kingpin, the final scene of the series' penultimate episode confirmed Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin is, in fact, the "big guy" behind it all. Since there appears to be some sort of history there, it's possible that Wilson Fisk hired Clint during his post-Infinity War run as Ronin, using him as a weapon in the same way he's using Maya Lopez' Echo.
Therefore, Kingpin could be the boss behind the MCU's rumored Dark Avengers or Thunderbolts, as well as Val's big boss. After all, Marvel fans first saw Val in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier recruiting John Walker as the U.S. Agent before recruiting Yelena. Maybe Ronin was a trial run for the forming group of individuals with questionable motives and skill-sets?
Still, D'Onofrio's Fisk wasn't the only bombshell in Hawkeye's Episode 5 stinger, and that's because he wasn't alone. The image Yelena sent to Kate also showed Kate's mother, Eleanor, alongside the big guy with Yelena explaining that Eleanor was the one who hired her.
While there is still a lot that fans don't know, this scene confirmed one truth: Val is tied to Eleanor who is also tied to Kingpin.
Who is Contessa Valentina Allegra De Fontaine Really?
"..you can just call me Val. But don't call me Val, just keep it in your head." - Val, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Even though fans know a bit about Eleanor and Kingpin, Val is very much a mystery. Still, it's unlikely that Marvel Studios would bring in Julia Louis-Dreyfus for a small role, and Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has already teased “maybe [she’ll be in] some other things coming up.”
While her connection to Eleanor is now unmistakable, it's possible that they're connected by blood as well as by business.
One theory suggests that Val might be Kate's aunt whose apartment she hid out in after the Tracksuit Mafia discovered her identity. This would explain why Eleanor likely called Val to have Yelena take out Clint and why Yelena knew so much about Kate.
After all, why would Yelena need to know so much about Kate Bishop if her sole target was Clint?
Of course, the show has confirmed that former actress and absent Moira Brandon is Kate's aunt, but it's worth noting that Val doesn't want to be called Val. Also, as a former actress, she would be accustomed to playing various roles and taking on false identities.
Kate's aunt also has a mug that reads "Thanos was right," a sentiment that was touched on in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier where Val made her MCU debut.
In addition, the orange and black jacquard suit Kate borrows from her aunt is oddly similar to the painting of a woman in Eleanor's apartment when she's making that call which may have been to Val. Is this foreshadowing connection or a strange, fashion-related coincidence?
Other signs pointing to Val's potential ties to the Bishops include the purple streak in Val's hair reminiscent of Kate Bishop's color of choice. Also, Val has been seen wearing colored sunglasses similar to Kate's from the comics, as well as that shade of crimson that Eleanor tends to favor.
While a trademark of the MCU is its connections, another is the studio's ability to surprise fans with where its stories go. Technically, Hawkeye's loose ties could lead anywhere. Fortunately, fans won't have to wait too much longer for answers as Hawkeye's final episode drops on Disney+ on December 22, 2021.