Ever since Paul Bettany teased a cameo in WandaVision that wound up being himself, Marvel fans have been eager for a real cameo in the Marvel shows on Disney+. Now, wishes will be granted in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
But while fans shouldn’t expect to see an Avenger, they should expect to see a character from the comics played by someone no one could ever imagine. And with it, fans may permanently change how they understand the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
What Happened? — This week, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is scheduled to premiere its fifth episode, which series head writer Malcolm Spellman has confirmed will contain a buzzy cameo. Speculation ramped up when SlashFilm editor-in-chief Peter Sciretta said on the April 9 episode of the SlashFilm Daily podcast that he knows the identity of the cameo — and the famous, award-winning actor/actress in the role — but didn’t spoil to keep the surprise.
“It’s a big actor who hasn’t been named in the series,” Sciretta said, “This is someone we didn’t know is going to be in the series and is an award-winning actor/actress.”
Sciretta further clarified the character is “not a character from the Marvel moves,” which rules out any previous onscreen Marvel superhero. That means no Avengers, like Don Cheadle’s Rhodey who appeared in the show’s first episode. But SlashFilm also adds that it’s “an existing Marvel Comics character,” whose identity remains unrevealed.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about the cameo. In an interview last March, Spellman said the guest character in question is “a very, very grounded character” who they’d like to see share screen time with Thor someday. Spellman also told ComicBook.com in March the fifth episode is when things “just get real” and fans are “going to cry.”
Face Off — A cameo in the MCU is always exciting, but what’s worth highlighting is that the mystery character isn’t a beefy A-list superhero fans will lose their minds from seeing onscreen. While the actor in the role is a big name, the character is not. (Though, again, we know the character has comic book roots.)
In the aftermath of Disney+ shows like The Mandalorian Season 2 and all of WandaVision — a show fans spent nearly every waking moment asking about Mephisto — a cameo of this kind may actually have some power to reorient what cameos are meant to be: Fun distractions that neither add nor take away from the central drama of the story.
The MCU has already done cameos like this before (see Matt Damon in Thor: Ragnarok), but in this pop-culture climate, every cameo is somehow something to look forward to. Heaven forbid if the cameo doesn’t confirm anything about the Doctor Strange sequel.
WandaVision knew what its audience wanted — big surprises! huge cameos! set up for new movies! — and the show did toy with fans’ expectations. With its more tempered surprise, Falcon and Winter Soldier is hopefully bringing some calmness back into the room. That the head writer of the series straight-up says a cameo is in episode five and it’s not a huge deal is a much different thing than Paul Bettany teasing fans with what amounted to him acting against himself in the finale.
The Inverse Analysis — By no means did WandaVision suffer from a lack of a meaningful cameo. Evan Peters showing up on Wanda’s doorstep is and was an all-time moment for the entire MCU. But for fans who are still gutted by WandaVision and its grade-A trolling with “Ralph Bohner,” at least there’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier trying to control uncontrollable expectations.
Thankfully, nothing like a “Ralph Bohner” seems to be in store for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. It’s a cameo, yes. But not of a character fans care about, nor does the actor have any history in the MCU. While we can busy ourselves for the rest of the week asking who is going to show up, we should not forget that the show last left on one of the most gruesome cliffhangers in Marvel history. That’s probably worth more consideration than who’s going to show up for a few minutes.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier streams new episodes Fridays on Disney+.