The Falcon and The Winter Soldier explores how hard modern life is for Bucky without Steve Rogers’ faith that he’s more than just a Hydra assassin.
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is delving into how much Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) needs Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and why he really misses his best friend, the former Captain America. After he helped save the world in Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, Bucky is back in the world as a free man. But adjusting to life in 2023 has hardly been easy for the former Winter Soldier, especially without Steve to keep giving Bucky the support he’s relied upon the most.
A hundred years ago, as seen in Captain America: The First Avenger, it was Bucky who looked out for Steve when they grew up together in the Brooklyn of the Great Depression. Steve was an orphaned runt with a big heart and it was Bucky who protected him from bullies and set up Rogers on dates with girls. After Steve was enhanced by the Super Soldier Serum and became Captain America, he paid Bucky back by saving him and the 107th Infantry from being Hydra’s POWs during World War II. Bucky had to instantly adjust to the new, superhuman Steve Rogers, who even outranked Sgt. Barnes as a Captain, but they fought side-by-side with the Howling Commandos until Bucky was seemingly killed in action. Tragically, Bucky was found by Hydra and turned into their most feared assassin, the Winter Soldier. Barnes and Rogers wouldn’t see each other again until 2014 during the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
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In The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Bucky’s transition back into the world has been challenging. Although he received a Presidential pardon for his crimes, Barnes is mandated to seek therapy, and Dr. Raynor (Amy Aquino) is disappointed that Bucky doesn’t even have ten phone numbers saved in his cell phone, let alone forming friendships. To his credit, Barnes is trying to make amends for what he did as the Winter Soldier, whether it’s turning in Hydra criminals he helped install in the government or watching out for the families of his murder victims. But the public announcement of John Walker being named as the new Captain America triggered Bucky, who saw it as an affront to Steve’s legacy. Worse, Walker only became the new Cap because Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon (Anthony Mackie), gave up the shield that Steve personally passed to him.
Steve Rogers was obviously the most important person in Bucky’s life; Steve refused to believe that Bucky was a lost cause when he was the Winter Soldier and he helped Barnes break his brainwashing and regain his true self. In Captain America: Civil War, Steve risked everything and even broke the Avengers apart in order to prove Bucky didn’t bomb the United Nations in Vienna. Steve always took Bucky at his word and he even willingly became an international fugitive to stand by his friend. From Romania to Berlin to Siberia to Wakanda, Rogers never gave up on Barnes and he meant it when he said, “I’m with you to the end of the line, pal.”
Bucky’s attempts to cope with life post-Hydra are much more difficult without Steve’s support and friendship. As Barnes revealed to Sam during their joint therapy session in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 2, Bucky was personally offended that Sam gave up the shield because it means that if Steve was wrong about Sam, then it could also mean Rogers was wrong about Bucky. Barnes lives in fear that he really is the monster the Winter Soldier was but it was Steve’s faith in the ‘real’ Bucky that gave him the courage to break free of Hydra.
There was also inherent jealousy between Sam and Bucky over Steve, and the fact that Rogers passed his shield to Wilson could have made Bucky think Steve didn’t find him worthy of it. John Walker’s presence as the new Captain America only rubs salt on Bucky’s old wounds. The Falcon and The Winter Soldier hasn’t revealed what ultimately happened to Steve Rogers, but Bucky Barnes’ greatest challenge is to keep on going without Steve’s unyielding support and friendship.
Next: Bucky Catching Cap’s Shield Shows John Walker Is No Steve Rogers
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