Bucky Barnes’ mental health has been a key aspect of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier since the former assassin’s first scenes, with the nightmare and his therapy session. In the first episode Bucky is clearly struggling with how to live now that he has been pardoned of his crimes. One of the things his therapist has him working on is making amends.
When he is “making amends” with a former Hydra associate he turns her in to the police with evidence of her corruption. However, when it comes to an innocent, the father of a man Bucky Barnes killed simply because he witnessed his crimes, Bucky doesn’t make amends in the way his therapist wants him to. Instead, he chooses to build a friendship with the lonely man.
It was also revealed by Bucky Barnes’ therapist that he was isolating himself, notably from Sam who had been texting him. The second episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier saw the reunion of Captain America’s two closest friends and it was anything but friendly. Bucky was infuriated that Sam had given up the shield and, in his opinion, refused to take on Steve’s legacy. Sam insists that his decision isn’t Bucky’s business and that he has more important things to worry about, i.e. the Flag Smashers.
Throughout The Falcon And The Winter Soldier episode Bucky’s anger and resentment continues to build, overflowing in not only his interactions with Sam, but with John Walker and his partner Lemar Hoskins. And while much of it is because he likely feels John Walker has not earned the title of Captain America, as evidenced by his question of whether Walker had jumped on a grenade, a lot of it is directed at Sam. To Bucky, Sam threw away Steve’s legacy instead of honoring it.
WHAT THE SHIELD MEANS TO BUCKY BARNES IN THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER
To Sam the shield is a symbol and a mantle that he doesn’t want to take on, but to Bucky it’s more personal than that. The shield is Steve and his legacy. Steve chose Sam as his successor, something that Bucky accepted, but we learn that it’s more than that. Bucky needs to trust Steve’s judgement when it comes to others especially Sam. Steve has believed in Bucky since they fought against each other in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Steve never gave up on his childhood friend.
Bucky’s past is full of horrible actions, some of which Bucky did while brain washed, and other traumatic events that were done to him. Bucky Barnes was a pawn of Hydra for nearly a century assassinating anyone he was ordered to so that Hydra could shape society to their twisted vision.
This included former allies like Howard Stark and innocents like Yori’s son and Howard Stark’s wife Maria. As Bucky said in Captain America: Civil War, he remembers everything he did and everyone he killed. And when he speaks with Isaiah Bradley in the second episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier and tells Isaiah that he is no longer a killer, he is scoffed at and told he doesn’t simply get to decide that.
Bucky Barnes is one of the most traumatized characters in the MCU and is definitely one that needs therapy, so the fact that he has mandated treatment as part of his pardon may be a blessing. Bucky Barnes has built his chances of redemption around Steve’s belief in him and part of that is Steve’s belief in Sam. As Bucky says when he and Sam have their therapy session in the police interrogation room.
“So maybe he was wrong about you. And if he was wrong about you, then he was wrong about me.”
Bucky Barnes basing his self-worth and chance at redemption around Sam and Steve is understandable, but not a sound healthy strategy long term. The only way that Bucky will truly find peace is if he looks within himself, instead of to others for this validation. Bucky has to believe that he is worth Steve’s belief and friendship; not that his worth comes from Steve’s friendship and belief.
Now that Bucky is no longer required to continue his court mandated therapy session, thanks to John Walker, his progress will be something to keep an eye on. How Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes manage to find a partnership and help each other understand where the other is coming from will hopefully play an important role in the rest of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier.
New episodes of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier premiere on Disney Plus Fridays. Do you think Bucky Barnes will be able to find redemption on The Falcon And The Winter Soldier? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or on our social media.