The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has done an incredible job of setting up Sam Wilson as the next Captain America from his initial decision to retire the shield, to taking it back, and deciding to take on the mantle in episode five. But where will Bucky Barnes be at the end of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier?
Throughout the series Bucky has been lost in his past and spent a lot of time paralyzed by the PTSD and nightmares of his time as the Winter Soldier. This has translated into an obsession with the shield and the connection to Steve it holds, which has resulted in a super soldier serum goose chase that has led him to work with his adversary Baron Zemo.
While Sam Wilson has been moving forward and finding his future during the series, Bucky hasn’t truly made any efforts to build a future. He says it himself in the first episode when his therapist tells him that he’s free. Bucky succinctly replies, “To do what?”
DOES BUCKY BARNES HAVE A FUTURE PAST THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER?
Throughout most of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes has been lost. He has been scarred by nightmares and PTSD connected to his time as the Winter Soldier, along with his inability to make amends with his victims beyond seeking justice against the criminals he helped. Bucky Barnes completely lost his way when Sam gave up the shield. He admits as much to Sam and reveals part of the reason for his disillusionment can be attributed to the fact that the shield is the only he family that he believes he has left.
Similar to Steve Rogers, Bucky Barnes is a man out of time. Used as a weapon by Hydra for nearly a century, Bucky knew nothing but violence, pain, and abuse until Steve Rogers discovered he was alive. Steve was Bucky’s touch stone. Even his relationship with Sam Wilson, the only real relationship he has, is built around their mutual friendship with Steve.
Bucky’s place becomes even murkier when you consider that not only has Joaquin Torres been set up as the next Falcon to Sam’s Captain America. There is also the notion that thematically it could be seen as a disservice to Bucky Barnes if he has to keep fighting. Bucky has been Hydra’s pawn for almost a century, killing and fighting whenever he was revived from being cryogenically frozen. He admits that the only calm he found was in Wakanda and it seems like he burned that bridge by breaking Baron Zemo out of prison, even being told by Ayo to keep his distance from Wakanda.
So what future would Bucky have other than to continue fighting? Unlike Steve Rogers, Bucky never volunteered to be a soldier or an experiment with the super soldier serum. These were circumstances thrust upon him. First when he was drafted in WWII, then when he was captured twice by the Nazis. And those scars have lasted even after he was deprogrammed.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly while promoting Captain America: Civil War Sebastian Stan may have said it best.
“To me, he’s never really going to be Bucky Barnes again. There’s going be recognizable things about him, but his path through the [experiences of] Winter Soldier is always going be there, haunting him.”
He has been haunted by the Winter Soldier for the vast majority of his time in the MCU. The Falcon And The Winter Soldier has explored Bucky Barnes attempting to make amends, but in truth he was trying to right his wrongs by bringing the corrupt and criminal put in place by Hydra to justice. Sam Wilson explained to Bucky that to actually make amends he must be in service to others. And the ultimate example of this would be Bucky Barnes sacrificing his life to save someone else’s.
Bucky Barnes was forced to take people’s lives for Hydra for the vast majority of his life and as we’ve seen many of those people were innocent including witnesses of his crimes, like Yori’s son. Bucky Barnes lost his identity and agency while being used by Hydra and he was forced to become a killer. The best way to close out his arc could be to have Bucky take back his agency and make the decision to save a life instead of take one.
For much of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s runtime Bucky Barnes has been selfishly looking for redemption for his own peace of mind. This has shown itself in the time he spent time angry at Sam because of what the shield meant him and when he broke Zemo out of prison as a means to his ends, even if it hurt the people that previously helped him.
Although he had a change of heart in the fifth episode, which was exemplified by him helping the Dora Milaje recapture Zemo, assisting Sam and his family’s boat repairs, apologizing and empathizing with Sam’s feelings, and ultimately by then listening to Sam’s advice. Bucky Barnes saving another person at the cost of his own life would be a truly heroic and selfless act which would also match the advice that Sam gave him of making amends by being in service of another.
[Click on Page 2 to find out who Bucky Barnes could save to find redemption In the season finale.]