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Published March 12, 2021

‘The Falcon and The Winter Soldier’ Primer: Where We Last Left Off with Bucky Barnes

Let’s catch up with the Avenger before the March 19 premiere on Disney+!

Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes

Before he teams up with his “frenemy” Sam Wilson (Falcon), Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier) had one of the most tumultuous pasts of any hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Let’s take a look at what led to the Winter Soldier becoming a hero in a world without Captain America.

James “Bucky” Buchanan Barnes made his debut when he saved his best friend, a pre-Super Soldier Steve Rogers from a bully’s attack. Later, as Bucky was about to ship out to Europe to fight for the U.S. in World War II, he had one last night out with his pal at the New York World’s Fair. As Bucky said his goodbyes, he didn’t realize Steve was mere moments away from changing both their lives. 

Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes

Bucky would not see Steve again until after Steve had become Captain America. After being captured by Hydra, Cap rescued him from being tortured. Even though he was shocked by Cap’s new “look,” he still trusted his best friend and followed him to their escape.

Loyal to a fault, Bucky joined Cap’s Howling Commandos and fought bravely throughout Europe, taking down Hydra base after Hydra base. However, during a mission to capture Hydra scientist Armin Zola, Bucky fell to his apparent death from a moving train.

Bucky Barnes Howling Commandos

A few decades later, Director Nick Fury discovered something wrong within the S.H.I.E.L.D. organization, but before he could act on his suspicions and escape to safety, his car was blown up. Emerging from the rubble, Fury was shot to near-death by the mysterious Hydra assassin, the Winter Soldier.

After being framed for Nick Fury’s “murder,” Steve Rogers, Sam Wilson, and Natasha Romanoff went on the run to evade S.H.I.E.L.D., which Hydra had infiltrated. The Winter Soldier confronted them, and during an altercation on the streets of Washington, D.C., Bucky revealed himself as the Winter Soldier, with no memory of his past life nor his former best friend.

Following his fall from the train during World War II, Bucky, still clinging to life, was captured by Hydra scientists, who replaced his destroyed arm with a cybernetic replacement. They also injected him with an off-shoot of the Super Soldier Serum and kept him in stasis, and only activated throughout the decades when a high-level target needed taking out. During their brainwashing and reprogramming, any memories of his past were buried deep within his mind.

This led to the Winter Soldier and Captain America facing off inside one of the Helicarriers controlled by Hydra. Once airborne, these flying bases were programmed to take out any threat to the Hydra way of life, including Tony Stark (Iron Man), Bruce Banner (Hulk), and Stephen Strange (Doctor Strange).

Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes

When the Soldier seemed to have Cap defeated, Steve tried to get through to his former friend, hoping to jog his memory of their shared past together. Cap uttered, “I’m with you to the end of the line,” a phrase Bucky said to Steve decades ago after Steve’s mother passed away.

The phrase helped trigger something in Bucky, and he began to remember bits of who he was. These flashes of memories prompted him to save Steve from drowning after they fell into the Potomac from the now destroyed Helicarrier. Still trying to understand what had happened to him, Bucky left Steve Rogers onshore and disappeared, last seen looking at his own image, of his former life, in a museum exhibit.

Bucky hid in Bucharest, but his sabbatical was short-lived after Zemo framed him for the bombing during the Sokovia Accords signing in Vienna — but Cap, Falcon, and the government were able to track him down. He was eventually captured thanks to the interference of T’Challa, the Black Panther, whose father, King T’Chaka, perished in the blast.

Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes

Now in custody, government officials placed him in a specialized holding cell. Zemo, disguising himself as a psychiatrist, activated Bucky’s dormant Winter Soldier programming and turned him back into a killing machine.

Sam Wilson and Steve Rogers saved Bucky, in hopes that they could get him back to normal, while Bucky determined what Zemo’s next move would be. There were more Winter Soldiers in stasis in a Siberian Hydra facility, where he believed Zemo’s plan would come to fruition.

As Cap and his team attempted to hijack a Quinjet from a German Airport, Iron Man and his Avengers team stopped them for violating the Accords’ rules. In the ensuing fight, his bond with Falcon began to form as they fought and just barely defeated Spider-Man.

Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes

Thanks to the sacrifice of Sam Wilson (Falcon), Wanda Maximoff, Scott Lang (Ant-Man), and Clint Barton (Hawkeye), Bucky and Steve were able to get to the Quinjet and head to Siberia, where they met up with Tony Stark, who called for a truce. It is here that Zemo revealed his actual plan—to fracture and dismantle the Avengers. He played the three heroes a tape showing the murder of Howard and Maria Stark, Tony’s parents, by a brainwashed Winter Soldier. It was too much for Tony, and he attacked both Bucky and Steve in a passioned rage. The fight ended with Iron Man’s armor destroyed, Cap’s shield abandoned, and Bucky’s arm destroyed. Finding asylum in Wakanda, T’Challa and Steve placed Bucky back in stasis until they can find a cure for the Winter Soldier programming. 

Luckily for Bucky, Wakanda had arguably the smartest person in the world as part of the Royal Family, as Shuri freed him of his programming and helped him find a semblance of peace.

This peace would be short-lived as Bucky, with a new Vibranium arm from T’Challa, joined Cap’s Avengers as they defended Wakanda from Thanos’ forces. It was all for naught, as the Avengers failed to prevent Thanos from gathering all the Infinity Stones. The ensuing “Snap” caused Bucky, along with multiple other heroes, and half of the universe to disappear from existence.

Winter Soldier Bucky Barnes

Even though it took five years, the Avengers didn’t give up and reversed the events of the Blip, resulting in the return of half of the universe, including Bucky Barnes

After defeating Thanos, Cap returned the time-displaced Infinity Stones to their rightful places. Before he headed to the Quantum Realm, Steve had a heartfelt goodbye with his best friend, because Bucky knew what was about to happen. 

When Cap didn’t return to their scheduled spot, Bucky points to the nearby lake where an older gentleman sat quietly. He urged Sam to approach the man, a much older Cap who decided to get that life “Tony always talked about having.” Giving his blessing, Bucky watched as Steve presented Sam with his Captain America shield.

To see where Bucky and Sam's stories go from here, watch Marvel Studios’ The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, premiering March 19 on Disney+!

Marvel Studios' The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, a six-episode series, will start streaming on March 19 on Disney+!

Want more 'The Falcon and The Winter Soldier'? Follow the series on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram!

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