The fourth episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier ended after tonnes of unraveling and an unexpected climactic ending. Since the first episode, the show has teased multiple subplots and has gone deep with character sketches of both Sam and Bucky. The show has gone to delve into the heroes’ personal life, addressed the negative effects of the Blip, and has taken a dig at racial disparities that unexpectedly exist even for our mightiest saviors.
Moving ahead with that approach, the show’s fourth episode took us back to Bucky’s time in Wakanda, where he went under rigorous mind conditioning to overcome the effects of brainwashing and other brain experiments Hydra operatives conducted on him to convert him into an easily controlled and manipulated assassin.
Ayo Frees Bucky
The episode features a two-minute prologue where we see Ayo, a member of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje helping free Bucky of Hydra’s mind control technique in the outskirts of Wakandan borders. We see a traumatized Bucky Barnes, afraid of himself sitting in front of a bonfire with Ayo watching on him wielding her vibranium spear fully. After promising Bucky that she won’t let him hurt anyone, she goes on to utter the codewords Zemo used to brainwash and manipulate Bucky into storming out of a German prison during the events of Captain America: Civil War. The words initially take a heavy toll on his mind as he flashes back through all the murders he committed including that of Howard and Maria Stark. But after Ayo says the last word, Bucky is able to retain control of himself, realizing he is all well now, as Ayo claims, “You are a free man”.
Director Kari Skogland’s and show’s writers remarkably signify Bucky’s remorse shadowed by a little smile on his face when he gets finally free of the years of mind control and its torturous consequences. The camera stays for good ten seconds on Bucky as he cries out his pain, looking forward to a new and better way of life.
The scene clearly gives a nod to his struggles over the two years when he was going through resourceful therapy in Wakanda. Bucky’s past has been full of bad decisions he made in his “imprisonment” at Hydra bases around the globe. The first episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier revealed he killed some innocents along the way, and now is struggling to clear his conscience. For a person who has been kept alive forcefully just to be used as a killing machine, it’s really a long-awaited relief to finally be free and able to act of his own will. But that doesn’t erase his past actions, a void full of remorse, he may never be able to fill. But for a moment, the scene with Bucky crying makes the character’s painful backstory and his past feels more connecting from an audience’s point of view.
Since the events of Civil War, Bucky’s storyline was somewhat sidelined as MCU installments shifted to focusing on the bigger threats posed by Thanos, but Marvel’s Disney+ slate allowed these characters to grow more in the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe. After T’Challa/Black Panther gave Bucky asylum in Wakanda, the only glimpse of the character we got was in a post-credits sequence in the 2018 film, Black Panther, where he was first acknowledged as White Wolf. Going to the core of his background as Winter Soldier and digging deep into his character’s forgoing storyline is finally helping Sebastian Stan’s portrayal grow beyond a supporting shield or adversary to Captain America.