The winter of Bucky Barnes’ discontent is over, but when will he finally wield the shield? We have a new theory on today’s Nerdist News Edition about exactly how and when Bucky will go from being the Winter Soldier to Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But don’t just take our word for it–we have videographic proof from Sebastian Stan himself.
Editor’s note: This post and video contain mild spoilers for Black Panther.
If you stuck around for Black Panther‘s post-credits scenes, you already know that Sergeant James Buchanan Barnes is officially thawed out of cryogenic deep freeze in Wakanda, and thanks to King T’Challa’s tech genius sister Shuri, Bucky finally has his mind in a better place. In the post-credits scene, he is referred to as “White Wolf” by local Wakandan children, a deep-cut reference to a character in the Black Panther comics who is T’Challa’s adopted brother that becomes the head of the Wakandan secret police. This also explains why we saw Bucky running around with Captain America in the Avengers: Infinity War trailer, and it sets up a huge plot point that we’re fairly certain is going to come to pass.
“Do you guys think I should be Captain America?” Stan asked a packed audience at Nerdist’s Captain America: Civil War movie marathon in 2016. It seemed like an innocuous question designed to get fans hyped up, but then Stan let the red, white, and blue cat out of the bag.
“You know, I was sitting there in a room with [Marvel] and basically they were saying to me that this is what’s gonna happen: He’s gonna be the Winter Soldier, and then eventually he’s gonna become Captain America,” Stan continued. “And I was like, ‘That sounds great,’ but they weren’t at any point telling me what they are gonna do. They still aren’t.”
Photos of Avengers 4 Set reveal our favorite superheroes to be wearing some sort of talisman on their hands. Perhaps this gives them some sort of reality or time travel ability, hence explaining Captain America's 1st Avengers movie costume. #Marvel #Avengers4 #InfinityWar #Hulk pic.twitter.com/zoklLahizF
— DJ Akademiks (@RapSatellite) January 11, 2018
An awful lot has happened since we recorded that clip and when you consider the evidence, it’s becoming clear that Chris Evans’ days as Captain America are coming to an end. Evans’ contract to play Cap expires after Avengers 4, which puts him in the same boat as many of the original Avengers principal cast. However, Sebastian Stan reportedly has four more films left on his Marvel contract after that, which would be enough for a whole new Captain America trilogy and maybe then some. Set photos of what we believe to be Avenger 4 showing Cap decked out in his Avengers (2012) gear have led to speculation that Steve Rogers will die at the end of Infinity War, and we’re seeing the Battle of New York-era Cap in Avengers 4 thanks to time travel or Tony Stark’s B.A.R.F. Box from Civil War.
So here’s our big theory: Bucky will indeed become the White Wolf of Wakanda, leading their security forces and the War Dogs, the covert agents they have stationed all around the world. After proving his worth in Infinity War and after Captain America makes Tony Stark’s Age of Ultron nightmare a reality, Bucky will be in a much better position to assume the mantle of his fallen friend.
Tony will inevitably survive Infinity War and in Avengers 4, he will either use his B.A.R.F. Box to visit his fallen comrades during the Battle of New York or he’ll travel through time with the assistance of Doctor Strange to recruit past versions of dead heroes in order to help defeat Thanos once and for all.
In the meantime, Bucky will have to get Tony to forgive him for, well, killing his parents…at least long enough for Tony to give Cap’s shield back to Bucky. Then Bucky can finally fulfill his destiny and become the new Captain America in Avengers 4, which would still leave Sebastian Stan with three more films as the second version of the First Avenger.
Of course, in the comics, Bucky isn’t the only person to fill Steve Rogers’ considerable boots. For example, Sam Wilson, a.k.a. the Falcon, took over the role of Captain America in 2014 after Steve Rogers’ age finally caught up with him. Who knows? Maybe Falcon and Bucky could find a way to work together? That would be awfully fun, right?
But what do you think? Who would make a better Captain America–Falcon or Bucky? Who else is going to die in Infinity War? Let us know in the comments below.
Additional reporting and theorycrafting by Jesse B. Gill.