Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers and Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes are, without a doubt, one of the most beloved friendships in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. From their introduction in the 2011 film Captain America: The First Avenger, to Steve’s unwavering support and dedication to saving his long-lost best friend throughout The Winter Soldier and Civil War, to their full circle goodbye in Avengers: Endgame — “Don’t do anything stupid till I get back.” “How can I? You’re taking all the stupid with you.” — Steve and Bucky have always been an incredible duo … one that we sadly didn’t get enough time with when the dust settled.
When a much older Steve Rogers came to see Sam Wilson and Bucky in the final moments of Endgame, a question lingered in the air for fans as to what would become of his vibranium shield. After all, Bucky first took up the mantle in the comics in Ed Brubaker’s legendary run that historically revived his character and also birthed the Winter Soldier. Sam would then later go on to become Captain America in a separate series. As the two men noticed Steve sitting on the bench waiting, Bucky smiled and beckoned Sam to go and speak with him. The MCU’s decision to do this was understandable given Bucky’s fragile mental state (and the need to sensitively and accurately portray and address this on-screen), whereas Anthony Mackie’s character — in retrospect — has really been primed for this since day one.
However, for fans of Steve and Bucky’s timeless friendship, it felt like there was something missing from Endgame. Moving into Marvel’s hit miniseries The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, we’ve experienced both Sam’s heavy struggle with the accepting the shield and Bucky’s much-needed journey to recovery. Furthermore, we’ve also seen Bucky’s fierce attachment to the shield, especially in the face of Sam’s uncertainty.
And now, years later, The Falcon and The Winter Soldier has revealed a missing puzzle piece that comfortably fits into the end of Steve and Bucky’s story. In episode 5, “Truth,” Sam and Bucky managed to reclaim the shield from John Walker. As the two later had a heart-to-heart while tossing around the vibranium disc in Sam’s backyard in Louisana, Bucky revealed a previously unheard of conversation that happened between he and Steve:
SAM: The legacy of that shield is complicated, to say the least.
BUCKY: When Steve told me what he was planning, I don’t think either of us really understood what it felt like for a Black man to be handed the shield. How could we? I owe you an apology. I’m sorry.
So, based on this, we now know that at some point before the end of Endgame, Steve told Bucky that he was going to give the shield to Sam. Bucky’s knowing smile and the fact that he nudged Sam to go to the bench without hesitation now makes complete sense (though one could have also argued before that he simply knew Steve well enough to put the pieces together himself the moment he saw him there). This revelation is a small but important piece of closure on their friendship; given all that the two of them have been through from Brooklyn to the brink of the end of the world, it’s to be expected that Steve would have confided in Bucky with his future plans.
Adding to the list of all the other great things this incredible series has given us, we’ll wholeheartedly be thankful for this nugget of information.
The finale of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier will premiere exclusively on Disney+ next Friday, April 23. In the meantime, make sure to follow along with our episodic recaps, reviews, theories, and more, as well as our recent interview with series composer Henry Jackman. And while you’re at it, make sure to check out our list of Eight Times That Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes Were Friendship Goals.