Well, masterleiaofasgard, here I go again! Let’s see if I understand Bucky any better now than I did previously.
In a prior post, I said that I found Bucky Barnes more relatable during Civil War than I did in Winter Soldier. That is not hard, since Bucky got the programmed automaton treatment in Soldier, as Clint had it in The Avengers – just with more ice. And, as Bucky said in The First Avenger, he became a bit invisible to a certain section of the population after Steve received the Super Soldier Serum. To be honest, my whole attention in The First Avenger was on the American Galahad because…. he is Galahad. So I did not pay his best friend the attention he deserved – shame on me!
But Bucky was neither the invisible man nor a pitiable human robot in Civil War. He was a man who had become an urban hermit. With HYDRA’s programming still locked up in his brain, going off the radar meant the bad guys could not find and “retrain” him. To stay away from them, though, meant staying away from his best friend – the one person on the planet who believed in him.
Perhaps Bucky thought – or hoped – his old friend would not miss him. He had new friends now, a good job, everything he needed. He was taken care of and… safe. Bucky could live with that. If he came out of the shadows, it would not be long before Steve lost his friends, his position with the Avengers, and everything else he had gained and earned after awakening from his nap in the Greenland ice trying to protect Bucky.
It was rather surprising and sweet to see Bucky shopping for fresh fruit in a Bucharest market. He even smiled. That is new. He was not much of a smiler in Winter Soldier, of course, and his grins in The First Avenger carried more swagger and bravado.
In this scene, his smile is not nearly as big. Instead it is a small sign of some comfort and happiness, showing that Bucky has adjusted to his new mode of living. It is not what he wants, necessarily, but it is better than being HYDRA’s attack dog.
Then, as he leaves the market, he realizes someone is watching him. Looking around carefully, he spots the person. It is a newsstand owner, who disappears after Bucky turns toward him. With a horrible sinking feeling, Bucky goes to the newsstand –
And finds he is the prime suspect in a U.N. bombing in Vienna.
Uh-oh. There goes his newfound peace and quiet. It is time to run, before he is killed. Or, worse, before a HYDRA operative or someone else uses the programming they burned into his brain to make him do their dirty work.
But he cannot run with just the clothes on his back. Going on the run, it is a good idea to have some supplies with you. And Bucky left his supplies at his apartment. He goes to grab them and get out…
And finds his old friend has done exactly what he knew he would do. The minute he was in trouble, Steve came running to help him.
Bucky does not want his help. It is not because he is angry at Steve that he wishes to avoid his old friend. Nothing which happened to him after the fall from the HYDRA train in the mountains was Steve’s fault. That was HYDRA’s doing, just like the experimentation which allowed him to survive the fall in the first place.
No, Bucky wanted Steve to stay away from him lest he get dragged down into the morass which is the result of the other’s long, forced servitude to HYDRA. He was not avoiding Steve out of anger. He was hiding in order to protect him.
But Steve does not want protection. He wants his brother back, even if it means fighting with the police, the government, and the Avengers. Nevertheless, Bucky still tries to escape. He has to stay away from Steve.
But the world has changed more than even Bucky realizes. He learns this when a guy with serious hand-to-hand combat skills, a vibranium suit, and a lot of strength tries to kill him. Only the timely intervention of a German Special Forces helicopter gives him the opening he wants to get away.
(I am curious. If the U.N. was so darn concerned about civilian casualties resulting from the Avengers’ battles, THEN WHY DID THEY SEND IN A CHOPPER TO SHOOT UP A CITY BLOCK IN BUCHAREST?!?! Methinks they do not actually care about civilian casualties at all – nein, readers?)
Unfortunately, from his perspective, Bucky does not escape. He gets caught, and he knows the only person who thinks he is worth saving is going to fight to protect him. His main concerns from this point on are that Steve will lose everything he has acquired by fighting for him, and that he himself will lose what little freedom he has had since The Winter Soldier.
That last fear is proved justified when a man posing as a psychiatrist uses HYDRA’s programming to force Bucky to kill again.
But, as he always has, Barnes’ best friend comes through in the clutch to rescue him. Bucky probably thinks it would be better if he was dead. Then Steve would be safe, along with sooo many other people.
When Steve asks what the fake psychiatrist wanted, Bucky tries to stave the question off. He does not remember it exactly. He does not even remember how he got from a prison cell to an old warehouse. But he knows whatever the guy wanted will lead to trouble for his friend.
Then he remembers what the infiltrator asked, and suddenly he realizes there is a threat too great for any of them to ignore, for any reason. “I’m not the only Winter Soldier,” he says, shocking and horrifying Steve and Sam. He explains about the others, a group of HYDRA’s best killers transformed into super soldiers. With the serum used on Steve in their bodies, everything inside is magnified. In Steve’s case, “good becomes great.” In the case of these guys, bad became much, much worse.
This guy – Zemo – has to be stopped, no matter the cost, before he releases these other Soldiers. So Bucky joins his old friend and the new guy (Sam) to bring down Zemo.
This is, as they say, somewhat awkward. Sam has his own rapport with Steve, and he is none too trusting of Bucky. Though he cannot remember everything he did to Sam, Bucky must figure that the distrust is well warranted. Most of their problem, though, revolves around the fact that they are both close to the same friend and do not want him hurt.
Hence his request: “Can you move your seat up?” and Sam’s flat, “No.” That wreck of a VW bug was not the only cramped space the two inhabited!
Bucky’s fear only mounts when he sees Steve kiss Sharon Carter. Great – now not only is he invisible, he is a wanted assassin with the blood of hundreds on his hands, dragging his best friend into a battle where he could lose everything – plus a new girlfriend. And, as icing on the cake, what girl is ever going to be interested in him now?
I think the phrase going through Bucky’s head at the time would have been something like, pardon my crudeness, readers: My life really SUCKS right now.
Then Steve drives out to meet the rest of his team, and Bucky gets an up-close look at them: Clint Barton, a man Steve did not want to haul out of somewhere private, personal, and apparently happy; as well as Wanda Maximoff, a girl who is barely out of her teens and a current media darling for all the wrong reasons. He knows their names and abilities – he has to have seen those in the newspapers at least, if not on television or on the Internet. The guy in the van is new, and he is definitely enthusiastic. Too enthusiastic, but he is in the fight now all the same.
These are Steve’s new friends. Three of them have been through battle and fire with him, and they trust him with their lives and the lives of others. Bucky does not think he is worth the effort to keep himself alive, and these people have no stake in his fate. But they are loyal to Steve, and since Steve believes Bucky is worth saving, they will follow him where he leads. Even if it means they have to fight the other Avengers.
Now being the center of this mess truly sucks. (Sorry again for the language, guys. Sorry, Cap! 😉 )
It only gets worse as the team falls to fighting. At least Bucky’s determined opponent is not, technically, Steve’s friend. But Bucky does not want to kill anymore. Nor does he want T’Challa to believe a lie. So he tries to explain that he did not bomb Vienna and kill King T’Chaka.
But the new Black Panther will not hear it, so determined for vengeance as he is. And all the while, the false psychiatrist is headed to Siberia, closer and closer to five human nuclear weapons who could wipe out the world….
Steve’s new friends know it, too. And they know this fight is a complete waste of precious time. They therefore throw themselves to the wolves (or the Panther) to buy Bucky and Steve time to get away. Once the two old friends are on their way, Bucky asks, “Am I really worth all this?”
Cap’s answer is a resounding yes, though it is an answer Bucky is not certain he can accept. But he has to admit that it feels good to be back with his old friend again.
Until they find the other five Winter Soldiers dead, and Zemo reveals his plot. Then Bucky realizes he has been the bait used to ruin Steve’s life, just as he was afraid he would be. And on top of that, he seems to have ruined another man’s life in the bargain: the son of his old friend, Howard Stark.
Battle ensues, and during the fight Tony has the temerity to ask him whether or not he remembers killing his parents. How can Bucky forget? How can he forget any of the faces of those he killed? He watched his hands put their lights out, and remained unable to stop himself from doing it. How can he distance himself from what he did – unwilling though he was to do it? “I remember all of them,” he tells Tony.
He remembers because there is no possible way for him to forget. Despite the constant memory wipes, HYDRA could not make Bucky forget who he was or where he came from. They could control his mind, not his soul. He fought for that, so hard that he never lost it. The price of that battle is that he remembers everything he did for the evil, secret society – when he is clear-headed or not under the influence of HYDRA’s programming.
He remembers every kill, everyone HYDRA told him to destroy. He remembers the ones who deserved to die – HYDRA would not have wanted competition, after all. But the ones who did not deserve to die, like Tony’s parents, he will always remember more clearly. They were victims, as much as he was. But, from his perspective, they suffered more. Bucky will wake up, every night, for the rest of his earthly life, recalling those he killed and wondering, Why didn’t I fight back?
He could not fight back. Not physically. Not in a way that would have saved anyone. The only fight Bucky could keep up was the battle for his soul. And he won it – but at a high price.
If it was just the two of them, then perhaps Bucky would not have put up a fight. Maybe he would have let Tony kill him. But Tony is so determined to injure as he has been injured that he goes after Steve and Bucky. Bucky cannot – he will not – stand for that anymore than Steve will stand for an attack on him. Steve had nothing to do with the Starks’ murders; those are on Bucky’s conscience, not his. Tony’s attack on Steve is uncalled-for. He does it just to make himself feel better.
Bucky does not want to kill Tony. He killed his father and his mother, the last thing he wants to do is kill their heir, even in self-defense. But neither will he let Tony beat up on Steve. They are brothers in all but blood. Growing up, they stuck together through thick and thin. Neither of them liked bullies; that was why they joined the army in the first place to fight against the Nazis and, later, HYDRA. Bucky always protected Steve – even when Steve got big enough to handle himself.
Those old instincts are stronger than any kind of programming. They make Bucky go for Tony’s arc reactor. He cannot kill Tony, but he can shut him down. Only, in trying to do that, his metal arm is blasted off. Stunned by the loss, Bucky knows that he has now lost the same arm twice.
Despite lying dazed on the floor after this, Bucky still sees the fight which rages on without his participation. He sees it, and he sees the senselessness of it. Even more clearly, he sees what Steve is doing for Tony. He is fighting to save the younger man’s soul from his own anger and pain. Steve fought a similar battle for Bucky’s soul on Project Insight’s Helicarrier two years prior. He won that fight…
And against all the odds, Steve pulls it off a second time. Again, he wins the battle, for the simple reason that his cause is just. If Steve is willing to go to such great lengths for the two of them, then he sees something in both which they cannot yet see in themselves. Leaving Tony on the floor, unharmed but unable to fight, Steve steps over to Bucky and holds out his hand. You’re not done yet, Buck, the gesture says. You’re still you, underneath all the scars. You ARE still worth it. Will you let me prove it to you?
Steve never forces his ideas or choices on anyone. He lets other people make their own decisions. It is Bucky’s choice to stay on the floor, or accept Steve’s proffered hand. He can stay and die, or he can get up and rediscover that spark in his soul which resisted HYDRA the only way it could – by staying lit.
Bucky grabs Steve’s hand and allows his old friend to get him on his feet. I don’t see the way out, he admits with this gesture, while also acknowledging his physical weakness, But you do. I’ll follow the fellow kid from Brooklyn who was too dumb to run from a fight. Because you knew all those fights were winnable, and I didn’t. I don’t see how to win this one, but you do. So lead the way.
Then Tony acts like an absolute baby. That stings Bucky as much as it hurts Cap. They both know that Tony has regressed to a little kid in his anger. He is safe, but only because his armor has no power to follow his commands. Once it is back online, how long will he stay away? Neither Steve nor Bucky can continue the fight. They cannot continue to protect him. They are both too tired by the previous battle.
Yet again, Steve has the answer. If Tony wants the shield that badly, he can have it – minus Steve. Without Captain America, the shield is just a big metal “Frisbee.” Tony has not got the skill to use it. He never will. The shield is not a symbol, it is a tool. And Steve can use any tool he chooses in a battle.
Although he is unsure if it will solve anything, when Steve leaves the shield behind, Bucky is assured that at least Stark will not immediately chase after them. That they have time to get away, and the younger Stark has time to sit down, cool his heels, and allow his overheated reason and logic “circuits” to start working again. Tony has time to realize what Steve did for him, as Bucky found time to relearn just what a great friend Steve is.
However, there is the matter of the code words which HYDRA programmed into his brain. As long as he has those in his head, Bucky is a danger to Steve and everyone else on the planet. Zemo knows the trigger words, and others can find them – or get them from Zemo. Until they are purged from his mind, he has to stay out of the way of other people in order not to harm them.
So he goes under again. Doubtless, the Wakandan cryogenic freeze is less uncomfortable than the HYDRA process. It certainly does not seem to be as painful. Maybe, unlike during his naps in Siberia, Bucky will actually be able to get some real sleep this time.
Let’s just hope he does not outlive Steve while he is doing that!
Since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, and he has only used up three of those nine films, I think we might get to see him again soon. Maybe it will be in the Black Panther film that will come out in 2018. (If so, I want to see that movie!)
It would also make sense (to me) to bring the Winter Soldier into Infinity War, at least during Part 2. Going up against Thanos is going to require all hands on deck, and that means the Avengers will have to reassemble and call in every ally they can find. If the Wakandans are smart – and they are – they will give Bucky a vibranium arm to replace the one Tony blasted off. Then he can punch Thanos with it!
Until then, we will have to be satisfied with Civil War. That will not be hard. Although it is much more serious than the previous Marvel films, with more language, family fights are never fun. And the Russos were right; this was a big family row. Bucky will never quite fit in with the Avengers, but that does not mean he could not become their ally.
And no matter what, he will always be Cap’s best friend. If HYDRA could not undo that, then Thanos has no prayer of accomplishing the feat!
Catch ya later, True Believers!
The Mithril Guardian