SPOILERS for ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ will be found below.
So far, Disney+ has given us three episodes of the long-awaited “buddy comedy” with Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, and we’re getting a lot more than adventurous hijinks. Don’t get me wrong, we’re getting plenty of what we’d expect from an action-oriented Marvel Cinematic Universe series. Yet this show’s investing plenty of airtime into blending lighthearted moments with heavier issues that tie directly into Sam and Bucky’s respective plights and reintegration into society after The Snap. It’s marvelous how the show’s pulling off the juxtaposition, too, as with showing Sam grappling with the effects of systemic racism, along a side of couple’s therapy, and also venturing into Bucky’s lingering trauma after his decades as the homicidal Winter Soldier.
Speaking of Bucky’s recovery, we got a lot more hints about that in Episode 3. He and Sam traveled to Germany, where Bucky helped free Zemo from a prison, so that the trio could travel to Madripoor and trace the source of the super-serum that has the Flag Smashers all jacked up. Madripoor also happens to be where Sharon Carter’s living now, so we saw her ass-kicking after pointing the guys in the right direction, but the Zemo history with Bucky is significant, to the point where it worried Sam: Zemo was previously capable (as seen in Captain America: Civil War) of placing Bucky back into HYDRA brainwash-state by uttering some key words, but Bucky’s recovery has progressed to the point where he can resist Zemo’s attempts. Also, there’s a major Black Panther connection with Zemo, since he framed Bucky for the murder of Wakanda’s T’Chaka (by detonating a bomb during the signing of the Sokovia Accords).
This all led to a major cameo during the episode’s wind-down, when Bucky broke away from Sam and Zemo to take a walk, presumably to clear his head. However, it quickly becomes clear that Bucky’s scooping up some tiny bits of Wakandan technology, and those shiny little nuggets eventually put him face-to-face with an old friend, who’s not looking so friendly. Mind you, this person’s beef is not with Bucky. It’s Ayo (portrayed by Florence Kasumba), a member of the Dora Milaje (the group of personal bodyguards who served Chadwick Boseman’s King T’Challa), and she’s looking for Zemo.
Naturally, we can expect that it won’t end well for Zemo when Ayo (who previously was not kind to Black Widow during her brief onscreen introduction in Civil War) finally tracks him down. This will undoubtedly happen with or without the help of Bucky, but we can guess that Bucky will cooperate. For one thing, he didn’t look surprised to see Wakandan technology on a European street. He also didn’t look shocked to see Ayo (“I was wondering when you were gonna show up”), so one wonders how much of this meeting was even pre-planned. For another thing, Bucky is pretty much obliged to help, given that he spent years with the Wakandans, who helped free him from his HYDRA mind-shackles and fitted him with a new vibranium arm.
In hindsight, we saw a hint last week that a Black Panther reference might be on the horizon due to some banter between Sam and Bucky. This chatter included Sam joking about Bucky being the “White Panther,” and Bucky correcting him, saying that he’s the “White Wolf.” Sam didn’t know what the heck to think of his partner’s grumbling, and Bucky didn’t elaborate at the time. However, he was referring to the nickname that Wakandans gave Bucky during his time there, as revealed in a Black Panther post-credits scene.
Nicknames aside, one thing is certain: Ayo’s appearance on the scene is a spectacular development that could potentially draw more of the MCU into The Falcon and the Winter Soldier with all the interconnectedness that we’ve come to expect from Kevin Feige’s storytelling sorcery. Oh, and watch out, Zemo.
Disney+ streams new ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ episodes on Fridays.