Endgame served as a definitive ending to many past storylines. Understandable, seeing as it acted as the end of a 22-movie saga. However, it was not the end of the MCU, with the fourth Avengers presenting some new beginnings, giving audiences a hint of what’s to come in the future. Maybe the most important introduction was Steve Rogers passing of the shield to his friend Sam Wilson, the new Captain America. This is something that’s been talked about for many, many years among fans.
And it always began with one question. Bucky Barnes or Sam Wilson? This last movie finally answered that question, but the previous 21 entries may have also given us a few reasons to think the Winter Soldier would never get the shield. Here are the 10 MCU moments that prove Bucky should never be Captain America:
10 White Wolf
Throughout Bucky Barnes’ complicated history, he has had many identities. From Bucky, the Howling Commando to Winter Soldier, international terrorist, to a brief messy period where he tried to recover from a villainous past, before getting thrown back into it and then being brought back to a heroic stance. However, he really only left his dark past behind during Black Panther’s post-credits scene.
In this scene, Bucky wakes up in Wakanda and meets up with Shuri, as we learn that he is now (supposedly) cured. Most importantly, he starts being referred to by locals as the White Wolf. He is still Bucky Barnes, but he has a whole new identity, including a new name, a new mind, and even a new Vibranium arm. Needless to say, he deserves to try and live a new life, as opposed to being dragged back into the world that defined his evil past.
9 Winter Soldier may still exist
Disney Plus will begin this fall and one of its most exciting features will be the creation of several original, live-action TV shows that will follow popular MCU characters. One of the most anticipated is Falcon and the Winter Soldier, which will presumably see Bucky and Sam working together following the events of Endgame. The problem here is the title. According to this last movie, the Falcon has become Captain America, while the Winter Soldier has had that part of him completely erased.
Or has it? Regardless of whether the title will change in the future, there is no concrete evidence that the terrorist won’t return. Zemo’s trigger words in Civil War were enough to completely turn Bucky from good to evil, and although his stay in Wakanda has presumably cured him, we can never actually be sure. A Captain America who could start killing innocent people at any second is too risky to exist.
One of the main reasons Bucky did not become the next Captain is simply because there was a better candidate to fill the position. In the six movies we’ve spent with Sam Wilson since Winter Soldier, we’ve seen nothing but brave good acts from the Falcon. Before he even met Steve, Sam had been a Pararescue, had witnessed his partner Riley die beside him, and was now leading a focus group for war veterans with PTSD.
As soon as Cap needed help, shortly after meeting him, he immediately jumped back into action, even though he hadn’t flown since Riley’s death. From then on, he’s always been at the forefront of every Avengers battle. In a way, Sam Wilson seems maybe even more pure-hearted than Steve Rogers himself, as Steve's self-interest was definitely a deciding factor for the tragic splitting of the Avengers in Civil War. Bucky can’t compete with this.
Bucky was alongside everyone who was not in space during the Battle of Wakanda. He reappeared in so-called Battle of Earth alongside…everyone. Or at least everyone who was still alive. But even though he was no longer “Winter Soldier-ing” around, his weapon of choice didn’t change. He still battled aliens with a big ol’ machine gun. Guns aren’t missing from the Avengers. Black Widow and Falcon have (or had, in her case) their pistols, the Guardians have their blasters, and the Iron Man suits are equipped with anything that explodes.
However, none of them are Captain America. We know that Tony, the billionaire, was a weapons manufacturer, and we’re happy that others can shoot aliens for us. But Captain America is an image of purity and heroism, which includes no guns. Either Bucky became Captain Rambo, or he would have to go against years of military experience, just so he could trade a gun for a shield.
6 Citizenship problems
This is what some people may call “nit-picking”. But how can you have a Captain AMERICA that isn’t totally American? But it is completely different from someone who not only is a Russian citizen but also worked for the KGB. If that wasn’t enough, he also acted under Hydra, a Nazi German terrorist group.
Captain Anti-America is probably a more appropriate name for a KGB assassin/Nazi terrorist who killed an American president, (as revealed in Winter Soldier). Bucky was born and raised in Brooklyn, but he spent the last 70 years between Germans and Russians, acting against the United States of America.
5 Public image
Let’s get one thing straight, Marvel moviegoers are not the same people as the general public that exist in the MCU. We might have seen Captain America’s best friend entire character arc, but the population of the Marvel universe has not. They don’t know that Bucky Barnes has evolved past his “Winter Soldier phase”. They don’t know what happens inside the Avenger’s lives.
And honestly, they probably don’t care at this point, seeing as either they or their loved ones have just returned from an agonizing 5-year hiatus. With that said, Captain America is a much-loved public hero. The Winter Soldier, (which he probably still is to many people), is not. Having him handle the shield would not go well with the general public, and after the Sokovia Accords, a public disagreement is the last thing the Avengers need.
4 Excluded Avenger
Captain America is an Avenger. Whether the team will continue to exist in the future is still unknown. But with all the heroes willing to fight, and all the threats that will likely continue to torment Earth, some sort of united group will have to exist. Unfortunately, Bucky did not start off on the right foot with a number of them. One specific scene in Civil War, right after his transformation, sees him single-handedly taking on a few of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Afterward, he fights everyone else who is part of “Team Stark”. It is also revealed that he killed the parents of a much-adored member of the team. Needless to say, his relationship with the Avengers isn’t that strong. The only times he fought alongside them was in massive assaults against Thanos, where nobody was really thinking about team chemistry. Having him lead them as Captain America is another thing entirely.
3 Lack of experience
It’s true that James Buchanan Barnes has become a truly deadly soldier. 70 years worth of assassinations and a Super Soldier infusion is enough to achieve that. But sneaking around as a terrorist is one thing. Leading the front line in battle as Captain America is another. Apart from his brief stint as a Howling Commando in World War 2, Bucky has a great lack of experience as an Avenger, or even as a soldier.
Just like Nick Fury is more suited to overlook operations, (with a nifty handgun on hand just in case), Bucky Barnes is better suited for stealth, or to act as extra firepower in big alien battles. There’s nothing wrong with that, but why force someone who doesn’t feel comfortable as Captain America, instead of, say, Sam Wilson, who has had a lot of experience in that area in recent years?
2 Life-long trauma
Bucky Barnes is one of the most tragic characters in the MCU. You can argue all you want that poor Steve Rogers was left all alone after waking up 70 years in the future. But he didn’t have to live decade after decade as a brainwashed killer even going as far as (and this is not the last time I'll mention it) killing John F Kennedy against his will! Another important murder in his career was that of the Starks.
When Iron Man violently confronts Bucky in Civil War, he asks him if he even remembers killing his parents, to which Barnes responds: “I remember all of them”. Just because he was brainwashed, doesn’t mean he forgets what happens when he activates Winter Soldier mode. He remembers everything from the last 70 years, and that is a lot of trauma to deal with. A traumatized Captain America is a bad idea.
1 Acts as Winter Soldier throughout history
This may sound silly, but the number one reason why Bucky Barnes will never become Captain America is because of the Winter Soldier. Yes, he fought alongside Cap during WW2. Yes, he was cured by Wakandan technology. Yes, he fought with the Avengers against Thanos. But, no matter what, Bucky Barnes will always have been a terrorist. He will always have killed hundreds of innocent people.
As much as fans would love to see him take the mantle from his best friend, the Winter Soldier makes that impossible. It may seem unfair, but there is no getting around it. He will always be remembered as the man who murdered JFK and Howard Stark, amongst other acts. Steve tells him: “What you did all these years, it wasn’t you. You didn’t have a choice.” Bucky answers “I know. But I did it”. He just can’t be Captain America. At least not for now, and not in the MCU.