The Falcon and The Winter Soldier episode 3 was a real who’s who of old characters coming back with a vengeance and a new personality.
Suddenly, Baron Zemo is an ally who is completely prepared to help Sam and Bucky on their quest to find the Power Broker. Not only that, but Sharon Carter is brought back after years on the run (and being Blipped.) She’s now got a seedy underbelly of her own and a feisty new outlook on life.
Then there’s the most surprising return appearance of them all — a huge, unforeseen cameo with major implications for the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Massive spoilers for Falcon and Winter Soldier Episode 3 ahead.
Falcon and Winter Soldier brings back Ayo of Wakanda
The moment comes at the very end of Episode 3, when Bucky runs into a spectre of his past on Wakanda — Ayo, a member of the Dora Milaje. All we hear her say is that she’s there for Zemo, but there’s so much more to be explained. Why her and not another member? What does she want Zemo for?
Despite a relative lack of dialogue until now, Marvel fans have definitely seen Ayo before. As the second-in-command for the Dora Milaje, she’s always been around, going as far back as Captain America: Civil War, where she’s introduced to Natasha Romanoff as T’Challa’s bodyguard. From there, she appears in Black Panther and Infinity War, though she didn’t make the cut for an Endgame appearance.
As Okoye’s second-in-command, Ayo is very much the muscle of the operation. In fact, in Civil War, she’s credited as “Security Chief.” She is the one Okoye delegates the grunt work to so the Dora Milaje leader can focus on strategizing. She was present in many key moments of Black Panther, but didn’t get much character development herself.
In the comics, Ayo’s appearance is much more robust. She’s not just a member of the Dora Milaje, but one half of the Midnight Angels — a moniker she co-owned with Aneka, another ex-Dora Milaje, and Ayo’s lover in the comics. That back story makes Ayo’s arrival here in Falcon and Winter Soldier all the more promising; is Aneka on the way as well?
What’s next for Ayo?
Through finding Kimoyo beads, Bucky expects Ayo’s arrival, and it’s clear to see why. If someone broke the person who killed your homeland’s leader out of prison, you’d be upset too. While Ayo only says “I’m here for Zemo,” it’s obvious this reunion is not the happiest.
Bucky has spoken fondly of his time in Wakanda so far, so this tension between him and Ayo will make for an interesting dynamic, especially if she holds a special purpose to the Winter Soldier. Will she encourage him to take up the White Wolf name, or will this latest action be enough to strip him of that title?
In the broader scope of the MCU, Ayo’s appearance proves there’s a definite paradigm shift happening. While these crossover moments in movies are often so crowded whole characters barely get any screentime (see: Hawkeye relegated to the sidelines in Infinity War), the TV format allows characters we thought we’d just see once or twice like Ayo and Sharon Carter to take charge of the narrative.
There are grander implications as well. As with any Marvel cameo, there’s always the potential of setting up a future property during this appearance. Could Ayo’s revenge mission against Zemo be the catalyst for Black Panther 2? If not, she could plant seeds for the upcoming Wakandan TV series. By just giving this underrated Wakandan character a new space to explore, Marvel is already laying the groundwork for both of these properties.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is now streaming on Disney+.