In the premiere episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky Barnes reckons with his lack of self-care to his therapist: “I had a little... calm in Wakanda, but other than that I’ve just been going from one fight to another for the past 90 years.”
This “little calm” is actually something we’ve seen before in the post-credits scene of Black Panther, where Bucky is showing sans metal arm in a hut, where Wakandan children call him “White Wolf.” It’s not just another alias to add to Bucky’s rolodex — it’s potentially a huge sign of things to come for the Winter Soldier and the MCU at large.
The White Wolf — Redditor u/the-cheesie1234 suggests that Bucky being called “White Wolf” isn’t indicative of a role that he plays in Wakanda, but a greater legend within Wakandan culture Bucky happens to fit.
In the comics, White Wolf is an orphaned child who survived his plane crashing onto Wakanda and was adopted into the royal family as T’Challa’s adopted brother. As they grew up together, the White Wolf became an antihero character, switching between waging a sibling rivalry and fighting alongside his brother.
The Theory — So why would Bucky be called White Wolf? He didn’t grow up in Wakanda. In fact, he had lived an entire lifetime before he even stepped foot there. This theory suggests that while the White Wolf exists, it’s not Bucky.
Instead, the White Wolf is a sort of urban legend, a tale of a white man who would come from another place and become part of Wakandan history. Like all urban legends, this story would have to stem from some sort of truth.
The theory posits the White Wolf is actually a real person, but a person kept hidden by T’Chaka for some reason or another. Perhaps he was scared of the rivalries that would form, or is waiting for the right moment to introduce him into society.
The Inverse Analysis — It’s a little weird for a mythical character like the White Wolf, as outlined in theory, to be hiding off-screen through multiple fights for the fate of the Earth.
Perhaps the White Wolf isn’t being hidden, then. Perhaps the White Wolf is waiting to activate, and Bucky’s fuller destiny as this character is still on the horizon. Could the upcoming Black Panther sequel fill in the gaps and expand upon his time spent in the nation between Civil War and Infinity War? Will he come to realize that his “little calm” is worth returning to, and adopt a new name and persona as White Wolf?
Though it’s been three years since the release of Black Panther, that film may yet contain the key to Bucky’s emotional journey in Falcon and Winter Soldier and beyond — a return to a place of peace, where he can start fresh in the one place he felt he didn’t have to fight.
Black Panther is now streaming on Disney+.