It was one of the most beautiful moments of Avengers: Endgame. After traveling into the past (and staying there), Captain America shows up in the present as an old man to say goodbye to his friend. But when a digitally wrinkled Steve Rogers arrives, he only talks to Sam Wilson, not his lifelong best friend Bucky Barnes. Honestly, it seemed kind of rude.
At the time, fans wondered if Steve and Bucky had a heart-to-heart moment offscreen during Avengers: Endgame, possibly before Cap went back in time. But Marvel never provided an answer. Until now.
Thanks to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 5, we finally got some closure on that missing Endgame scene. (Warning, light spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of TFATWS.)
How Falcon and the Winter Soldier changes Endgame’s ending
After Sam and Bucky confront John Walker and take away the shield, the duo ultimately winds up in Louisiana with Sam’s sister and her kids. There, our heroes have the heart-to-heart conversation we’ve been waiting for since Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 1 while taking a break from shield throwing practice.
Here’s a key part of their conversation:
Sam: The legacy of that shield is complicated, to say the least.
Bucky: When Steve told me what he was planning, I don't think we understood what it felt like for a Black man to be handed the shield. How could we? I owe you an apology. I'm sorry.
Sam: Thank you.
There’s so much packed into these four little lines that it’s tough to know where to start, but let’s focus on how this changes Avengers: Endgame. In short, it means that before Captain America gave Sam the shield, he planned the entire thing with Bucky. This explains not only why Steve and Bucky didn’t interact during that final scene, but also why Bucky seems fine with the fact that he wasn’t chosen to be the new Captain America.
Of course, this raises a whole other question: what else did Steve and Bucky talk about? Their conversation must have happened before Captain America went back in time. Did Steve offer to take Bucky back with him? Did Bucky say no? If there was ever a time for a flashback scene, it's now, but considering Chris Evans’ graceful exit from the MCU, this little exchange between the Falcon and the Winter Soldier will have to do for now.
Captain America and Black America
Another question Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been circling since Episode 1 also comes up in this same conversation: Can America accept a Black Captain America?
Sam’s conversation with Isaiah Bradley earlier in this same episode seems to suggest the answer is no, but the Falcon clearly isn’t going down without a fight. Meanwhile, Steve Rogers and Bucky Barnes both grew up in a different America, one that was just as racist (if not more so) but also one where that racism wasn’t something white men had to think about very often.
For Steve and Bucky, giving Sam the shield likely had nothing to do with race. They weren’t trying to make a statement. They just thought he was the right man for the job.
It took five episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, but Bucky finally understands the tremendous weight he’s put on Sam. His heartfelt apology speaks volumes. Now, all the Winter Soldier can do is be a good ally, and maybe also a friend.