Zemo’s role in the Disney+ series is still shrouded in mystery, but there are loads of reasons to believe he’ll be just as formidable as he was in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
Some new Falcon and the Winter Soldier leaks even suggest Zemo could be bringing one of his greatest assets from Civil War back in the new series. If true, this development spells bad news for Sebastian Stan’s Bucky Barnes.
The Leak — A Reddit post this week appears to show the first look at some of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’s future Marvel Legends action figures, and included in the batch of photos is an image of a Baron Zemo figure. The box set features the Zemo figure as well as a number of additional attachments, including his purple mask, a golden gun... and the red Winter Soldier book from Captain America: Civil War:
The red HYDRA book famously contains the code needed to put Bucky into his Winter Soldier state, and Zemo used it to devastating effect on Bucky back in Civil War. The book hasn’t been seen in any of the Marvel films since Civil War though, and many just assumed that Zemo had either stashed it away or that one of the Avengers had taken hold of it following Zemo’s capture at the end of the film.
However, the book’s inclusion with the Zemo toy suggests that the villain did, indeed, manage to keep it out of the grasp of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
Mission Report — This isn’t the first time the red HYDRA book has been referenced by The Falcon and the Winter Soldier — the code is also featured very briefly in the end credits of the show’s premiere. It doesn’t seem the two Easter eggs are accidental either, especially given just how directly the Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere actually dealt with Bucky’s still-lingering trauma from his Winter Soldier days.
Are the Easter eggs setting up a moment when Zemo will attempt to use the book on Bucky again in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier? It certainly seems like a likely possibility. Early trailers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hinted at a tense confrontation between the two characters at some point in the series, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see Zemo use the code as a way to avoid Bucky’s wrath.
Assuming the book is actually used in that way in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the question then becomes whether Bucky will be able to resist the code’s effect on him or not. That will likely depend on how early on in the series the code is used, but either way, Bucky learning how to override his old Winter Soldier programming does seem like an important step for the character to take on his journey towards fully reclaiming his own identity.
The Inverse Analysis — Based on the Falcon and the Winter Soldier premiere, Bucky’s past seems to be one of the key focus points of the series. It makes sense then for the character to have to cross paths again with both Zemo and the book — the manipulator and his tool — sometime in the near future.
Of course, there’s no way of knowing for sure if that’s what will happen in the series (WandaVision proved just how foolhardy it can be to try and guess Marvel’s plans), but it’s an interesting and dramatic story beat to think about right now — especially coming off Bucky’s storyline in the Falcon and Winter Soldier premiere.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming now on Disney+.