Why did Steve choose Sam over Bucky? That question has lingered in the minds of Marvel fans ever since Avengers: Endgame premiered back in 2019. Now, thanks to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, the mystery surrounding Steve’s fateful choice has finally been solved.
Steve’s choice in Avengers: Endgame
It happens during a key conversation in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4, one between Mackie’s Sam Wilson and Daniel Brühl’s Baron Zemo, that gives us our best explanation yet for why Steve chose Sam to take his place.
During their conversation, Zemo asks Sam whether he’d have taken the super-soldier serum if he’d been offered it, to which Sam immediately answers no. Moments later, when Zemo tries to persuade Sam into killing Karli Morgenthau and the superpowered Flag-Smashers because “super-soldiers cannot be allowed to exist,” Sam responds simply with, “What about Bucky? Blood isn’t always the solution.”
The exchange makes several a few things explicitly clear: Sam is not interested in accruing power, he does not believe in dictating who can and cannot live, and he views violence only as a last resort. In other words, when given the option, Sam will always choose to exert compassion over power.
That’s important considering it was Steve’s compassion that made Stanley Tucci’s Dr. Abraham Erskine believe he was the right man to receive the super-soldier serum. Looks like Steve chose Sam for the exact same reason.
Why Captain America didn’t choose Bucky
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier doesn’t just make it clear why Steve chose Sam — it also explains why he didn’t give the shield to Bucky.
Ever since its premiere, the Disney+ series has been interested in exploring Bucky’s struggle to move on from his past life as the Winter Soldier. Unsurprisingly, it hasn’t been an easy journey, as the moving opening flashback of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4 shows. While Bucky hasn’t exactly been corrupted by the power he’s had as a super-soldier and HYDRA agent either, it’s clear his own power still haunts him.
That’s probably why Steve chose to give the Captain America shield and title to Sam instead of Bucky. It wasn’t because Steve believed Bucky’s reputation and past made him unfit to hold the shield, but because he wanted to save his friend from the pressure of having to deal with being Captain America. The decision, in all likelihood, was simply the result of Steve wanting to make sure his friend didn’t have to untangle the complicated emotional weight of living with the legacies of both Captain America and the Winter Soldier.
It was an act of compassion.
In The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 4, Zemo says that there has never been another Steve Rogers, and he’s right. Steve’s goodness and uncompromising moral compass made him worthy of being a hero everyone could look to for hope and guidance, and there will never be another hero in the MCU like him.
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be another Captain America, and based on The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it looks like Steve knew exactly who that should be.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming now on Disney+.