Control, Power, and Redemption in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

WandaVision dazzled me with its intriguing storyline and narrative depth, that I felt like something unjust was done against me when it ended. On top of that, I have to wait for over a year to see Wanda again in the prequel of Dr. Strange, a movie that promises an equally intriguing storyline and a narrative equally depth. I thought I wouldn’t get over the hype over WandaVision, that the next Disney+ Marvel Series – The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – didn’t really strike my attention.

Yet, I gave The Falcon and the Winter Soldier a chance. When I watched the first episode, my attention was drawn but not entirely. I watched the second episode a couple of weeks later, and I started becoming more interested in the plot. The way it drew my attention wasn’t so much the storyline, but the development of one of the characters.

I became more intrigued with Bucky’s character, who is also known as the Winter Soldier. I began appreciating his character because I ended up comfort watching the Captain America movies. The Winter Solider is an important character in the Captain America saga, and such an underrated Marvel character in my opinion.

Bucky began as a supportive big brother figure to the pre-serum Steve Rogers who would become Captain America. He stood by and stood up for the scrawny and struggling Steve. In other words, Bucky was a great guy and imbued heroic qualities.

Bucky in The First Avenger (I do not own the image)

Towards the end of the First Avenger movie, Bucky fell off the train in spite of Captain America’s attempt to save him. A great friendship ended tragically. The tragedy continued to persist in the Winter Soldier movie, when Captain America discovered that the Winter Soldier who was behind Hydra sponsored assassinations and violence was Bucky. Bucky was brainwashed. Eventually, however, Bucky regained his senses. That Bucky was brainwashed, nevertheless, was an unfortunate turn of his character. From being supportive and sympathetic, Bucky became remorseful and traumatized by his own actions, rendering him powerless of certain things. The tragedy of his powerlessness was displayed in every scene when he gets brainwashed to become a robot-like, conscienceless Winter Solider with the words “Longing”, “Rusted”, “Seventeen”, “Daybreak”, “Furnace”, “Nine”, “Benign”, “Homecoming”, “One”, “Freight Car” with the grim response “Ready to Comply”.

It is as if Bucky had no control over these words; these words had complete control over him, dragging him into committing dreadful actions he wouldn’t imagine doing in his right mind.

The tragedy with the Winter Soldier is that he went through unfortunate events that he had no control over, and these unfortunate events made him powerless. Recovering from powerlessness and regret became the theme of Bucky’s character, and this recovery was a journey well displayed in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The episode shows Bucky’s efforts in his recovery (albeit the struggle) through the scene with her therapist, the scene with a elderly man treating him for dinner, dating a girl, and the remorse he shows after realizing that one of the people he killed as Winter Soldier was the son of that elderly man.

I suppose that it is Bucky’s journey to his redemption, regaining control of his own life and completely free from the tormenting “activation words” is what drew me into the Disney+ Marvel series.

The journey of Bucky’s character – from hero into villain and back into a redeemed-hero – is a journey that most people go through as well, including myself. Needless to say, I related very much to Bucky’s character. Without disclosing personal details, I have felt that I was a villain trying to recapture the spirit of the hero in me just like Bucky.

We become villains not by our own choice, but by circumstances that seem to overwhelm us. When unfortunate things happen to us, there is a tendency for us to feel that it is our fault, robbing us of peace and sense of trust in ourselves, and convincing us that we are the villains. Self-blaming is dangerously powerful tool. For whatever reason, it’s easy to convince ourselves that the unfortunate circumstances are our fault instead of believing that we had nothing to do with it. And yet, isn’t that the journey of redemption? For people like Bucky, the journey to redemption involves convincing ourselves that unfortunate circumstances are not our fault. When we do so, the overwhelming negative thoughts cease to take control over us.

What I like the most about The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is that it is a story of redemption, particularly for Bucky. Some people become heroes by fortitude. Some people become heroes by extraordinary circumstances going their way. And some people become heroes by redemption, when these heroes begin to feel the hero inside of them. For me, I think the third process in which we become a hero is the most beautiful process.

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