How ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Can Help Set Up ‘The Thunderbolts’

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has seen the return of Helmut Zemo to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Played by Daniel Brühl, Zemo was first introduced in Captain America: Civil War when he was out to destroy the Avengers.

Now, he’s found himself reluctantly working alongside Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). Could this be a set up for The Thunderbolts?

L-R Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Emily VanCamp in 'The Falcon and the Winter Soldier'
L-R: Daniel Bruhl, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, and Emily VanCamp in ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ | Chuck Zlotnick/Marvel Studios

Why did Zemo return in ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’?

In the Marvel comics, the Thunderbolts are depicted as a team of supervillains who act as heroes. To obtain pardons for their crimes, the group goes on top-secret missions for the government.

The first Thunderbolts lineup appeared in 1997, and their founder was Helmut Zemo. Since the character’s introduction in Captain America: Civil War, many fans have suspected that the Thunderbolts were coming to the MCU.

This is one of the reasons they believe Marvel brought back Brühl’s character back for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.

Marvel’s long-term plans aren’t clear

Despite Zemo’s return in episode 3 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, it’s still not clear what Marvel’s long-term plans are for the villain. Right now, he’s Bucky and Sam’s ally after they broke him out of prison. He’s helping them figure out the mystery of the super soldier.

The Disney+ series also revealed that Zemo is a very wealthy baron who is a member of Sokovian royalty. This twist gave the character his infamous comic book title of Baron Zemo. And according to Screen Rant, it also sets up the existence of the Thunderbolts in the MCU.

Is ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ setting up Baron Zemo to bankroll ‘The Thunderbolts’?

As Marvel fans know, it was Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) who bankrolled the Avengers in both the comics and the MCU. He gave them a home base, paid for living expenses and transportation, and he was the brains behind all of the tech.

Now that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has revealed Baron Zemo’s tremendous wealth, he is poised to fill a similar Tony Stark-style role for the Thunderbolts. Baron Zemo’s original Thunderbolts team in the comics had no ties to the government. They were an independent organization with no federal backing.

RELATED: ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’: Daniel Brühl Thinks Marvel Fans Could Become ‘Team Zemo by the End of the Show’

Some fans have been expecting a government-sponsored team when the Thunderbolts arrive. But, that’s far from a sure thing. Especially considering Zemo’s actions in Captain America: Civil War.

Will Zemo go back to prison?

It’s possible that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier could end with Zemo going back to prison. But if he doesn’t, this could be the beginning of The Thunderbolts. The Captain America villain could use his vast wealth and resources to bring together his own group of anti-heroes.

Depending on Zemo’s true intentions — and Marvel’s plans for the character — he could be a much bigger part of phase 4 than originally thought. There is another theory, though, that claims Zemo has already made his perfect future impossible.

Did ‘The Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ actually destroy Zemo’s future as the leader of ‘The Thunderbolts’?

As Zemo works with Bucky and Sam in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, his possible future as the leader of the Thunderbolts could already be an impossibility in the MCU.

In episode 4, Zemo made it clear that he hates the super-soldier serum. He still hates the Avengers. And, he believes that all super-powered people are threats.

This led to Zemo smashing the remaining vials of the serum so no more super-soldiers could be created. But, all of this just might prevent him from being the leader of the Thunderbolts. Now that it’s clear how he feels about a super-soldier army, could Zemo get away with creating a powerful team of his own?

Of course, it’s possible he didn’t destroy all of the vials. There could be some super-soldier serum left. It could just be he doesn’t like superhumans, unless he’s the one controlling them.

All episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier are available on Disney+.