‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ Wasn’t the First Time Bucky Held Captain America’s Shield
Since the early days of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America was played by Chris Evans’ Steve Rogers.
Like the comics, Steve was a frail young man at the onset of World War II who took a super-soldier serum to become one of the most powerful superheroes in the world with his iconic shield by his side. However, with Rogers out of the picture, the shield is in new hands for yet another time after The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Once again, they aren’t Bucky’s hands, either.
The unseen power of Captain America’s Shield
As Fandom notes, a prototype or copy of Captain America’s Shield made an MCU appearance before the character who made it famous did. With the hero on ice, as we later learned at the end of his first movie, Tony Stark appears to have it with some scrap metal around his home laboratory.
He pushes it off to the side with little use for such an old shield. However, as time marches on, we learn that it just might be the most potent weapon an earth-born hero has at their disposal.
The shield might not have extra power in how Thor’s Mjolnir does, nor is it attached in the same way. It’s made of the same Vibranium that audiences saw Black Panther. However, its power lies in how the holder uses it. Anyone with hands can pick it up, but it takes a special super soldier to know how to use it to its full potential.
Bucky is both the antithesis and a reflection of what Captain America may have been in the wrong hands.
While Steve Rogers got the shield and fought for what was right at the time, Bucky provided an ugly alternative. This super-soldier was used for evil as a means to advance a nefarious agenda that sometimes sounds a lot like the ones the “good guys” have, as well.
Bucky’s shield journey
The symbolic meaning of the shield has never been that subtle in the Marvel universe. Whether in the comics or on the big screen, the shield can be viewed as the physical manifestation of the agency that helped to bring the Avengers together. As such, the shield’s use in the hands of good and evil often runs concurrently with the on-screen politics of the universe.
Fans on Reddit noted the different contexts in which Bucky held the shield. He’s kept it in defense of Captain America, in opposition to him, and while fighting side by side during the Marvel Civil War. For a superhero genre that has often been criticized for lacking any subtext, items such as this can hold more narrative weight than actions on the screen.
Depending on when Bucky held the shield, it could be a sign of hope, fear, or uneasiness, depending on the context and time he had it. Like the shield., Bucky’s place in the world is often up for debate. He’s been a hero, villain, and antihero trying to live an everyday life away from all the madness during different eras of the universe.
As u/IndomitableSam noted, however, the shield comes with a burden that takes a hit every time Bucky holds it, writing that it’s “tarnished every time he holds it.” As The Falcon and the Winter Soldier showed, however, the shield may reflect the world at large, but it also represents the depths to which even the good guys go in the name of money, greed, and power.
Same shield, new problems
SyFyWire notes that Steve Rogers is either dead or living a life of relative anonymity after opting to go back in time and live life without the burden he was given in the first go-round. Life without Captain America runs concurrent with life without Tony Stark and the other fallen Avengers.
First, it appears that Sam and Bucky were willing to let the world live without a hero, but when the government brought on a mercenary version played by Wyatt Russell.
However, as we learned throughout the show, Captain America isn’t about the shield or the costume. It’s about the heart of the person holding the shield and wearing the outfit.
Sam sees that the title of Captain America doesn’t need to be about one man, but the ideas that he portrayed. While he holds the current title, we can see where Sam, Bucky, the shield, and the label go from here.