Every MCU Flashback Scene In Bucky's Winter Soldier Memories
Bucky's flashbacks in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 4 revisit several key moments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Bucky Barnes takes a trip down memory lane in episode 4, "The Whole World is Watching." The latest installment of the Disney+ series opens with a flashback to Bucky's rehabilitation in Wakanda, where the brainwashing implemented by HYDRA was removed from his head. In a final test, Ayo reads aloud the 10 trigger words that were once used to control the Winter Soldier.
The words - "longing," "rusted," "furnace," "daybreak," "seventeen," "benign," "nine," "homecoming," "one," and "freight car" - were rediscovered by Baron Zemo in . He used them as part of a plot to frame Bucky for the bombing of the United Nations and break up the Avengers by revealing a terrible truth to Tony Stark: that the Winter Soldier had carried out the assassination of his parents in 1991.
Despite being cured of his mind control, Bucky is plagued with guilt over his past actions in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and teaming up with Zemo has forced him to confront his Winter Soldier identity all over again. Though the words no longer control Bucky, they still provoke an emotional reaction and bring back memories of the terrible things he has done. Here's the context for every shot in the Wakanda flashback sequence, in order of their appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A close-up shot of Bucky in his full Winter Soldier mask and goggles is taken from his very first scene in . After Nick Fury manages to escape HYDRA's agents, the Winter Soldier enters the fray and uses an explosive to flip Fury's vehicle. He walks over to the car in an unhurried fashion, and by the time he reaches it the SHIELD director has cut a tunnel out through the bottom of the car and into the road itself. This quick flashback shows the moment that the Winter Soldier peers into the car wreckage to find that Fury is gone, which would have been a particularly painful moment for Bucky since failure was not tolerated by his HYDRA handlers. He eventually caught up with Nick Fury a few hours later and completed his assassination mission - or so he thought. Nick Fury isn't an easy man to kill.
After Captain America discovered HYDRA was still around and had been poisoning SHIELD from the very beginning, Alexander Pierce ordered the Winter Soldier to kill his old friend, Steve Rogers. Initially he wears his full mask and goggles during the fight, but has to remove the goggles after Black Widow shoots at him and damages one of the lenses. When the Winter Soldier and Captain America fight, the super-soldier serum that transformed both of their bodies means that they're evenly matched. In the midst of the grappling match, Captain America rips off the Winter Soldier's mask and is shocked to see Bucky's face underneath it.
In another shot from Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Bucky is subjected to HYDRA's brutal process of wiping his memories. The scene takes place after Bucky's mask is pulled off and Steve recognizes his old friend, calling out to him by name. The encounter triggers Bucky's pre-Winter Soldier memories and he becomes disobedient and unstable after returning to HYDRA - attacking a tech and becoming so fixated on "the man on the bridge" that he ignores Alexander Pierce's orders. Pierce instructs the HYDRA techs to "wipe him and start over," and Bucky is subjected to agonizing electroshock treatment to bring him back in line.
Following his brutal reset by HYDRA, the Winter Soldier is sent to stop Captain America from disrupting Project Insight. This SHIELD surveillance program was secretly a plan to kill 20 million people around the world, whom HYDRA considered to be agents of chaos. Initially the plan is for SHIELD agents loyal to Nick Fury to provide air support for Captain America, but those plans are disrupted by the arrival of the Winter Soldier, who destroys their aircraft and kills SHIELD's forces. Despite having his mind wiped, Bucky was still unstable and experiencing doubts in this final battle, so it's unsurprising that it stands out for him as a moment of psychological pain and internal struggle.
After dealing with SHIELD, the Winter Soldier has a final showdown with Captain America onboard one of the helicarriers. Steve at first tries to remind Bucky that they once knew each other and begs him not to force a fight, but the Winter Soldier ignores him. This is the last moment in Bucky's life that he was still truly loyal to HYDRA. Towards the end of the fight he shoots Steve in the stomach, gravely injuring him. Their struggle only ends when Captain America successfully shuts down Project Insight by causing the helicarriers to fire on one another, and the Winter Soldier becomes trapped under a metal beam.
Once the lives of 20 million people are no longer at stake, Steve is no longer willing to fight his former best friend. After freeing Bucky from the metal beam trapping him, Steve lets his shield fall from the helicarrier and refuses to retaliate as the Winter Soldier ruthlessly beats him in an attempt to finish his mission. Fortunately, Steve has some magic words of his own: "I'm with you 'til the end of the line." This was what Bucky told Steve before he became Captain America, shortly before Bucky himself was deployed in World War II. The familiar words break Bucky free of his Winter Soldier brainwashing by bringing back memories of who he used to be, and he saves Steve from drowning before he leaves to go into hiding.
Captain America: Civil War opens with a pivotal event in the MCU timeline, though its significance isn't revealed until the end of the movie. In 1991, the Winter Soldier is defrosted and a combination of electroconvulsive therapy and his trigger words are used to prepare him for a mission. Trapped inside HYDRA's ECT machine, Bucky initially screams in pain but becomes progressively calmer as the words are read. Once the sequence is complete, he responds, "Ready to comply." This process happened many times during Bucky's time as the Winter Soldier, but there's a reason why Zemo is only interested in "mission report, December 16, 1991."
Having used a Mission: Impossible style latex mask to frame Bucky for the bombing of the United Nations and the death of Wakanda's King T'Chaka, Zemo poses as a psychiatrist in order to gain access to the captive Bucky Barnes. Using the book recovered from HYDRA, he reactivates the Winter Soldier and causes him to break out of his containment, giving the Avengers quite a few cuts and bruises as he escapes. The event further drives a wedge between the two factions of the Avengers - not to mention retraumatizing Bucky just as he was beginning to heal and build a new life for himself.
Then there's the event that changed everything: the Winter Soldier's assassination of Howard and Maria Stark. HYDRA's actual target was a new version of the super-soldier serum that Howard had been developing, which was being transported via a briefcase in the trunk of his car. The super-soldier serum ultimately proved useless to HYDRA when the five additional Winter Soldiers it created were too unstable to be used in the field, and instead ended up frozen in the facility in Siberia. Eventually, though, the mission proved to be a victory for HYDRA, since the murder of the Starks eventually led to HYDRA's old enemy, Captain America, giving up his shield and becoming a wanted man in the very country he'd pledged to serve.
The final flashback (chronologically speaking) that Bucky experiences is his fight with Iron Man at the HYDRA facility in Siberia - specifically, a moment in which Bucky attempts to rip off the front of Tony's helmet. Beyond the emotional turmoil of this fight, the shot is significant because it occurs a second before Iron Man frees himself by blasting Bucky's metal arm off - incapacitating him, but also freeing him from his final physical tie to HYDRA.
In the first episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier it's revealed that Bucky has a notebook with a list of names of people to whom he must make amends. But with Tony Stark dead after the events of Avengers: Endgame, Bucky may never be able to redeem himself for what he did to the Starks.
More: Every Easter Egg in Falcon & Winter Soldier Episode 4