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Falcon and Winter Soldier reveals more about Bucky’s recovery, but not all

If you want the whole story you’ll have to read this obscure comic

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Bucky Barnes in Wakanda in Avengers: Infinity War Image: Marvel Studios
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is grappling with a lot of threads right now, walking us back into the world of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, setting up Baron Zemo’s new status quo, and introducing the Power Broker and the Flag Smashers. There’s a lot to unpack!

But there’s one missing piece of information in the Falcon and the Winter Soldier that you’d only know if, no kidding, you read a tie-in comic from two years ago. Luckily, we read it.

[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers through the first four episodes of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.]

A full page spread of Bucky Barnes’ traumatic memories, featuring Shuri of Wakanda, in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #1, Marvel Comics, 2018. Image: Tigh Walker/Marvel Comics

When we first meet Bucky in Falcon and the Winter Soldier, he’s having a back-and-forth with his therapist about what he’s doing now, since for the first time since the 1940s, he isn’t fighting in a war.

“I know that you have been through a lot,” she tells him, “but you’ve got your mind back, you are being pardoned. I mean, these are good things.”

But wait, how did Bucky get his mind back?

Way back in Captain America: Civil War, Bucky had a big brainwashing problem: Not only were his memories spotty, he’d also been implanted with a subliminal trigger phrase. Anybody who knew the phrase could turn him into an indiscriminate murder-machine who would try to kill every person in sight. When the credits rolled on Captain America: Civil War, audiences were shown that he’d agreed to be locked in cryostasis in Wakanda until Black Panther’s scientists could find a way to undo those subliminal triggers.

The fourth episode of Falcon and Winter Soldier flashes back to Bucky’s time in Wakanda, as the Dora Milaje warrior Ayo takes him to what appears to be a fairly isolated location, and recites his Winter Soldier trigger phrase to him. But when she’s done, he doesn’t go into a killing rage — this was some kind of final test of his treatment, and he’s finally free from Hydra’s mind control.

Falcon and Winter Soldier is the first Marvel Studios movie or TV series to call back to that specific plot point. But just showing that Bucky has his mind back now skips a beat.

That beat happened in the 2018 Avengers: Infinity War tie-in comic, Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Prelude. The two-issue series basically just gave an update on what each Avenger was doing just before the movie kicked off. And it made sure to cover how Shuri helped Bucky got his mind back.

T’Challa’s royal little sister developed an algorithm that scrubbed Bucky’s trigger words out of his brain without damaging his personality, and helped her develop some AI programming shortcuts to make better artificial intelligences than Tony Stark:

T’challa and Shuri in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Prelude #1, Marvel Comics 2018. Will Corona Pilgrim, Tigh Walker/Marvel Comics

So there you go. Don’t stress out that you can’t remember how Bucky got his brain back. Nobody does.

But at least Bucky Barnes doesn’t have to worry about being turned into a murder machine anymore!

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