This post contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier Episode 3.
The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) venture, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has been diving deeper into the lives of Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes, played by Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, respectively. In the first two episodes we saw the two navigate their lives after coming back to life five years after Thanos’ snap. They also dealt with the loss of Steve Rogers, who went back in time to live with Peggy Carter.
The duo then came together to find out about a new terrorist/revolutionary faction called Flag Smashers that is trying to dismantle governments around the world. The duo soon realises that the members of the Flag Smashers are actually super-soldiers like Steve and Bucky. To find out how there are more soldiers like them, they take the help of the unlikeliest ally, Baron Zemo.
In episode 3, we see Bucky free Zemo, who was his nemesis and caused the break-up of the Avengers in Captain America: Civil War (2016), from prison. From his help, they go to a town called Madripoor, accidentally get a bounty on their heads and team up with former SHIELD agent turned stolen art dealer Sharon Carter. They find the scientist who re-made the super-serum and find out that an organisation called Power Broker commissioned him to create around 20 super-soldiers.
Even with the return of two major characters, the most exciting part of the show came right before the credits. Bucky tells Sam and Zemo that he needs to take a walk. He then walks into an alley and meets Dora Milaje soldier Ayo, played by Florence Kasumba. He says, “I was wondering when you would show up,” and she says, “I’m here for Zemo.”
Who is Ayo and what does that mean for the show?
Ayo is the member of the royal security force of Wakanda, Dora Milaje, led by General Okoye (Danai Gurrira). This elite force consists entirely of women and are responsible for the safety of the Black Panther and other royal members. Ayo was first seen in Civil War, which tracks because The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is the closest to the 2016 film in terms of continuation and characters. Ayo also appeared in Black Panther and fought in the battles of Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame.
Why is Ayo looking for Zemo?
In Civil War, Zemo, who wanted to break up the Avengers, first bombed the United Nations conference in Vienna, killing King T’Chaka (John Kani), the then Black Panther and the father of T’Challa. Zemo then puts the blame on Bucky, who has stobbed being an assasin but still suffers the effect of Hydra’s brainwashing. T’Challa as Black Panther then tries to seek revenge from Bucky but later finds out he is innocent. At the end of Civil War, Black Panther even gets the chance to kill Zemo but turns him in to the police for his crimes. Bucky is then taken to Wakanda, where he is treated by Shuri and cured of his Hydra links.
Now, in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Bucky has broken out Zemo from the prison. Not only are the Wakandans after Zemo for killing their king, they are surely angry at Bucky for his betrayal. In the years Bucky lived at Wakanda, he was treated as a part of the country.
This, no doubt, adds another layer of complication for Sam and Bucky, before they can fight the Flag Smashers. Becoming the enemy of the state by breaking out Zemo is one thing, becoming the enemy of the Wakandan nation is another.
Actor Daniel Bruhl, who plays Zemo, also told a publication that Ayo’s presence is not good for Zemo. “Oh yeah. These are very intimidating warriors who are after me. As much as I enjoyed, me, as in Daniel, seeing [Ayo actress] Florence [Kasumba] again and talking to her – the only other German-speaking actor on the set – for Zemo, this is trouble. He should better watch out,” he told EW.
What does this mean for the future of Black Panther franchise?
With the unfortunate demise of Chadwick Boseman, Marvel Studios will explore the world of Wakanda. According to director Ryan Coogler and Marvel boss Kevin Fiege, Black Panther 2 will see other characters become fleshed out superheroes. Shuri, played by Letitia Wright, might also take the mantle of Black Panther. On the other hand, Ryan Coogler is also developing a series about Wakanda. According to reports, the series will be a detailed Game of Thrones-style show with the Wakandans in conflict with a super-villain most likely Prince Namor, the sub-mariner. This was teased in Avengers: Endgame, with Okoye talking about frequent earthquakes in the country. Endgame writer Christopher Markus also seemingly confirmed this, saying, “Sometimes, you plant seeds. Sometimes, they grow.” according to Inverse.
Ayo’s appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier serves as a reminder of Wakandan excellence. It will be an early introduction to the fans for what they can expect from the Black Panther Franchise. Not only that, many publications are reporting that there is another major Wakandan cameo in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and it can be either Letitia Wright or Shuri. The story-line can even be moved to Wakanda for Zemo’s track.
On the other hand, it can also be a hint that Sebastian Stan can appear in Black Panther 2. Many are speculating that Bucky works for Wakanda, given how easily he knows where to find Wakandan tech. In a way, Bucky is as much of a part of the franchise as anyone else.
Lastly, since MCU is basically a chain of interconnecting stories, we can easily expect a revelation or at least a hint about what course Black Panther 2 will take from the show. We know that WandaVision will lead to Doctor Strange 2, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier can easily lead to Black Panther 2. Since Marvel is known for throwing curveballs at the audience, no theory is too far-fetched for them.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is directed by Kari Skogland and created by Malcolm Spellman. The show streams every Friday on Disney+ Hotstar.