Prior to the release of Avengers: Endgame, the smart money was on Bucky Barnes becoming the next Captain America. He’s Steve Rogers’ oldest friend, has received the super-soldier treatment and was on a big redemptive arc. But then Steve made the decision to go with Sam Wilson (aka Falcon) as his successor. Bucky appeared to be cool with it at the time, but being passed over like that must have stung. Ever since then, fans have been debating Steve’s choice, but now there’s a theory that might provide some justification.
You see, just before Rogers travelled back in time to return the Infinity Stones to their home universes, he speaks with both Sam and Bucky. Realizing the potential danger of the journey, Sam asks if Steve wants him to accompany him. Steve replies, “You’re a good man Sam. This one’s on me though.”
This could be a reference to what Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) told Steve in Captain America: The First Avenger when he was chosen for the super-soldier program: “Whatever happens tomorrow, you must promise me one thing. That you will stay who you are, not a perfect soldier, but a good man,” he said. So, it when it came to picking his successor, Steve wanted to hand the mantle to another “good man” – in this case, Sam.
It’s a neat little theory, though perhaps a little harsh on Bucky. Okay, maybe that multi-decade long stint as a cold-blooded assassin for HYDRA is a big mark in the ‘not good man’ column, but he was being brainwashed and since that’s worn off has been firmly on the side of the angels.
In any case, we’ll see the fallout of Steve’s choice in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier on Disney+ next year. From what we’ve heard, it seems that Sam will face an uphill battle to be recognized as the real Captain America, so it’ll be fascinating to see where Bucky fits into all this.