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We Now Know Why Bucky Didn't Get The Shield In Endgame

The Marvel Cinematic Universe will soon have a new Captain America — but it won't be Steve Rogers' best pal Bucky Barnes. Now, we know why that is.

Sebastian Stan, who has portrayed Bucky in the MCU since 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger, recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about the evolution of his character. He also opened up about why Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) chose to give his Captain America shield to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) rather than to Bucky at the conclusion of Avengers: Endgame. (For context, both Sam and Bucky have donned the Captain America moniker in the Marvel comics, any many felt Bucky was more deserving than Sam to receive the shield within the MCU.)

After Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) sacrificed himself following his use of the Infinity Stones to dust Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his invading armies, Steve was tasked with traveling back to the various time periods from which the Avengers had pilfered the Stones in order to replace them and (theoretically) avoid the creation of new timelines. But instead of returning to the present after completing his task, Steve chose to remain in the past so that he might live out the idyllic life with Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) that he'd been cheated of when his plane crashed into the ocean back in 1945.

Steve reappeared as an old man just moments after his departure into the past, then presented Sam with his shield, passing on the mantle of Captain America to his friend. While Sam was reluctant to take it, a solemn and approving nod from Bucky was all it took to clue the audience in to the fact that the Winter Soldier knew Cap had made the right choice. 

In his chat with THR, Stan gave his take on the moment, and also clarified a plot point that fans have squabbled over since Endgame's release. 

Steve didn't just want a normal life for himself — he wanted one for Bucky, too

Bucky and Sam might have been Cap's two best buddies, but only Bucky knew what it was like to be a man out of time — displaced from the era in which he belonged, bent to the will of others, and forced into the exact opposite of a normal existence. Stan explained to THR that Cap understood Bucky had also lost anything resembling the life he might have had when he was rescued from certain death and engineered by HYDRA to be a perfect, ageless weapon. As Stan tells it, that was — at least partially — the reason Steve gave the shield to Sam instead of his oldest friend: he didn't want to burden Bucky with it.

"Where we arrived with [Bucky] at the end felt more like he was in a place with a desire for some sort of release: to start over, start life again in a way, find out who he is again on his own and leave all this behind," Stan said. "[It] felt like a desire there was for a restart — for him and for Steve in a way. It didn't necessarily feel like [giving Bucky] the shield was gonna be that."

Stan went on to explain that in not handing Bucky the shield, Steve was suggesting that Bucky, too, could have a do-over. "Steve is saying to Bucky, 'You're going to go and [live a normal life], too. I'm not going to put this thing on you," said Stan. "So, that's where I felt they were at the end of the movie. I don't think there's a desire or any conflicted thoughts about taking on that mantle. Sam, to me, was always the clear man to take on that mantle for numerous reasons."

Bucky knew what Steve's plan was all along

Fans have always been a bit confused about Bucky's apparent lack of surprise when Steve failed to return after blasting off into the past with the Infinity Stones. Stan is slightly confused himself... over why fans are confused in the first place. As far as he's concerned, it was pretty much a given that Bucky knew exactly what Cap's plan was.

"It hadn't occurred to me [that people wouldn't understand], because... that scene was saying so much with subtext," the actor said. "It's just the knowledge that these guys have always known each other's moves, so to speak. They knew each other so well that they could say, 'Okay, I know what he's going to do, what decisions he's going to make and I support that.' Yeah, it's just what it was. That's what was on the page, and that's what we shot."

Stan went on to clarify that he "played [the final scene before Cap goes back in time] as goodbye," and suggested that Bucky didn't say anything for one simple reason: "Okay, I know he's going, and he's not going to come back. I can't talk about it, because if I do, then [the rest of the Avengers are] going to try and stop him from doing what he wants to do."

Upon rewatching the scene, this is all pretty clear — because Stan is great at understated emotion and understands that his character is a man of few words. "Look, I love a good scene with dialogue, but sometimes, I find it really interesting when there's not a lot said," he explained. "And funnily enough, it's sort of been the trademark of Bucky."

Marvelites can see Bucky and Sam, the new owner of the Captain America shield, in action when The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres on Disney+ later this year.