One of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s greatest achievements is the strong relationships it builds between its characters.
The filmmakers certainly have a wealth of material to build from — Marvel Comics has given them years of stories to draw on. One of Marvel’s most celebrated friendships is that of Captain America, Steve Rogers, and his childhood friend Bucky Barnes. Those two have a complicated relationship in the films.
There’s one scene in the first Captain America film where fans noticed a strange look Bucky gave Steve. Let’s take a closer look at their character arcs and what that look may have meant.
Where Bucky and Steve’s relationship begins
As in the comics, the MCU starts Bucky and Steve off as best friends. The first appearance of both is in Captain America: The First Avenger. Together they grow up in Brooklyn. Bucky is the good-looking, popular one while Steve is a kind-hearted but scrawny kid.
The two join the military together, where Steve is chosen as the subject for the super soldier project. He’s infused with a special serum that gives him superhuman athleticism and a bodybuilder physique. He then leads a team through Europe, battling evil on behalf of the U.S. military during World War II. Both Bucky and Steve come face to face with the forces of HYDRA, and sadly, Bucky is presumably killed.
While the moment serves as a sad one during the film, it wouldn’t be the last fans would see of Bucky. He’d later return in a big way.
How the Bucky-Steve relationship develops
Of course, Steve continues to act as a superhero as Captain America, the leader of a team called the Avengers. But what he doesn’t realize is that his friend, Bucky, is actually very much alive.
In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Steve discovers that HYDRA rescued and brainwashed Bucky, turning him into a lethal killing machine meant to do their bidding. Steve eventually defeats Bucky but allows him to escape.
Later, during the events of Captain America: Civil War, Steve confronts his friend yet again. After Bucky is framed for the murder of King T’Chaka of Wakanda, he helps him escape. Tony Stark later learns that Bucky was responsible for the death of his parents, leading Steve to have to defend his friend yet again.
Eventually, Bucky overcomes his HYDRA brainwashing and joins the Avengers to help in the fight against Thanos. Steve and Bucky are last seen talking before Steve goes back in time to return the Infinity stones, returning as an elderly man.
Why fans are confused by Bucky’s facial expressions
An MCU fan took to Reddit to point out that during a scene in the first Captain America film, a crowd of soldiers cheers Steve on. Bucky nods approvingly, but when Steve looks away he seems to have a look of anger or displeasure on his face. Some fans speculated it may be jealousy, but there’s a better explanation. One poster said it best:
“I don’t think so. They came from the battleground. They’re exhausted beyond our understanding, not to mention Zola was already performing experiments on him so that probably has an effect too.”
The look of consternation is likely a small hint at Bucky’s conflicted future. If his brainwashing had already begun, he was likely beginning to feel the effects of HYDRA’s programming.
Combine that with the fact that Bucky was still recovering from a battle, and it makes sense that he’d be less than pleased at that moment. What looks like it may be the sign of a rift between the characters was likely just one of them beginning to crack before later becoming a full-fledged villain.
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