If you're anything like us, you were probably left feeling more than a little broken by Captain America: Civil War, regardless of which side you were on. New partnerships were forged in the face of old alliances broken, and everyone felt a loss of some kind by the time the credits rolled.
For some the losses were more personal than others. After losing his arm (again) James "Bucky" Barnes (Sebastian Stan) — one of the unwitting spark points of the whole Civil War mess — went back to sleep (again) for a while at the conclusion of the movie. Probably because whenever he's up and about people keep trying to straight up murder him.
The difference this time was that Bucky chose to put himself on ice of his own volition. No brainwashing, no forced deep freeze, just the will to protect his friends and allies from himself. One day the Marvel Cinematic Universe will give Bucky Barnes a break, but today is not that day.
The Winter Soldier Problem
This obviously leaves a conundrum to be solved. Sebastian Stan still has a fair few films left on his Marvel contract, leading to much speculation that he will eventually take over the Cap mantle from Steve Rogers (Chris Evans). He does of course do so in the comics, becoming Captain America following Steve's supposed assassination during the epilogue of Civil War. But hopefully we won't have to sacrifice Steve to get Bucky back front and centre.
There's been a fair few theories bandied about, from the possibility of Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) being able to help Bucky when he arrives later this year, to the widely discussed concept of Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) being able to achieve the same results using her witchy mind manipulation powers.
But has Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) already shown us the way?
Get Ready To B.A.R.F.
The Binarily Augmented Retro Framing is a prototype machine created by Tony Stark sometime between the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War. It's introduced right at the beginning of Civil War during Tony's speech at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and it's created as a means by which to treat mental trauma.
In Civil War we see a demonstration as Tony revisits a scene from his past — the last exchange between him and his parents, and how he wishes it had gone. What we learn from listening to his presentation is that the B.A.R.F. isolates and manipulates specific traumatic memories to allow the subject to physically and mentally work through them by projecting the memory images onto the outer world. The end game is to be able to overcome the trauma associated with the memory, thus creating a stabilized mental equilibrium.
This scene itself was designed to draw our attention back to Tony's previously introduced neurosis regarding his parents — thus setting up what would later become the big plot twist, that Bucky (or rather the Winter Soldier) was the one responsible for the deaths of Howard and Maria Stark. Because, as we all know by now, Tony's brain is a bag of cats. And those cats need therapy.
But it seemed like a big set up just for this one scene, which means that the B.A.R.F. is likely going to become important further down the line. And, as Tony says, he really does need to "work on that acronym."
Can Tony Fix Bucky?
The question is not so much can Tony fix Bucky, but rather will he? The B.A.R.F. is, at its core, a memory correcting program, and it was created to work through trauma. Bucky's seen his fair share of trauma, and we already see how the memories of what he did as the Winter Soldier haunt him. As he tells Tony during the climactic battle, he remembers every victim.
Tony: "Do you even remember them?"
Bucky: "I remember all of them."
So it's entirely possible that the B.A.R.F. could be used to help Bucky, if the mental commands are tied to the Winter Soldier memories. But would Tony allow it? This is the man who killed his parents, who was a major part of the reason that the Avengers were torn apart, whose arm he freaking pulled off during their brutal battle in HYDRA's Siberian facility. Bucky's not exactly on Tony's Christmas Card list right now, is what we're saying.
The conclusion of Civil War left things pretty unresolved between Tony and his best-buddy-but-not-really Steve. The love letter Cap left for him and Tony's reaction to it did seem to suggest a friendly resolution could be reached, but this is after Steve and Bucky beat the tar out of him, and created a conflict which crippled his actual best friend, Rhodey (Don Cheadle).
In one way it could be played as a means for Tony to finally get revenge for the death of his parents. He can't kill Bucky — because this is the MCU and Iron Man is a good guy, and also Steve would flip his shit — but he can erase the Winter Soldier persona from existence.
After all, it was technically the Winter Soldier who killed his parents, not Bucky Barnes. All Bucky ever wanted was some goddamn plums dammit. Side note: Did you know that Harvard researchers have found evidence that plums can aid in preventing memory loss as a result of Alzheimer's disease? Yeah, that's why Bucky was buying them, feel that knife in your heart.
What do you think, will Tony help Bucky? Sound off in the comments below!
Header image: SangHyun Yu