How Bucky’s Winter Soldier Nightmare Fits Into The MCU Timeline

Bucky has a nightmare from his time as the Winter Soldier and working for HYDRA in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier episode 1, but when does it take place in the MCU timeline? The second of Marvel’s many planned Disney+ shows, Falcon & Winter Soldier takes place around six months after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and so several years after Bucky’s brainwashing was ostensibly fixed by Shuri. However, as the opening episode revealed, the time in Wakanda was more like a brief respite than anything else, because Bucky is still haunted by his past deeds.

Bucky isn’t returning Sam’s text messages – meaning there’s no actual team-up of the titular duo just yet – and his arc is instead driven by his attempts to make amends for his crimes. This includes helping bring several criminals he was involved with to justice, but he’s also befriended an elderly man, Yori. Although it seems like Bucky’s motivations may be purely altruistic, it soon transpires that they stem from guilt and an attempt to atone. Unbeknownst to Yori, Bucky killed his son, R.J.,who was an innocent bystander for one of his missions as the Winter Soldier.

Related: The MCU Just Retconned Spider-Man 2’s Bucky Barnes Reveal

There are a couple of possible reasons why it’s this moment in particular Bucky has nightmares of. One is that the person he killed wasn’t who he had been sent to kill, and so was even more innocent than his other actual targets; he was a civilian rather than someone who was part of, say, S.H.I.E.L.D. or another operation (not that those murders were justified either, but it’s not hard to imagine this seems even worse). The second relates to where Bucky’s nightmare likely fits in the MCU timeline. Since this is the nightmare he’s fixated on, then it was presumably the last mission he carried out for HYDRA before the events of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, since the MCU movies have charted his story a fair bit since then, and there’s not really time in between the events happening in the movie for it to happen then.

The Marvel Studios has often played fast and loose with the MCU’s timeline (and made plenty of continuity errors along the way), but Captain America: The Winter Soldier is supposed to take place in 2014, which means that’s the latest Bucky’s nightmare could be. The only other mission of his confirmed to happen before then was his encounter with Black Widow, which took place five years prior. It is also possible that Bucky’s nightmare took place before that mission, since there aren’t any other known records of him between the two, while it’s similarly unclear just how long he’s put into the cryostasis chamber between jobs (the length of which would depend on when he’s needed).

It would make sense for this to be his final mission, though, given just how much it weighs on him, as it would tie neatly into how Falcon & Winter Soldier sets up his arc. But regardless of when it takes place in the MCU timeline, the flashback sequence is a stark reminder of just what Bucky used to be, and a poignant one given how much trauma he still has from those days. It’s quite possible that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier‘s upcoming episodes will shed more light on his missions for HYDRA, since there are decades yet to be covered, but it’s clear this one is particularly personal and something he needs to put right as much as possible.

Next: Falcon & The Winter Soldier: Every MCU Easter Egg In Episode 1

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