Why Bucky Could Let Captain America Die (But Cap Couldn’t Give Him Up)

Though Captain America wouldn’t give up on Bucky in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there’s a reason Bucky let Cap die in Marvel’s What If…?.

Warning: This article contains spoilers for What If…? episode 5.

In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Captain America wouldn’t ever give up on Bucky Barnes; however, Marvel’s What If…? shows Bucky didn’t have the same problem when it came to Cap for various reasons. Zombies overrun the MCU in What If…? episode 5. After a zombie virus escapes from the Quantum Realm in the episode, it isn’t long before the Avengers get infected and doom the rest of society. With superpowered zombies on the loose, no one stands much of a chance to resist. Hope Van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), Happy Hogan (Jon Favreau), and Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) are among the characters who eventually join the undead. However, there is still hope for humankind in the MCU. By the end of the episode, the surviving heroes head to Wakanda with the Mind Stone to try to distribute a zombie cure.


Throughout the MCU, Captain America (Chris Evans) never gives up on Bucky (Sebastian Stan). The pair were best friends in Captain America: The First Avenger, and that love carried over into Bucky’s Winter Soldier days. In Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Cap takes a beating from the Winter Soldier after throwing down his shield in the name of friendship. He even defended Bucky in Captain America: Civil War when Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) discovered the Winter Soldier had killed his parents.

Related: Marvel Zombies Makes Spider-Man’s Star Wars Gag Worse

Bucky doesn’t repay Cap any favors in What If…? episode 5. Sebastian Stan returns to voice the Winter Soldier in the episode, and he eventually encounters a zombified Captain America (voiced by Josh Keaton). Though Cap would perhaps give Bucky the benefit of the doubt if faced with a similar situation, Bucky is quick to dispatch the zombie version of Captain America. Cap puts up a fight, even throwing his shield at Bucky. However, Bucky catches it and sends it right back, slicing his former friend in half. And there are several reasons why.

Bucky Winter Soldier in What If

Bucky does it for the greater good. Zombies are overtaking the world primarily due to the Avengers. Unfortunately, superheroes were responsible for the disease escaping from the Quantum Realm, and superpowered zombies quickly sped up the infection rate. Captain America will do nothing but kill more people, so Bucky recognizes he has to take him down. While it might’ve been nice for fans to see some remorse from Bucky, his military instincts and years of being hardened as the Winter Soldier kick into gear, allowing him to do what had to be done.

Also, there isn’t much hope for Cap. At this point in the episode, the Avengers haven’t discovered a zombie cure, so all Bucky has to work with is a mindless monster. While Cap can see the person underneath Bucky’s Winter Soldier, Bucky can’t see anything but Cap’s decomposing corpse trying to bite his face off. So in a way, Bucky wasn’t killing Steve. Cap already died a long time ago, and he has the skull-like face and rotting flesh to prove it.

More: The MCU Secretly Just Confirmed How Dangerous The Dark Avengers Will Be

Marvel’s What If…? releases new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.

  • Eternals (2021)Release date: Nov 05, 2021
  • Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)Release date: Dec 17, 2021
  • Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (2022)Release date: Mar 25, 2022
  • Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)Release date: May 06, 2022
  • Black Panther: Wakanda Forever/Black Panther 2 (2022)Release date: Jul 08, 2022
  • The Marvels/Captain Marvel 2 (2022)Release date: Nov 11, 2022
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)Release date: Feb 17, 2023
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023)Release date: May 05, 2023

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