Spoilers ahead for the three of you who haven’t seen Black Panther yet.
Now that Black Panther is a bonafide success after its first historic weekend at the box office, new details are starting to emerge about everything from action sequence breakdowns, to scene-explainers, to just how the film fits into the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. (For a timeline that stretches from before the creation of the universe to the present day, click here.) And as long as you’re all caught up on the events of Captain America: Civil War, it won’t come as a surprise to you that, at the end of that film, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) traveled to Wakanda “on ice” in order to wait for their scientists to find a cure for him, yet Barnes was noticeably absent in Black Panther.
Luckily, writer/director Ryan Coogler has an answer for that. While speaking with Empire along with producer Nate Moore for the outlet’s podcast, Coogler clarified just what was up with Bucky’s absence in the movie. While it might not answer some fuzzy math when it comes to the MCU’s timeline over all, it certainly makes sense within the plot of Black Panther itself. And as a bonus, Coogler gives a hilarious alternate version of how things could have gone should Bucky have been thawed out prematurely. It’s worth a listen, or at least a read.
Here’s Coogler on Bucky’s absence:
You never had a scene in development where they go, ‘Oh, we’re a bit up against it here … but we have a guy in deep freeze who’s a highly trained assassin…”
“That was something that was always—it was a Shuri thing, because in our world we kind of figured that Bucky Barnes would be her assignment. We kind of drop the hint at that when they bring Ross in and she’s like, ‘Oh another one.’ So we dropped hints in there, but what we kind of decided was that her cracking his mental code, if Shuri’s as smart as she is, that wouldn’t really be a big problem.
All well and good, but here’s the other reason bringing Bucky in would have done more harm than not:
But Bucky would have horrible PTSD, he would need spiritual guidance. The last thing he would need to do is jump into that Civil War, and so that was kind of the thought process there. And it could be potentially problematic if it’s a bunch of Africans fighting and you bring in a White dude, he comes in shootin’ people (laughs). We were aware of that. Bucky’s not trained to neutralize people peacefully, he’s an assassin. We were like, ‘I don’t know if we can do that…’” (laughs)
A pretty candid response! Luckily, the MCU timeline was somewhat stitched back together by a post-credits scene in which Bucky, sans one arm, has been thawed out and is in Shuri’s care. That also makes sense considering that Shuri previously commented on Ross’ arrival as “another broken White boy to fix” and that Bucky will need to be up and rarin’ to go once Avengers: Infinity War arrives this May.