This article contains The Falcon and the Winter Soldier spoilers.
We knew Bucky Barnes spent a lot of unexamined time in Wakanda after the events of Captain America: Civil War. And we certainly expected it to be mentioned in Marvel’s The Falcon and The Winter Soldier to some degree. Even still, it was a pretty massive surprise when, at the end of the third episode of the new Disney+ Marvel streamer, Bucky finds a trail of Kimoyo beads leading him to Wakandan bigwig Ayo, a major guest appearance from a Black Panther character.
But why is Ayo here? Why does she care about what’s going on with Bucky, Sam, Zemo and the super soldier serum? We don’t know yet, but it’s a safe bet she’s there to kill Baron Zemo.
Ayo from Black Panther
Florence Kasumba’s Ayo is second in command of the Dora Milaje. In the comics, they were initially a group of women chosen to represent the various tribes of Wakanda as a pool for him to choose a wife from. They evolved into the super-badass bodyguards of the Black Panther that we see in the comics and movies over time. And while the Dora Milaje as a group aren’t especially new concepts (first appearing in Christopher Priest and Mark Texeira’s seminal Black Panther #1 in 1998), Ayo herself is a relatively new character.
Ayo came to the comics after her first movie appearances as a renegade Dora Milaje. She had fallen in love with one of her colleagues, Aneka, and when Aneka was to be put to death, Ayo stole a prototype armor system and rescued her. The pair escaped and eventually led a revolution in Wakanda, forcing T’Challa to democratize his nation.
She’s far less developed in the films, if only because there hasn’t been room for that much story for anyone other than the main heroes (so far). She showed up in Captain America: Civil War as one of King T’Chaka’s bodyguards; then again in Black Panther as one of the most important Dora Milaje; and she was part of the big final fight in Avengers: Infinity War.
Bucky’s Lost Years
Presumably, Ayo is meeting with Bucky because she’s going to kill Zemo. Actually, that’s not accurate. She’s in Latvia (not Latveria, sadly) because she’s going to kill Zemo, as revenge for Zemo having orchestrated the death of King T’Chaka. She’s probably only giving Bucky the courtesy of a heads up before she does it only because Bucky spent several years in Wakanda.
In the closing sequence of Civil War, we see that Bucky had agreed to be frozen in cryostasis in Wakanda until scientists could figure out how to sort out his brain – remove the Hydra triggers, fix his missing memories, etc. According to Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War Prelude, a movie tie-in comic that showed what everyone was doing before the movie jumped off, Shuri developed an AI algorithm to help fix his mind. He spent the rest of the intervening time living in Wakanda, coming to grips with how he was used.
We haven’t seen much of that time besides the mention in that tie-in comic. But it’s a pretty safe bet that someone with Bucky’s special skills and backstory spent some time with the deadliest warriors in Wakanda.
And those deadly warriors definitely carry a grudge. Bucky had been framed in Civil War for the death of King T’Chaka, but the real perpetrator was Baron Zemo. By the end of the movie, T’Challa stopped Zemo from committing suicide, handing him over to the authorities for imprisonment for his crimes. His escape is probably not sitting well with the royal authorities of Wakanda. It remains to be seen what comes next, but whatever it is, it’s probably not going to be fun for Zemo. Or Falcon and Bucky, for that matter.