Kari Skogland To Direct “Wheel Of Time” Prequel Film

Not many people ever watched it, for reasons that should become clear before the end of this sentence, but way back in February 2015, late at night and without any advertising, Winter Dragon, a roughly half-hour long adaptation of the prologue of Robert Jordan’s The Eye Of The World starring The Price Is Right‘s Max Ryan as Lews Therin Telamon, and Wheel Of Time super-fan Billy Zane of Titanic fame as the Forsaken Ishamael, aired on the FXX Network. I have seen it. It is not good. But the bizarre short film was never really intended to attract a sizable audience, or even appeal to fans. It was self-produced by Red Eagle Entertainment (or Manetheren LLC, or Ree Productions…they change their name every few years), a company cofounded by Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon in 2003, which had bought the film and television rights to The Wheel Of Time from Jordan in 2004, sold them to Universal in 2008, got them back when Universal decided not to move forward with a film adaptation of The Eye Of The World, and then sat on them until the year that the rights were set to revert back to Jordan’s estate, at which point they frantically put together Winter Dragon for the sole purpose of preventing that from happening.

Natasha O'Keeffe as Lanfear in The Wheel Of Time, standing amidst the burning wreckage of a crowded town square. She is wearing a white mantle over a long-sleeved white and pale gray top, and slender golden strands of the One Power coil around her upraised arm. She has long jet-black hair.
Lanfear | winteriscoming.net

Soon thereafter, Jordan’s widow Harriet McDougal voiced her frustration with Red Eagle Entertainment, and they took the very smart and rational approach of suing her for slander. Though the legal battle was not long, and directly resulted in the joint announcement of the Wheel Of Time television adaptation from Amazon Studios which this year released its critically-acclaimed second season, the fandom has not forgotten or forgiven Red Eagle Entertainment for their underhanded methods, and the prevailing attitude towards them and all of their independent ventures ranges from mild bemusement to open disdain. But that hasn’t stopped Red Eagle Entertainment, or should I say “iwot Productions” as it was renamed (again) in 2021, from trying to get several of their own projects off the ground, with…uh, varying degrees of un-success.

Just in the past two years, iwot has announced (1) a trilogy of live-action films set long before the events of the book and television series during the fabled Age of Legends, to be written by Zack Stentz and executive produced by Eva Longoria, (2) an animated film centered around the White Tower, to be written and produced by Zack Stentz and directed by Jay Oliva, best known for Justice League: War, and (3) most recently, an “immersive adaptation” of the books that will use “360-degree visuals and sound, holographic projections, and spatial storytelling, to create a riveting entertainment experience”…whatever the heck that means. Nothing in iwot’s history suggests that any one of these projects will ever make it past the indefinite pre-production stage in which they’re all currently stalled, but the most ambitious, the live-action film tentatively titled The Age Of Legends and intended to kickstart a trilogy, now has a director attached.

And Kari Skogland, who previously directed all six episodes of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, as well as episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead, is not exactly nobody. That’s not to say she can magically save iwot from their own proven ineptitude, or make something great from a Zack Stentz script (X-Men: First Class is considered some of his better work, and the first Thor movie is an example of his worst), but I know I can trust Skogland to tackle the intricate philosophy of Jordan’s invented cosmos, dive into the dark complexities of his painfully human heroes and villains, and bring us some awesome action sequences using the mechanics of the One Power to the fullest extent. If this were being produced by anyone else, I might actually be excited.

Alexander Karim as Lews Therin Telamon in The Wheel Of Time, standing in a sunny room with brown stone walls, staring off into the distance. He is wearing a black military-style uniform with gold embroidery, and a large golden dragon emblazoned on the right breast.
Lews Therin Telamon | pajiba.com

If you’re new around here or in need of a refresher, The Wheel Of Time is set in a world, technically our world, in which time literally forms a loop, meaning that history endlessly cycles back around on itself in what is referred to as a “Turning”. Every Turning may not be the same length, but they are all divided up into seven Ages, and a new Turning begins when the Seventh Age ends. Every Turning is different, too, sometimes only slightly, sometimes dramatically, but there are certain consistencies across time. The First Age is this one, the modern world in which we live, and it is always followed by the Second Age or Age of Legends, the almost utopian sci-fi fantasy world in which the One Power is rediscovered and one half of it tainted by the Dark One, and that event is probably always followed by the Breaking of the World, which leads into the Third Age, the fantasy world into which the Dragon is eventually reborn to defeat the Dark One.

In the Turning during which Jordan’s books take place, the end of the Age of Legends is presaged by the Drilling of the Bore, when a physicist and Aes Sedai named Mierin Eronaile opens a rift in reality that allows the Dark One, who has been caged outside the universe since the Moment of Creation, to seep into the world. Mierin, later known by the name Lanfear, becomes the first of many powerful Aes Sedai to join the Dark One in his mission to break the Wheel of Time itself. The thirteen most powerful of these ambassadors are named the Forsaken, and their ranks include representatives of every field, from philosophers, surgeons, and military historians, to athletes, singers, and psychiatrists. Their tragic tales could each be spun into compelling and dramatic feature-length stories.

Fares Fares as Ishamael in The Wheel Of Time, wearing a gray handsomely tailored dress-shirt, with his dark hair slicked back. He is smiling slightly. He is standing on a palanquin, with a metal railing behind him.
Ishamael | nerdist.com

The question that a lot of fans are asking is whether the film trilogy will aim for some semblance of continuity with the Amazon series, or whether iwot will try to establish their own competitive aesthetic for the world of The Wheel Of Time. Depending on which approach they take, iwot might approach Natasha O’Keeffe, Fares Fares, and Alexander Karim to reprise their roles as Lanfear, Ishamael, and Lews Therin Telamon, respectively, though I have a gut feeling that will not happen, and that they will instead try to hitch some unsuspecting high-profile Hollywood actor to this project next. But let’s cross that bridge when we come to it. We don’t even know if they’ll make it that far. Here’s hoping, though. I’d genuinely love to see Wheel Of Time enter the mainstream in a way it still hasn’t quite been able to, even after fifteen best-selling books and two fantastic seasons of television. Maybe a film trilogy is what it takes. But Winter Dragon, the only thing that iwot (or Red Eagle Entertainment or whatever you wanna call them) has ever released on their own, doesn’t inspire much confidence.

How about you? Are you excited for The Age Of Legends? Does Skogland boarding the subject actually make it any more likely that this thing ever gets made? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

Who Is Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine?

SPOILERS FOR THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER AHEAD!

Ralph Bohner walked, so Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine could…also walk, but in really fancy high-heeled boots that even she admitted were incredibly uncomfortable.

There was a time, at the height of WandaVision‘s popularity, that it didn’t seem so inconceivable that any number of celebrity cameos might populate the series’ later episodes, giving rise to countless theories each more outlandish than the last. First it was Evan Peters as Peter Maximoff, then suddenly the entire X-Men universe was going to spill over into Westview by means of the Multiverse, including Ian McKellen as Magneto, Patrick Stewart as Professor X, and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Then it was Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man, for reasons still unbeknownst to me. Somewhere along the line, fans decided a throwaway reference to an “aerospace engineer” was actually a nod to Mr. Fantastic or Blue Marvel. Al Pacino as Mephisto was a topic of serious debate.

Contessa Valentina
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine | comicbook.com

And in the end, the big cameos that WandaVision teased turned out to either be misdirects or literal pranks by the cast. Evan Peters wasn’t even playing Peter Maximoff: he was just a random guy named Ralph Bohner, and the fact that he played the X-Men universe’s version of the character whose personality he assumed in Westview was a coincidence. But therein lies the danger of theorizing – it’s incredibly fun, particularly in comic-book franchises where there are no shortage of rabbit holes to dive down, but you shouldn’t let it interfere with your ability to enjoy a story that turns out to be doing something completely different than what you theorized.

At the same time, I do think filmmakers and showrunners could perhaps refrain from overhyping literally every reveal, as seemed to sometimes be the case with WandaVision, if only to protect their own projects from inevitable fan backlash. But caving in to the most absurd fan theories is also a bad idea: how much further afield would The Falcon And The Winter Soldier have drifted in its middle section if it had had to stop and introduce Wolverine in Madripoor?

All of that is to say: Julia Louis-Dreyfus popping up in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier as an iconic character from Marvel Comics was the perfect kind of surprise, because, while it’s quite a brief cameo, and doesn’t distract a bit from the main narrative, it’s also fun, unpredictable (while still making sense in hindsight, like any good twist), and allows us to do some rabbit-hole diving right now, as we discuss the past, present, and future, of Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine (no, I will not abbreviate it to Val: Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine literally says in the episode never to do that, and my SEO optimization says to pad my posts with at least 600 words).

Formally known as La Contessa Valentina Allegra de la Fontaine, the character first appeared in the Nick Fury: Agent Of S.H.I.E.L.D. comics in the late 1960’s, with her backstory mostly shrouded in mystery, but generally giving the impression that she was a fabulously wealthy Italian heiress until her parents were killed, at which point her skills as a hand-to-hand fighter and sharpshooter caught the eye of S.H.I.E.L.D., and she was recruited into the organization as Agent 14. Appointed leader of the all-women S.H.I.E.L.D. team “Femme Force”, Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine’s working relationship with Nick Fury quickly became a romantic one – so romantic, in fact, the Comics Code Authority intervened.

More recently, La Contessa has played a major role in the Secret Invasion storyline, being the victim of a Skrull impersonator. While laying low in Britain, she worked alongside Lance Hunter, who has already appeared in the MCU-adjacent Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV series. And then her entire backstory was retconned, and she was revealed to be a Russian sleeper agent working with the organization known as Leviathan to infiltrate HYDRA, leading to her taking over the title of Madame Hydra.

Contessa Valentina
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine | marvel.com

In the MCU, all we know about her comes from her exceedingly brief interaction with John Walker, during which she tells him to keep in touch with her as he might prove “very, very valuable to certain people”. Although she never states her true purpose, her knowledge of classified state secrets suggests a connection to either S.H.I.E.L.D. or HYDRA – and her threatening aura (plus the villainous purple highlights in her hair, an upgrade from her Bride of Frankenstein-esque white streak in the comics) makes the latter more likely. We also know from Vanity Fair that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was originally supposed to debut in Black Widow, most likely in a post-credits scene.

That, coupled with the handful of hints she drops, have led many to believe she’ll be assembling the MCU’s Thunderbolts (a team of reformed villains from the comics) or Dark Avengers (a team of evil doppelgangers of the original Avengers), jumping from films to Disney+ shows and back to recruit all the best baddies onto her team before they can be killed or imprisoned. She just missed her opportunity to accost Baron Zemo (the original founder of the Thunderbolts in the comics), but the fact that he’s currently on his way to The Raft rather than Wakanda makes it easier for La Contessa to potentially break him out. And if she does appear in Black Widow, that’ll probably be where she picks up Natasha Romanoff’s younger sister, Yelena Belova.

Since she’s clearly being set up as a puppet-master of sorts, she may also be tied to the Power-Broker of Madripoor – and there’s a possibility they’re one and the same. That honestly makes more sense than Sharon Carter being the Power-Broker herself, since she doesn’t seem to have much motive to design an army of Super-Soldiers. But Carter could be working for La Contessa, something that would parallel the characters’ dynamic in the comics, where Carter was a Femme Force member and the two were rivals for the team’s leadership position.

It’s also important to note that even if Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is affiliated with HYDRA, and even if she does call herself Madame Hydra, that doesn’t somehow retcon Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s version of Madame Hydra out of existence, as some people are claiming. S.H.I.E.L.D.‘s Madame Hydra is a character from the HYDRA-operated Framework simulation, not even a real person, and her character design was lifted from Ophelia Sarkissian, another woman who wears the title in the comics. Haters love to claim Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. isn’t MCU canon, but it still lives rent-free in their heads.

Contessa Valentina
Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Madame Hydra | pinterest.com

There also remains the slight chance that La Contessa isn’t a straight-up villain. A lot of S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are just…kind of shady, particularly those in Nick Fury’s inner circle. I think this is least likely out of all the options, but if it means we get to see Samuel L. Jackson and Julia Louis-Dreyfus flirting all the way through the Secret Invasion series, I’d be okay with keeping her on S.H.I.E.L.D.’s side for a little while. Though it would be even more entertaining if they’re bitter exes on opposite sides of a conflict between their teams, whose romantic history allows them to predict their insignificant other’s next moves.

So what do you think Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is plotting? Which team of villains should she be assembling, and why? Share your own thoughts, theories, and opinions, in the comments below!

“The Falcon And The Winter Soldier” Episode 5 Review!

SPOILERS FOR THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER AHEAD!

Billed by the series’ producers as the single best episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier from a thematic standpoint, and highly-anticipated in the fandom due to its rumored inclusion of an epic Marvel Comics cameo, episode five – which bears the simple yet potent subtitle, “Truth” – delivers overwhelmingly on both fronts, diving into a timely discussion about Black identity in America while precisely utilizing the incomparable Julia Louis-Dreyfus to plant seeds for MCU storylines in the near future. After drifting slightly off-course in episode four, the series has regained its footing and the focus is back where it belongs, on Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie)’s journey of reconciliation.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Sam Wilson | theguardian.com

Louis-Dreyfus’ unexpected cameo as Marvel’s famous Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine is a big deal for comic-book fans, probably deserving of its own breakdown, but The Falcon And The Winter Soldier very wisely doesn’t belabor the point, slipping the charismatic Contessa into just a single early scene before having her exit just as mysteriously as she arrived, leaving a blank business card and a promise to “keep in touch” in her wake. It hasn’t been confirmed if she’ll show up again in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s upcoming finale, but there’s no question we’ll be seeing more of Louis-Dreyfus in the MCU soon, as her character’s sprawling comics history gives her plenty of potential story directions from which to choose.

But all the Easter eggs in the Marvel Multiverse (and there are thousands) can only go so far when it comes to crafting a truly meaningful story. Thankfully, that’s why The Falcon And The Winter Soldier is blessed to have a head writer like Malcolm Spellman, who uses the series’ penultimate episode to develop a profound commentary on the sacrifices Black people in America are expected to make every day for a country built by and for white supremacy…and how Sam Wilson’s fight to protect what he sees as the legacy of Captain America isn’t anywhere near as simple as it would be for a white man.

That’s something even Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) comes to acknowledge later in the episode, apologizing to Sam for all the times he questioned his decision to give up Captain America’s shield, and specifically for never once considering how Sam’s identity as a Black man factored into that controversial decision. It’s a powerful moment that recognizes Sam’s Blackness as a crucial element of his character in-universe that can’t and shouldn’t be ignored or downplayed, even when that makes white characters and viewers uncomfortable; especially when that necessitates reevaluating Hollywood’s so-called “colorblind” strategy of treating characters as paper dolls, and racial and cultural identities as interchangeable outfits.

But that’s a moment. And in too many cases, The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s best scenes have been mere moments – due to occasionally poor pacing and the nearly consistent issue of time constraints. The latter is at least not a problem in today’s hour-long episode, which makes room for one extended dramatic sequence that I suspect will still be hailed as the series’ thematic high-point even after next week’s finale. In a story that revolves around Black identity, it’s no surprise that this incredible sequence is focused exclusively on two Black men – Sam Wilson and Isaiah Bradley (Carl Lumbly), who meet up at Isaiah’s house on the outskirts of Baltimore, with Sam initially intending to give the old man a chance to see Captain America’s shield.

And as Sam approaches the house, with the shield wrapped up in brown paper, it’s easy to envision how that hypothetical could have played out with a different screenwriter; all tears of joy and feel-good vibes. But Isaiah stops him in his tracks, recognizing the shield before Sam ever gets a chance to unwrap it. “Leave it covered,” he tells Sam bluntly. Them stars and stripes don’t mean nothin’ good to me.”

At last, Isaiah finally gets a chance to tell his story. It’s not a comfortable one, particularly for anyone who recognizes the intentional parallels between his account and the history of the real-life Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted on Black men between 1932 and 1972. Isaiah describes how he and the other men in his facility were told they were being treated for tetanus, though in reality their bodies were being used by the US Government as expendable vessels on which to test out experimental versions of the Super-Soldier Serum – all part of a race to recreate what Isaiah describes as the “great white hope” of Steve Rogers; the same race being run by John Walker (Wyatt Russell), a living still-frame of whiteness in action.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Falcon And The Winter Soldier | leftoye.com

Lumbly’s performance throughout the sequence is so vividly and excruciatingly present, there’s no need for dramatized flashbacks even as Isaiah tells of his escape-attempt, and the thirty years he spent in prison on charges of treason while the experiments continued, and he was slowly drained of his superhuman blood, his resolve to live, and his sense of self. He was mutilated, erased from history, and, upon being released, forced into hiding. The fact that his blood now flows in John Walker’s veins backs up his pessimistic worldview: his entire life was reduced to the parts of him that could be mined to create more juiced-up white guys.

But it’s what Isaiah has to say about Sam that cuts most deeply: like an emotional gut-punch on par with, if not far exceeding, Vision’s profound analysis of grief in WandaVision. “They will never let a Black man be Captain America. And even if they did, no self-respecting Black man would ever wanna be.” It’s probably one of the most powerful lines ever spoken in the MCU, so quietly paradigm-altering that it demands a response from Sam – but since we don’t get to hear one because the scene ends there, we’ll have to see his response instead, through his actions. I don’t trust Disney to make the right call here, but it would be incredibly empowering to see Sam come out of this unaffiliated with the American government in any way.

To be honest, I don’t see another option that makes sense given how far Sam has progressed. He’s already shed his identity as the Falcon, symbolically passing his wings along to Joaquin Torres (Danny Ramirez); who, if the comics are to be trusted, will get plenty of use out of them. And while he could still use the Captain America moniker, he’s clearly sympathetic to the motives, though not the methods, of the anarchist Flag-Smashers – which probably wouldn’t make him too popular with any government, least of all the United States’.

The Flag-Smashers are an example of a subplot that has been meandering so long it feels pointless, only barely being kept afloat by Erin Kellyman’s performance as Karli Morgenthau. The group is apparently being secretly assisted by Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp), who breaks Georges Batroc (Georges St-Pierre) out of jail and sends him along to New York City to help the Flag-Smashers orchestrate a hostage crisis that will shape next week’s finale – though the nighttime setting gives me concern that we won’t be able to fully appreciate the splendor of Sam Wilson’s new set of wings, which I believe to be the unspecified Wakandan-designed gift left behind at Sam’s house after Bucky stops by to help him fix up his family’s old fishing-trawler.

Separate from Sam, Bucky’s journey also starts strolling off on its own, leading him to the memorial in Sokovia namedropped two weeks ago by Baron Zemo (Daniel Brühl), whom Bucky finds there. In a slightly strange turn of events, Bucky aims a gun at Zemo’s head and pulls the trigger, only to then reveal that he removed the bullets…some emotionally manipulative payback for all of Zemo’s own manipulations. The Dora Milaje arrive to escort Zemo to The Raft, the high-security underwater prison seen in Civil War that is totally a great place to be holding one of the most dangerous criminals in the world.

Falcon And The Winter Soldier
Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine | meaww.com

Obviously he won’t be there for long, but I have a feeling his time on The Falcon And The Winter Soldier may have come to an end. With a mid-credits scene revealing that John Walker is hard at work on his own handcrafted replica of Captain America’s shield (is anyone gonna tell him it needs vibranium to actually be effective, or…no? Okay), all our focus in next week’s finale will have to be on the action-packed showdown between Walker, Morgenthau, Barnes, Wilson…and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, which is a bizarre yet wonderful twist of fate that I can’t wait to watch spiral out across the MCU.

Episode Rating: 9/10

Wakanda Was Right Not To Totally Trust Bucky – Sorry, Not Sorry

SPOILERS FOR THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER AHEAD!

And…here we go again. Another week, another episode of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, another round of unbearable Twitter discourse about the white people in this show while the Black lead continues to be, at best, overshadowed, and at worst, actively undermined, by this very type of discourse. And this week’s episode didn’t even center on Sam Wilson as much as it could have with better writing, but it focused even less on Bucky Barnes – and yet the new discourse predictably revolves around the latter.

Wakanda
Bucky and Ayo | digitalspy.com

This week, it’s actor/director Stephen Ford who failed the “try-to-have-a-meaningful-conversation-about-The-Falcon-And-The-Winter-Soldier-without-constantly-centering-whiteness” challenge. While most of us were acknowledging the sheer awesomeness of the Dora Milaje warriors, and getting even more hyped about the upcoming Wakanda Disney+ series that will surely explore their adventures and inspiring teamwork, Ford took to Twitter to share his own deeply cringeworthy take on one of the best scenes in the series (and by far the best action sequence), in which Ayo and the Dora Milaje battle Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, John Walker, and Lemar Hoskins.

In a matter of minutes, the Dora Milaje have soundly defeated all four men – and only fail in their ultimate goal to capture Baron Zemo because Sam and Bucky insisted on getting involved in the fight to protect John Walker’s fragile ego, allowing the Baron to escape in the chaos. Sam almost holds his own, but Ayo makes short work of Bucky, swiftly and decisively activating what is implied to be a secret failsafe built into his Wakandan-made vibranium arm, causing the appendage to simply pop off.

The moment is shocking, and is clearly supposed to provoke an emotional reaction from the viewer – but if your takeaway is that the Wakandans are “really messed up” manipulative monsters who violated Bucky’s bodily autonomy, then I encourage you to rewatch the scene: and this time, not through the filter of whiteness. Because the entire sequence is far more complex and nuanced than that, and exemplifies everything I love most about The Falcon And The Winter Soldier‘s masterful way of tackling very serious topics.

Ford’s argument, which I had already seen being voiced by melodramatic Bucky stans before he posted his tweet, is that Bucky was betrayed by the Wakandans who designed the failsafe in his arm, and that it’s indicative of the way nobody in his life – even those he believes to be friends or allies – actually trust him to have changed or evolved since his time as the brainwashed HYDRA killing-machine known as the Winter Soldier. But for a deep-dive psychological analysis into an already iconic pop-culture moment, it’s embarrassingly shallow, ignoring several crucial bits of context that lend a wholly different meaning to the scene when taken into account.

Firstly, how about we actually talk about why the Dora Milaje were there? They had been dispatched from Wakanda to find Baron Zemo and bring him to justice for assassinating their King T’Chaka – a violent killing that, need I remind you all, Zemo carried out while disguised as Bucky in an attempt to have the Winter Soldier taken captive, thus making him easier for Zemo to later access and brainwash. And yet, when the Dora Milaje arrive in Riga, they find Bucky now willingly aiding and abetting Zemo – something that has to hurt them all, after what they did to help Bucky heal and recover from Zemo’s manipulation.

And sure, you could argue that Bucky had a valid reason for breaking Zemo out of prison and following him halfway around the world…but at the same time, it is deeply troubling that Bucky hasn’t once mentioned what he planned to do with Zemo after he and Sam had gotten the information they needed from the killer. At this point, anything remotely resembling a plan has now gone out the window (or, rather, the sewer tunnel), thanks to Zemo’s escape: but the Dora Milaje are validated in their distrust of Bucky, because all he’s done is call Zemo “a means to an end”, as if that makes his actions more ethical, without explaining whether he ever intended to hand Zemo over to the Wakandans, or back to the German authorities.

Wakanda
Ayo | superherohype.com

Secondly, let’s talk about the arm in question for a moment, shall we? Designed by the Wakandans out of vibranium, their nation’s most rare, precious, and frequently stolen resource, the fact that that arm even exists is proof that Wakanda trusted Bucky enough not to go on a homicidal rampage strangling people to death, as is the fact that Ayo leaves the arm with Bucky after their battle instead of taking it with her. But…that arm is still a weapon; a dangerous and potentially very destructive weapon.

And Ayo, by activating the failsafe in the arm, isn’t telling Bucky she distrusts him. She’s reminding him – without even having to say a word, though she does throw in a whispered “Bast damn you, James” for good measure – that Wakanda did trust him, that they made the choice to weaponize him believing he had changed, and that he betrayed that trust: not by devolving into the Winter Soldier again, not by going on a murder spree or anything like that, but by having the audacity to defend Zemo after everything he did to hurt the people who helped Bucky escape him in the first place.

There’s a reason society overemphasizes the virtue of trust – because whiteness relies on people putting their total, unwavering, trust in fundamentally corrupt individuals and systems which are then free to exploit, abuse, and weaponize that trust against people of color, and particularly Black people. Unconditional trust is extremely dangerous, and if you want a good example, look no further than American nationalism, which is horrifically embodied in The Falcon And The Winter Soldier by John Walker. The entire show is about this idea of unconditional trust being the weapon of the oppressor, and about how Black people specifically have known this for a very long time.

So no, the Wakandans not putting total trust in Bucky isn’t a fault of theirs. It’s a defense mechanism – just like the literal failsafe they built into his arm. It’s not monstrous, it’s not manipulative, and it’s not messed up.

Wakanda
Bucky Barnes | gamerant.com

You know what is? That every week, the discourse that comes out of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier immediately centers whiteness and white characters in a story that is all about the dangers of doing just that. But with two episodes left and two more weeks of what will have to be some extraordinarily bad “hot takes” in order to top this one, I hope I can use my blog responsibly to help fight this trend.