This post contains spoilers for The Falcon and the Winter Soldier
Relationships and dating can be hard, especially if you’re a superhero. There are always last-minute cancellations due to saving the world or your evil past coming to haunt you. For heroes, it seems like it would be better to date your own kind — fellow superheroes. Fellow superheroes understand the pressures of saving the world and the judgment they face looking and being different. Coming off from Disney+’s mega-successful WandaVision, many look to Wanda and Vision as a great couple who understood each other in so many ways. It could be due to their shared power from the Mind Stone, but they just worked so well together. But for Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan), who has been released into civilian life and wants to maintain his anonymity in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, maybe it’s best for him to date a normal person.
There has been chatter about how Bucky could be unrecognizable since he was an Avenger. One has to remember, Bucky never really got to fight as an Avenger until the very end of both Infinity War and Endgame. (Now's a good time to watch all the Marvel movies in order, by the way.) He spent most of his time on the run and in hiding until he reached Wakanda for his much-needed deprogramming break. Even at the Smithsonian where the Captain America exhibit was, Bucky was mentioned in passing as a fallen soldier. The same display was shown in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, further proving that Bucky was never mentioned as returning to the present like Steve.
We are left off with Bucky in therapy to deal with the trauma of his past life as The Winter Soldier. He is taking steps in order to make amends and move on from his past. But living so long has come with the burden of loneliness. Everyone Bucky has loved has passed away and the only person who understood Bucky is now gone. As Bucky tells his therapist, “Give me a break. I’m trying. This is new for me. I didn’t have a moment to deal with anything, you know? I had a little calm in Wakanda. And other than that, I just went from one fight to another for 90 years.”
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We then see that he spends most of his free time crossing off names on his list by rectifying the injustices that resulted from his tenure as The Winter Soldier and spending time with an elderly buddy around his age named Yori (Ken Takamoto). We also find out that Bucky has tried his hand in dating through the dating apps, which are completely foreign to a 106-year-old. The guy is out of touch with the current culture, so it can be very overwhelming. Fortunately, he has some help from Yori, who sets him up on a date with Leah (Miki Ishikawa), the cute server at their regular sushi joint. Bucky and Leah share a meet-cute and she gives him instructions to come by after her shift the next day. It starts off as a great old-fashioned date filled with booze and board games until Bucky is triggered by their discussion and leaves abruptly. Sure, maybe Bucky isn’t ready to date yet because he is still trying to deal with the consequences of his Winter Soldier past, but it feels like a good start towards normalcy and Leah seems like a good person to do it with.
I have always endorsed the idea of superheroes dating civilians. Dating within the superhero pool is great to have world-saving activities together and something to relate with, but there is no escaping work and each other. There is also more at stake when fighting a battle where both you and your partner are together. As much as I loved Wanda and Vision’s relationship, there was a lot more risk from an emotional and physical level. Wanda and Vision shared such a strong bond from their relationship, but there was more to lose during the battle against Thanos. Wanda had to destroy the love of her life which was more devastating than if he was just her friend/colleague. Then there is Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne who, as much as I love them individually and as a superhero team, felt really out of place as a romantic couple. When the couple had a falling out from Scott leaving to help Captain America in Civil War, it led to the dismantling of their Ant-Man partnership. It only took a whole other movie for Scott and Hope to resolve their issues. In the MCU, relationships with coworkers just don't seem to work out in the long run. The only exception to the rule is T'Challa and Nakia due to T'Challa's personal role and responsibilities as king of Wakanda. He needs a fellow hero who understands how to rule alongside him as a warrior and as a King.
Tony’s relationship with Pepper stemmed from the very first Iron Man film and flourished into a partnership that fans have fallen in love with, even before she became Rescue. They went through a lot during the Iron Man trilogy and the Avengers films, but she was always his stability when he felt lost. While Tony was focused on saving the world, Pepper handled everything else. Pepper was Tony’s right-hand woman in Stark Industries and, without her, it wouldn’t have been as successful as it was. Although she did suit up at the end of Endgame, Pepper was always a regular person who never left Tony’s side.
There are downsides to dating someone who doesn't know your past or the burdens of being a hero. Getting to know someone who has no idea about your past life can be challenging and even triggering because you're reliving things you haven't thought about in a long time. During Bucky's date with Leah, Bucky is reminded of his loneliness as all his loved ones were gone and his guilt for his part in Yori's son's death. Leah has no clue about Bucky's life and just asks simple questions any date would ask. She brings up Yori because she thinks it is sweet that Bucky befriended the old man who is still reeling from the loss of his son. None of this is Leah's fault, but it did reveal that Bucky needs to work on himself before moving forward with a romantic partner. I really like Leah though. She is kind, pretty, loves board games, and is very inquisitive towards Bucky, even though he asks her no questions about her life. But, most of all, she's the person you could go home to at the end of the night after saving the world again.
With Bucky trying to acclimate to the noncombatant life, it’d be great if he could settle with someone like Leah, who doesn’t know his past, but could possibly give him a future. Of course, with the current events of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, Bucky will have to put his personal life on hold and figure out his place in the world. If he truly wants to find peace, like he says he does, he needs to confront his demons first.
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