Warning: This article explores the topic of self-harm which may be triggering to some readers.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier hasn't been shy of exploring tough topics, from racism to mental health. Lead characters Sam Wilson and Bucky Barnes have dealt with a lot in their lives, and now that The Blip has occurred their world has been changed forever.
The therapy scenes in the show's first two episodes have been a big topic of discussion surrounding the series. Many viewers have loved seeing a hero in the MCU in an actual therapy session after several projects that have touched on mental health, but there has also been some criticism as to how the scenes have played out and whether the character of Dr. Raynor is a good therapist for Bucky.
AN ODD APPROACH
In an interview with Murphy's Multiverse, Amy Aquino, who plays Dr. Raynor, was asked about the character's motivations in some of her less-than-tactful methods to get her super-soldier patient to open up during his therapy sessions. She answered that Dr. Raynor is looking at the situation "on a micro-level" and that if her character doesn't keep Bucky in therapy, "he is going to die:"
"I think she takes it [...] on a micro-level. Instead of saying 'Oh, this guy was a pawn for HYDRA and had all these super, you know, magical things happen to him. She is looking at him, Bucky, as a soldier, as a human being who had to do these things that horrify him. He is suffering from the same kind of post-traumatic stress that [Raynor] went through [herself] and others went through, [she wants] to save his life. [She knows] if he doesn't do this, he is going to die. He will kill himself."
There has been some criticism of some of Dr. Raynor's methods in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's therapy scenes, including calling her patient's words "utter bullshit" and demanding to see his phone and go through his messages, criticizing his use of it. While Aquino's explanation of the character's mindset doesn't necessarily make this approach to treatment okay, it does provide context to her choices.
Being a former soldier herself, Raynor has likely seen many of her colleagues fall into despair and possibly even commit suicide as an escape from it all, potentially even having felt those urges herself. This has possibly made her empathize with Bucky and provide him with the kind of treatment she might find effective if used on herself.
Whether it turns out to be the best method for Bucky remains to be seen. A breakthrough seemed to be reached in the second episode's session, during which he admitted that Sam's relenting of the Captain America shield has made him question Steve's judgment in not only Sam, but himself. Bucky is still dealing with the repercussions of being tortured and forced to kill dozens of people as the Winter Soldier, and is understandably scared of what Steve possibly being "wrong about [him]" might mean.
It is unclear if Bucky will return to therapy again during the series, as Raynor did mention that the session in "The Star-Spangled Man" was for his release, which could mean he is no longer required to attend therapy. However, he is clearly not over his trauma by a long-shot, so it's possible he may end up returning on his own free will before the show is over.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier's first two episodes are now available to stream on Disney+.