Warning - This article contains spoilers for Episode 5, "Truth," of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
The latest episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier brought an unexpected close to Baron Zemo’s inclusion in the series as the Dora Milaje arrested him and took him to The Raft — a high-security prison introduced in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War.
On top of breaking out of prison to help Bucky track down the new group of super-soldiers that were terrorizing the world, Zemo also murdered the scientist Wilfred Nagel — the man responsible for the recreation of the Super Soldier Serum.
This wasn’t a surprise to audiences, though, since Zemo made it clear in Civil War where he stood on the matter of super soldiers. One could say that he has a natural hatred for them; he believes the world would be a better place with them gone.
JOHN WALKER, MADAME HYDRA, AND THE DARK AVENGERS
Episode 5 of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier also offered an intriguing development in the life of John Walker following his fallout as the new Captain America. After being stripped of his rank and his rights in the U.S. military, Walker was approached by Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine or “Val” for short.
Val told Walker that despite the punishment he received for his actions, she encouraged the behavior he exhibited and said that there are “certain people” that see Walker as “very, very valuable.” She told him that she’d be in touch, implying that Walker’s talents will soon be in high demand.
If you want to learn more about Val and what her presence means to the greater MCU, then The Direct’s Pierre Chanliau has got you covered. But, to put things in the simplest of terms, Val has ties to HYDRA in Marvel Comics. This makes her recruitment of John Walker more than just a coincidence, especially since it directly followed his downfall that was witnessed on a global scale.
After all, who else could look at John Walker murdering a man in the street and want to hire him? There’s been speculation that this development could lead to the formation of the MCU’s Dark Avengers with Val putting together the sinister squad.
So, think of it this way: someone is building a team, and her first recruit is the former Captain America who now has the Super Soldier Serum coursing through his veins. Who have audiences met in the MCU that would take issue with every single part of that idea?
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ZEMO AND THE THUNDERBOLTS
“Did you really think I wanted more of you?”
- Baron Zemo, Captain America: Civil War
Baron Zemo’s MCU debut included two motivations: breaking up the Avengers and ridding the world of HYDRA’s super soldiers. His inclusion in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier made it clear that his beliefs have not wavered since his last appearance, and that he’s just as passionate about them now as he was in Civil War.
Imagine Zemo catches word that John Walker — the rogue super-soldier with a skewed moral compass — has been recruited for a newer, darker version of the Avengers team. What part of that wouldn’t make his blood boil?
But, what more could Zemo do than sit and watch this all play out now that he’ll be locked up in The Raft? Well, this question could be answered with another question: who runs The Raft?
Captain America: Civil War placed Secretary Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross as the warden of the infamous prison at sea. He's also been having a hell of a time enforcing the highly controversial Sokovia Accords. Ross learned in Avengers: Infinity War that when it came down to it, he didn’t have control over any super-powered individuals — even the ones that signed the Accords. If a team like the Dark Avengers rises, Ross may want to have his own answer ready to employ rather than relying on the heroes that only adhere to the Accords when they see fit.
A batch of bad guys with the right motivations may do just that for Secretary Ross, given the right motivations. And now, Ross has Baron Zemo at his disposal. Ross has a serious history of not being listened to by those that are stronger than him, so holding Zemo as a prisoner is the type of leverage that he would drool over if he finds himself in a situation where he needs Zemo's help.
Alternatively, it could be Zemo that convinces Ross that he has to get involved, which would play heavily into Zemo's ability to coerce those that he needs to in order to get what he wants. As much as this could be setting up a Thunderbolts recruitment by Secretary Ross, it could just as much mean that Zemo will find a way to break out of The Raft — a feat not yet achieved by anyone in the MCU except Captain America and company.
And, Zemo would certainly be willing to hear Ross’ terms if his assistance was needed, just as he was willing to listen to Bucky in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Bucky knew that Zemo was the man to call on if he needed information on HYDRA — who's to say that Ross won't make the same call? After all, all Zemo would need to hear is that the failed Captain America has taken on a new role as U.S. Agent, leader of the Dark Avengers.