Having made his debut in 2016's Captain America: Civil War , Zemo's return dominated water cooler conversations and social media feeds largely due to his dance moves, as well as who came looking for the Sokovian at the end of the episode.
However, Marvel fans have also wondered just why the Zemo in this series is different from the Zemo they knew in 2016.
And apparently, Daniel Brühl has asked himself the same question.
A TALE OF TWO ZEMOS?
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly , Golden Globe nominee Daniel Brühl shared that The Falcon and the Winter Soldier has allowed him "to show different sides of Baron Zemo" and portray who he "always had in mind knowing the comic books:"
"It's incredibly helpful for you not to think that it could become boring or redundant. It is very nice to be invited back to something because it also shows that you haven't been that bad in the first place. So, I was very thrilled to hear that. But even more so, after reading the scripts, I thought, 'Oh! This is a whole new game.' It gives me the opportunity to discover so much more [about the character] and to show different sides of Baron Zemo that, actually, I always had in mind knowing the comic books."
Much like Brühl, Marvel fans are in agreement that the Zemo seen in Disney+ series is much more loyal to his comic book persona.
But again, like many Marvel fans, Brühl too had wondered why Zemo hadn't been characterized in that manner from the beginning and why audiences are just now seeing his signature mask and that fur collar coat.
"In Civil War , as much as I enjoyed playing the part, I thought, 'Give me that mask at least for a second, for one scene!' 'What about Zemo's aristocratic background?' 'Why is he called Baron?' That all was added here in the show, and it was so much fun to play around with it."
While the actor clearly enjoyed the additional context to his character, he's also enjoyed Zemo's newfound levity and what it brings to the story saying, "And the sense of humor. I'm always a fan when this is part of the performance, no matter how serious the circumstances are."
And, of course, there's those Zemo dancing memes.
Fortunately, Brühl seems to enjoy them as much as the fans, and he even provided a legit character-based reason for why Zemo let loose on Madripoor .
"It's so hysterical. [That moment] was improvised when I saw the crowd dancing, going loco. I felt the beat and was like, Zemo has been sitting in a dodgy German prison cell for years. So, he needs to let off some steam and show his moves. Let's go for it! I enjoyed so much the reaction of Anthony and Sebastian looking at me."
Even so, the actor didn't believe his dance moves would make the show at all and even shared that "there's more to it."
"Still, I was 100 percent sure that they would cut it out [of the show]. I was really surprised and happy that they kept it. It was a long dance. There's more to it, but they cut this little moment. I didn't know what was happening, but I then received all these messages from my friends cracking up. My friends who know me well know I'm an embarrassing, passionate dancer on the floor but it would be different moves. It would be the Spanish side of me kicking in and doing some matador, flamenco moves, going down on my knees. Highly embarrassing for my friends."
IS MARVEL RETCONNING ZEMO?
Baron Zemo in The Falcon and Winter Soldier is a wealthy, flamboyant, European crime lord while the Zemo in Captain America: Civil War was much more subtle, calculating, and motivated by personal loss.
He also never sported Zemo's comic book look while his updated take in the Disney+ series made retrieving his comic-inspired getup a top priority after his prison break.
So is Marvel retconning Baron Helmut Zemo? Maybe.
What makes this slight change acceptable is, in fact, Daniel Brühl's performance. And yes, that even counts his dancing.
Part of the genius of the MCU is its humor and well-developed characters. Even though the jump between Zemos is noticeable, who he is in the series offers a lot more potential for storytelling and investment, as well as laughs. All of which Brühl is clearly relishing while delivering.
The problem? Marvel relies on its audience to know its characters and their stories throughout its films and now series. Changing a character, even if it's subtle, from one project to the next can be confusing for fans and somewhat dilute a character's overall arc.