When the debut season of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” comes to Disney Plus on Friday, it will mark the return of more than just a few friendly, heroic faces. Sam Wilson/Falcon (Anthony Mackie) and Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) will be suiting up once again for the MCU, but the series will also welcome back one of the few Infinity Saga villains to survive an encounter with much of the Avengers lineup.
Zemo (Daniel Bruhl), who helped feed the intra-team fighting in “Captain America: Civil War” will return to challenge the two heroes tasked with carrying on Captain America’s legacy. And this time, he’ll be suiting up too.
Zemo Will Look More Familiar to Comic Book Readers
Unlike in his first MCU appearance, Zemo will be wearing his iconic mask from the comics in “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.” Bruhl provided fans with a teaser look at his character’s purple mask in an Instagram post following San Diego Comic-Con in 2019.
In an interview with Collider, Bruhl expressed his excitement at not only returning for the MCU project but seeing his new outfit for the show:
I remember that Kari Skogland, the director, came to Budapest and we recorded something with me being Zemo, and I was very happy and enthusiastic to see the mask. I was incredibly thrilled to go back because I remember that I had a lot of fun being in something completely different and getting to explore the MCU and become part of that. I have the fondest memories of collaborating with all of these wonderful actors, and to see Sebastian Stan again, and Anthony Mackie, this time around, and to come back to something which, on the one hand, felt common and known, and on the other hand, being something completely new and something fresh.
Zemo and his mask also make a brief appearance in the show’s final trailer before Friday’s premiere, which provides a sense of the chaos in store for Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Zemo’s Origin in the Marvel Cinematic Universe
When Zemo first appears in the MCU, he ambushes Vasily Karpov, a HYDRA agent who had a direct role in a 1991 incident involving the Winter Soldier and Tony Stark’s parents. Zemo finds a red book with a star on the cover hidden by Karpov, and he then begins to interrogate his prisoner for information involving the 1991 incident.
At the signing of the Sokovia Accords, Zemo detonates a bomb, killing King T’Chaka of Wakanda, and frames Barnes for the act of terrorism. Once Barnes is brought into government custody, Zemo impersonates an official and is granted one-on-one access with him. An electromagnetic pulse is discharged, shutting down all monitoring equipment in the building, and Zemo activates the Winter Soldier by reading Barnes a specific code that triggers his alter-ego.
These actions by Zemo help further divide an Avengers team already strained by the Sokovia Accords. After learning that Zemo had framed Barnes for the terrorist attack at the signing of the Accords, Stark/Iron Man links up with Barnes and Steve Rogers/Captain America to stop what they believe is Zemo’s final plan. Upon confronting him, however, they learn that Zemo is a native Sokovian and seeks revenge on the heroes for his family’s deaths during the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”
From the beginning, his goal has been to tear the Avengers apart from the inside. Zemo continues that plan by showing Stark a video of the 1991 incident, during which it is revealed that the Winter Soldier murdered Stark’s parents to retrieve samples of the super soldier serum. After confronting Rogers, Stark learns that his Avengers counterpart knew about Barnes’s role in the death of his parents but lied to protect his longtime friend. This leads to a final battle between Iron Man and Captain America, and it appears to have achieved Zemo’s plan in tearing apart the Avengers.
Successful in his mission, Zemo sits outside and has a discussion with T’Challa/The Black Panther, who had followed the group to their location. In a final moment, Zemo attempts to take his own life with a gun. T’Challa stops the bullet and sends Zemo to prison under the custody of Everett Ross.
Now set to make his return, Zemo figures to once again cross paths with Barnes. This time, however, Barnes has Wilson by his side instead of Rogers.