This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance: Sebastian Stan

April 4-10
“The Whole World is Watching” | The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Sebastian Stan

Still of Sebastian Stan from The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
Source: Disney+

Sebastian Stan is a fascinating performer with incredible range and the kind of actor whose roles are often easily transformative, which allow viewers to separate each of his characters effortlessly. He’s not just Bucky Barnes, and he’s never been, which in and of itself is incredibly rewarding to see as viewers. Stan is remarkable and in this episode, he’s the most nuanced we’ve seen him as Bucky.

This is the first time I’ve cried and cared about Bucky this deeply and that makes me happier than I can say. Don’t at me, I’ve adored the character, but I haven’t cried the way I did watching this performance. (And yes, I listened to “The Winter Soldier” theme the entire time while writing. You have to set the mood, right?!)

As mentioned in our highlights for “The Whole World is Watching,” this is the one scene where not many in the universe actually saw and yet, it was the most powerful showcase of a rollercoaster of emotions. This is also what made WandaVision so special because moments of vulnerability with the characters who are supposed to be our heroes grounds them so beautifully, it’s almost hard to bear.

Bucky’s freedom has mattered exponentially. The torture, the darkness, the regrets, the burdens, the demons–he’s carried it all with him long after freedom was achieved, but even then, the transition from the Winter Soldier to the White Wolf was an extraordinary sight for us to see with Ayo, and I’m thrilled the series gave it to us.

Bucky’s freedom in front of the fire, the release of his tears and the harrowing pain allows him a moment to truly find himself away from bondage. There are still ways to go for him to be able to forgive himself and allow what’s happened to fuel his growth as opposed to holding him back, but the tears were so telling of what’s so exquisite on this show.

This is a show that takes the superheroes we know, the ones who were once upon a time seen as unbreakable, stoic, and guarded and it allows them the chance to really cry. Which is what works best here because Bucky isn’t just tearing up—he is actively crying and releasing all of the chains that have left him terrorized and an outsider in his own body and mind. Hydra took everything from Bucky Barnes when they turned him into the Winter Soldier; Ayo, Shuri and all that he went through in Wakanda brought him back to life. Steve’s unwavering belief in him brought him back. It all contributed to the return and freedom and, it was beautiful.

It’s a moment of unbridled, untainted, stunning catharsis that reveals just how deeply he has suffered when robbed of agency and just how much he has lost and taken on. Scenes like this matter greatly because they’re proof of absolution and they’re evocative in illuminating that the demons within everyone can be silenced after hard work and perseverance.

You felt every ounce of Bucky’s pain because Sebastian Stan wore anguish in his expression so poignantly, it wrecks you. We got layers and layers into his turmoil in complete silence which spoke on his trepidations organically then turned it into something bigger, something more settling.

It’s the way Stan layered Bucky’s fight and the fears coupled with the gut wrenching loss of control in his emotions even while he was actively fighting to keep it all in. It’s the final moment where he looks up at Ayo, in the picture we chose, where he looks so young and lost, and finally free. It’s the utter relief and wonder in the detail that the very dark words that once tempted him had zero impact this time. It’s the pure, unbridled reaction to Ayo calling him James. It’s the understanding, deep down in his bones that for the first time, he’s truly home–he’s free, he’s okay.

It was a masterful performance that contributed beautifully to enhancing the already transformative scene, making it that much more special.

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