Avengers: Endgame has a lot of surprises over its long runtime. One of the biggest surprises was Captain America(Chris Evans) surviving the film, but also him passing his mantle down to Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie). One of the biggest questions coming out of this emotional scene was: Why would Cap choose Falcon over his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan)? In the commentary track for the film, the creative team reveals how much of this exchanged was planned beforehand.
Captain America has a bit of an unspoken conversation as he steps up to say his goodbyes before beginning the journey to return the Infinity Stones to their natural place in the timeline. When he and Bucky say their farewell, Buck carefully says, "I'm gonna miss you." This phrasing is strange at that moment because Cap is supposed to return to this exact location within a few minutes at the maximum. All of the proceeding adventures make the words seem less innocuous, especially in the light of Black Widow's heartbreaking, "See you in a minute," earlier in the film. But, the filmmakers say there's more going on here.
Before Steve steps onto the platform Joe Russo begins, "Now clearly Bucky knows something here right?" Stephen McFeely then responds, "Yeah I think it's clear from Sebastian's performance here that he's been clued into Steve's decision."
The writers always intended for this scene to work on a bunch of levels. Sebastian Stan is playing it down but McFeely lays out the subtext, "Why would he say "I'm gonna miss you" if it's gonna be five seconds?"
That is a great question and the most logical answer would be that there was some sort of conversation about who would take over for Cap when he decided to hang up his shield.
Joe Russo continues talking about just how much the two friends discussed ahead of this final goodbye, "Mhmm. He knows. Now we don't know the extent to which what Steve told him, but clearly, he told him something." So fans can't really say just how much they had talked it over beforehand but there was some sort of initial conversation where it was made clear that Bucky wouldn't be the one to tote the shield after Steve Rodgers returned from the past.
McFeely ended, "Yeah, and I don't think he said 'I'll go sit on the bench over there.' I think he's certainly surprised to see that." So, not everything was planned out, but that doesn't mean there wasn't a framework in place. Now, the question for fans to wrestle with is: Why made Falcon a better fit than Bucky?
According to the film's writers, there's a certain quality Falcon possesses that Bucky doesn't because he still has the risk of being mind-controlled again.
"It's pretty hard to give it to Bucky," co-writer Christopher Markus told Variety. "As much as we love him, he is on the dark path and is recovering from that. Sam really is a truly stand up guy. It wasn't a wildly difficult choice, certainly. I think Bucky has a lot more story as Bucky and as someone headed on a path of atonement. And Sam has ascended into this new role."
With The Falcon & The Winter Soldier coming soon on Disney+, fans will get to see why Sam Wilson was the perfect fit to carry the shield and how Bucky Barnes will help him adjust to being the new Captain America.