The third episode of the Disney+ superhero drama The Falcon And The Winter Soldier packs a lot in its almost 50-minute runtime. But it’s the closing scene that helps tie the show into the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the Black Panther franchise. In the final moments of “Power Broker,” Bucky (Sebastian Stan) comes face to face with Ayo (Florence Kasumba), a member of Wakanda’s Dora Milaje, second-in-command to Danai Gurira’s Okoye. The connection between them was established in films like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, as Bucky spent time in the technologically-advanced African country so Shuri (Letitia Wright) could help him get rid of Hydra’s mind influence. But this surprise cameo is a more direct thread to the world of Black Panther after everyone’s return post-Blip.
Ayo’s appearance is the most significant way that the MCU has brought Wakanda into the mix since the country served as the center of the climactic action in Infinity War. Yes, all the snapped characters from the film came back to life for the big showdown against Thanos in Avengers: Endgame but that’s about it. Since then, the released projects have delved into Spider-Man’s story on the big screen, and Wanda Maximoff, Vision, The Falcon, and The Winter Soldier on the small screen. The return of Ayo, who first appeared in Captain America: Civil War briefly, further proves that the Russo brothers’ second MCU film has the strongest ties to TFATWS. It’s also a natural gateway to an expansion of Wakanda on the big and small screens: There’s the upcoming Black Panther II, which is being directed by Ryan Coogler, whose TV deal with Disney+ includes a Wakanda series. Evidently, the TV MCU is focusing on supporting film characters to turn them into fully formed heroes.
In the most recent outing of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, “Power Broker,” Sam and Bucky break out Civil War villain Helmut Zemo (Daniel Bruhl) from his German prison. They want his help in identifying who might be remaking the super soldier serum he so desperately wanted to destroy. Zemo, of course, is responsible for the bombing that killed Wakandan King T’Chaka, which led to T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) taking on the Black Panther mantle. Baron Zemo tried to put the blame on Bucky/Winter Soldier but he was nabbed for his crimes by T’Challa and imprisoned, anyway. Now that he is free, and helping Sam and Bucky, Ayo has arrived to seek vengeance.
It’s a strategic move to bring her into the world of The Falcon And The Winter Soldier, which sees the two titular heroes teaming up with various characters to defeat their enemies. Along with Zemo, they also pair up with reenergized badass Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) in this episode. She was last seen in, you guessed it, Civil War, when she went on the run as a fugitive for helping the real Cap escape with his vibranium shield. It’s entirely possible that even though she wants revenge, a skilled fighter like Ayo might work with the characters of TFATWS to help them out temporarily. Or, she might straight-up kill Zemo and make an exit. In any case, the Disney+ drama has certainly ratcheted up its value by expanding its world and charting a course for (hopefully) next year’s Black Panther sequel.