Warning: MASSIVE spoilers ahead for Black Panther! Read ahead at your own risk!
Ryan Coogler's Black Panther has finally debuted, and one of its biggest charms is how insulated it is from the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That said, the film still exists as part of this world, and that is arguably most apparent in the end credits scene when Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) is finally thawed out and has a brief exchange with Shuri (Letitia Wright). The sequence is a showstopper for fans wondering when he would come back ahead of Avengers: Infinity War, and according to Ryan Coogler, it was something that the Black Panther team came up with for the movie. Coogler explained:
We weren't asked to do it. Obviously, it ties in, but the studio didn't force our hand, or tell us what the post-credits scene should be. It was something that we were interested in, that we were interested in doing. And for us it was fun, because I think the audience, if they're familiar with the MCU, knows that Bucky is in Wakanda.
Pretty much everything in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is connected, which means Bucky was a puzzle piece that Ryan Coogler and the team behind Black Panther had at their disposal. Realizing that fans would want to see him show up at some point (they would never just be content with the Infinity War prequel comic showing how he broke free from his brainwashing), they opted to insert him into the credits as a "fun" cameo. It wasn't a mandate from Marvel Studios as much as it was just something that they wanted to do.
Think about it, would you really want Captain America: Civil War to be our last glimpse of The Winter Soldier? We didn't think so.
Of course, given the fact that we already know that Bucky Barnes hid in Wakanda during the events of Black Panther, this raises the question of why we didn't see him during the actual film. To answer that query, Ryan Coogler explained later in his interview with Radio Times that Black Panther simply wasn't Bucky's story, so they held off on showing him until the film had wrapped. Coogler explained:
It was kind of a hold-off. Our film wasn't about Bucky, obviously, [so] we didn't feel like it would be right to deal with him in this context. But we thought it'd be cool for the fans that stayed 'til the end to check in on this character that they love.
Black Panther is currently in theaters, so check out CinemaBlend's full review of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbuster, take a look at our review roundup to see what other critics have to say, and head to your nearest movie theater to add to its already insane box office numbers. Looking ahead to the rest of this year, Bucky Barnes and T'Challa will team up with the rest of Earth's Mightiest Heroes when Avengers: Infinity War premieres in theaters on May 4.