#let’s take a moment to appreciate the fact that#if peggy hadn’t hooked steve with a ride through enemy lines#bucky and the howling commandos and possibly steve himself would all be dead
I feel like this entire sequence isn’t appreciated enough in the first film. Yes, the “hero wades into danger and rescues hundreds, proving his mettle” is a time-honored and tested trope, and thus it’s understandable that to the average movie-goer it would be brushed off as cliche — admittedly, the first time I saw the movie I dismissed it in much the same way. But Steve isn’t going after the Hydra base to save the 107th. He’s going after the Hydra base to save Bucky Barnes. The fact that he walks out with the rest of the captured men is incidental, the result of Steve’s unwavering commitment to do good, to do the best he can. When he breaks the rest of the men out, his first question isn’t whether they’re alright, or how they can get out — it’s where’s Sargent Barnes? The moment that goes on to define Captain America, even in the present-day Smithsonian exhibit, isn’t just a show of selfless bravery — it’s a show of love, of complete, total, and utter devotion.
Steve’s “death,” days — at most weeks — after Bucky’s in the Alps, is an echo of this same situation. Before this moment, Steve didn’t want to kill anyone: he didn’t like bullies, and he wanted them stopped. The first time Steve Rogers considers killing to be its own reward is after Bucky’s death, and he takes down Hydra, destroys Schmidt’s plans, ultimately puts that bird in the water, in a grief-stricken rage over the loss of his best friend.
I think possibly the most telling moment in Cap 2 is when Steve tells Fury they’re not just destroying Hydra, but they’re taking down all of SHIELD — that nothing will be salvaged, that complete annihilation is the game plan. The very first thing that Fury says to him, when confronted with a Captain America who wants to destroy America’s security apparatus? I didn’t know about Barnes. He doesn’t even have to think about it — he knows immediately what this is about. The last time Steve lost Bucky Barnes, he took down Hydra, dying himself in the process. Confronted with Bucky’s loss a second time over, Steve stands to take out SHIELD in his memory — and just like the first time, there’s nothing on hell or earth that’s going to stop him.