There’s an old saying that “every villain is the hero of his own story.” Helmut Zemo is going to prove it.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier showrunner Malcolm Spellman shared how the series will explore Daniel Bruhl’s villain’s origins and that he believes he’s in the right with his actions.
Zemo in the MCU
Like many Marvel villains, Helmut Zemo saw his origins shifted from the comic book to the MCU.
In the comics, Zemo was the son of a Nazi scientist who died fighting Captain America. Helmut was horrifically scarred in combat with Cap, which drove his desire for revenge.
In Captain America: Civil War, Zemo was revealed as a soldier in Sokovia, which Ultron ravaged in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Zemo’s family was among the victims, which he blamed on the Avengers.
This pushed Zemo to instigate the events in Captain America: Civil War, framing Bucky for a bombing that killed T’Challa’s father, then activating his Winter Soldier programming to go on the run.
This set the Avengers against each other.
It appeared Zemo planned to activate other Winter Soldiers, but instead, he killed them all. His real goal was to get Cap, Bucky, and Iron Man in one spot to play a video of how Winter Soldier killed Tony Stark’s parents.
This was the final break between Cap and Iron Man. Zemo was ready to kill himself, but Black Panther stopped him and sent Zemo to prison.
Zemo’s work still tore the Avengers apart, which meant they weren’t united enough to stop Thanos from turning half the universe into dust.
The new Zemo
The promos for the series show Zemo now in a comic-accurate purple mask and coat. He appears to be leading the terrorist group, the Flag-Smashers, although his goals are uncertain.
Spellman indicates the series will delve more into Zemo’s backstory from his family to what drove him to become a terrorist, but it’s not how Zemo sees himself.
“Zemo believes he’s a hero in this series. It’s all front and center. And it’s funny because as we did different iterations of this, all the stuff you’re talking about, who Zemo is, what he did in his past for his country, where that mask came from, all just became tangled into one personal storyline of a man whose country, city, and family were destroyed by superheroes who he views as villains, right? Sebastian [Stan] and Anthony [Mackie] can take everything out of the park but Daniel Brühl was like I’m going to steal every scene I’m in if I can. He was great.”
It’s still unknown whether Zemo disappeared in “the Blip” or if he survived. If it was the latter, then Zemo watched the chaos of the last five years in the MCU, which may drive him to believe that the world needs a new order.
Spellman and Bruhl both told Entertainment Weekly that Zemo has had years in prison to fuel his rage and ready to act on it.
“It is true that Zemo in the past, and possibly also in the present, is strictly against super-soldiers because he has seen the danger that this can cause,” Bruhl said. “That is why he has lost his whole family in the Sokovian war. This is something that bothers Zemo and makes him think a lot.”
While WandaVision touched on it, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will deeply explore how the world is adjusting to four billion people vanishing and returning five years later. Sam and Bucky were both among them and had issues adjusting to a different world.
“I think what worked out really nicely was that where [Avengers:] Endgame leaves off, Thanos has created this situation where dispatching Thanos has created a situation where the entire world is dealing with one single issue, which is very familiar to what’s going on today, and everything is born from that.”
As he steps up as a major MCU foe, Zemo may be more dangerous because he thinks he’s the true hero in a very chaotic world to add to the series’ thrills.
The Falcon and the Winter Soldier premieres on Disney+ on March 19.