Ever since Bucky Barnes came back from the dead in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, fans have been dying to find out more about his time as a brainwashed assassin for HYDRA. Lucky for us, Bucky's past life (or lives, depending on how you look at it) is essential to the plot of Captain America: Civil War, giving audiences a bit more insight into what happened to him over the years. Though we knew that the Winter Soldier had been brainwashed by HYDRA, as seen quite graphically in The Winter Soldier, there was a lot about that brainwashing process that was kept a secret. That is, until Civil War, which exposes the Winter Soldier's 10 activation words. These words are never explained, and, frankly, seem pretty random. But this is Marvel, and nothing in Marvel is an accident, so, I'm going to dive in by ranking Bucky's activation words by importance.
The activation words, when spoken in a specific order, trigger the Winter Soldier and make him compliant. Essentially, they are the words HYDRA used to put him in a trance and get him to kill people without question. The 10 Russian words — which translate to "Longing, Rusted, Seventeen, Daybreak, Furnace, Nine, Benign, Homecoming, One, Freight Car" — might seem like a random collection, meant only to be used as a kind of hypnosis. However, some of the words, like Freight Car and Daybreak, seem to be critical. Here's how they rank, from least important to most.
I honestly have no idea what the significance of "Furnace" could be. The first thing that comes to my mind is some version of Hell. Perhaps it's referencing the Winter Soldier's anger? It doesn't appear to have any significance in the comics, so it's at the bottom of this list.
Benign means harmless or non-threatening, aka the exact opposite of Winter Soldier. Maybe it's an activation word because whoever is doing the triggering is hoping Winter Soldier won't just wake up and kill him?
Looking at the Winter Soldier, the only time he would use for the word "rusted" is when his arm is getting a little stiff. (Also, old things get rusty, and Bucky's technically really old?) Yeah, this one's got me stumped.
One is the loneliest number, and also the least significant of the numbers used in the list of Bucky's activation words.
Daybreak signifies a shift in time and a chance at a new start, which is, essentially, what Winter Soldier gets every time he is unfrozen and given new orders, so, that's pretty self-explanatory. Sure, the entire process is significant, but this word just says exactly what's happening — so, not so important.
Nine is believed to be a reference to HYDRA — aka the MCU's evil organization and the mystical beast with nine heads — which makes this word pretty significant. HYDRA clearly wanted their stamp to be on the Winter Soldier forever, and what better way to flaunt your power than to make yourself one of the Winter Soldier's trigger words?
OK, Longing might not have any real significance, but it's use as one of Bucky's trigger words is heartbreaking, hence its high spot on the list. After all, the trigger words are used to essentially rob Bucky of a life he wanted, a life as Bucky Barnes, a life he longs for.
Seventeen is rumored to be a reference to 1917, Bucky's birth year, making it essential to the Winter Soldier's identity.
The fact that Homecoming appears towards the end of the trigger words suggests that HYDRA viewed the Winter Soldier's blank mind as home. Thus, Homecoming signaled that Bucky would soon be in his new self, his new home. (Does somebody have a Kleenex?)
1. Freight Car
"Freight Car" is by far the most obviously important word on the list, as it recalls when Bucky Barnes plunged from a train car to his supposed death. It's probably not a coincidence that "Freight Car" is the last activation word spoken to control the Winter Soldier, as it signifies the death of Bucky and the birth of the killer Winter Soldier. Creepy.
They say that actions speak louder than words, but I think Bucky would agree that these activation words are loud enough. Here's hoping Bucky won't be hearing any of them anytime soon.
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