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It's hard to believe this question hasn't been asked, but in "The Winter Soldier", Captain America is running down the Winter Soldier after he

assassinates Director Fury.

During this chase, he throws his shield at the Winter Soldier and, much to everyone's surprise, his quarry catches the shield.

At this point his enemy is now holding on to Captain America's most powerful and iconic tool. What does he do with this wonderful turn of events? He hands (throws) it back to him.

What??

Not only is Captain America's shield a powerful fighting tool, it's also composed of one of the rarest materials in existence and would prove valuable to study even without its combat capabilities. What in-universe reason could there possibly be for the Winter Soldier returning the shield?

  • 5
    Did he know that the Shield was made of Vibranium or what exactly was the Vibranium? – I Love You 3000 Apr 24 '15 at 17:46
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    That wasn't the mission. – John McNamara Dec 24 '15 at 14:27
101

Consider the scene as a whole: the Winter Soldier is a ghost, his MO is to complete his mission and disappear without a trace. Most people have never heard of him, even the intelligence community doesn't believe he exists, despite him operating for decades and being involved in many of the most important events of the 20th century.

So he shoots Fury from a building away, through a wall, and then goes to disappear as usual. Except, this time, some dude starts chasing him across multiple buildings!

The Winter Soldier tries running, but it doesn't work. Cap is too fast, faster than anyone who has chased him before. He almost gets away, but Cap attacks him by throwing his shield. He's not going to let it hit him, obviously, so he catches it.

winter soldier

So now he's holding the shield, mask-to-face with the guy who's come closer than anyone in history to running him down. Cap's clearly not going to let him go, and Cap is fast enough that a chase wouldn't have a clear winner.

But consider his thought process: the Winter Soldier's priority in that moment wasn't to fight, or even to gather useful equipment. He was trying to escape. And when you're trying to escape, it's best not to take something precious from the person chasing you. That would only encourage further pursuit (not to mention likely slowing him down, as he doesn't have a back-mount like Cap).

So instead, he throws it back. HARD.

It impacts Cap in the gut, he's staggered for a moment, and when he looks up the Winter Soldier is gone. Mission successful, escape complete.

The point is, he didn't give the shield back, he used it to escape.

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    Excellent point. – Valorum Apr 24 '15 at 18:04
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    I think a good addition/clarification to this would be that the Winter Soldier is brainwashed as all get out, so critical thinking and/or breaking the exact mission definitions is completely out of his scope. So he is trying to escape and only escape - because of the brainwashing. – WannabeCoder Apr 24 '15 at 18:08
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    @Thaddeus agreed. I could almost hear him saying to Cap "Oh, you throw your shield? That's cute." – Omegacron Apr 24 '15 at 18:49
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    @Omegacron OTOH, now that this question has been asked, I can almost hear him saying, "Yoink!" as he catches the shield. – KSmarts Apr 24 '15 at 19:40
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    "mask-to-face with the guy"...ha ha – Paul Draper Apr 27 '15 at 3:44
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We see later in the film that the Winter Soldier is kept in suspended animation while not in use, and is also regularly subjected to brainwashing/mind-wipes. When Cap recognizes him as Bucky Barnes in a later confrontation, the Soldier is visibly shaken, and he asks his handlers who that man was.

Why didn't he try to keep Captain America's incredibly valuable shield and bring it back for study? Well, obviously in order to do so, you would first have to know that Captain America exists and has an incredibly valuable shield. And the Winter Soldier did not know this.

  • 3
    Also a good point! – Nerrolken Apr 24 '15 at 19:32
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    This is an excellent point. The other answer explains how discarding the shield served his main goal of escaping. But if he'd had any idea of who Cap was or what he could do with his shield, he might have chosen to thrown it off the building instead of, effectively, returning it. – octern Apr 26 '15 at 3:35

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