Entire post has SPOILERS. If you have not seen CA:CW, be warned.

Zemo's plan seemed to have too many lucky coincidences.

  • Zemo went to all the trouble of killing the ex-HYDRA guard, bombing the UN, killing the shrink and setting off an EMP just so he could ask Bucky in person about a mission report? How did he know that mission was important?

  • Without this report, how would Zemo know that Bucky was the one to kill Stark's parents? If he knew, why was he asking for the mission report from everyone in the first place?

  • Did Zemo know about the existence of a videotape? How could he have known that? Without that tape (or if that tape had been damaged or destroyed in 20+ years), his plan falls apart, since Cap and Ironman make a truce in Siberia.

  • Zemo planned his revenge for a year (says that to Black Panther in the movie). But the Avengers disagreement starts with the Sokovia accords. How could Zemo have known about the accords which were only proposed after the Nigeria disaster? Very coincidental for Nigeria to happen just as Zemo launches his plan.

  • Timing. If the emp had been delivered 10 mins before or after the plan falls apart. It has to go off just as he's interrogating Bucky. Also, you would think that the UN would put some guards in the room while sending someone to interrogate such a high value prisoner. If that had happened, and Zemo started to read the activation code words, they would have stopped him right away. Plan fails.

  • The UN sends their top shrink to talk to Bucky and no one has seen his face? Zemo doesn't even disguise himself.

  • For the videotape to work, Zemo specifically needed Tony Stark to be there, since the tape only has emotional value for him. Yet Zemo does not provide any information to Stark about the base or the tape. If Falcon had not given Tony the address of the base, he would never have arrived. Cap and Bucky would have shut Zemo down. Plan fails.

Even for a comic book movie where the bad guy's plan only exists to provoke some central conflict, it seems a little too convenient. Anyone see any sense in this plan? What am I missing?

  • 2
    What is a plot hole?
    – phantom42
    May 13, 2016 at 19:59
  • 7
    just because you can't explain it doesn't make it a plot hole; it just makes it an unexplained piece of backstory.
    – KutuluMike
    May 13, 2016 at 20:23
  • Fair point. I wasn't sure what to call what I felt were inconsistencies in the plot. I could edit the question to remove the phrase "plot holes". Your answer to the points I raised in pretty good. May 13, 2016 at 20:43

1 Answer 1


That's a lot of questions, but the all have basically the same answer: Zemo's plan was both well-research and fluid, so he could adapt what he knew to changing circumstances to get what he wanted.

To start with, Zemo knew a whole lot about HYDRA and the Winter Soldier programs before he even began. He learned all of this from reading the data dump Natasha put on the Internet at the end of Captain America: The Winter Soldier. From this, he learned, among other things:

  • About the existence of the Winter Soldier program, and
  • About a key incident that occurred in 1991, and
  • That HYDRA was responsible for, among other things, the murder of Howard Stark.

We already knew the details of Stark's murder were in HYDRA's files, because Armin Zola told Steve Rogers about them earlier in that same movie. It makes perfect sense that the Winter Soldier program's records were there, too, since Zola was using HYDRA-with-SHIELD to run that program.

It's not 100% clear why Zemo was unable to find the location of the base in all of these records, but maybe Zola managed to delete it, or encrypt it somehow that couldn't be broken, or whatever. Zemo knew it was somewhere, he just needed to find it. On his first attempt, he didn't locate the base but he did locate Barnes's codebook, so he adapted to his new plan. The fact that the Avengers were in Vienna, as opposed to NYC or Paris, or wherever, was irrelevant. He just wanted to make them drive Bucky out into the open for him and secure him somewhere.

Once that was done, he had access to the intel he needed. I'm not sure why you'd assume a bunch of people who happened to be at the UN offices in Vienna would know the faces of every single other UN employee on sight. Zemo had the proper credentials so he was allowed into the building. It's also not unusual for prisoners to be interrogated alone, on the presumption that they're secured and under surveillance at all times.

The fact that he ultimately confronted Tony and Steve in the base at the end may have been part of his plan, or it may have been a happy accident. He went there to retrieve the video tape, but there's nothing that says he had to show it to Tony there. He saw an opportunity to bring Cap and Tony to him by tipping them off, but if that hadn't worked out, he had the video. He could have sent it to Tony at any time in the future and had a similar effect.

None of these are plot holes. The things that seem convenient or unlikely are either the result of 1) very careful planning, or 2) Zemo adapting his plan to match the circumstances he found himself in.

  • 4
    Zemo said, “I have experience and patience. A man can do anything if he has those.” So this answers pretty much about all the perfect timings in the movie. !!! :P
    – pradyot
    May 14, 2016 at 3:47
  • I was thinking about asking a question about how much Zemo learned from the Hydra files, because he kept asking for a mission report. If he didn't already know what happened in 1991, then it made no sense to create a plan that hinges on it being something that divides the Avengers.
    – Oliver_C
    May 14, 2016 at 9:55
  • 1
    Plus, Zemo did luck out a lot. There were a lot of things that went his way, even though he had no control over it. - If Bucky hadn't been hiding in Europe he probably wouldn't have been brought to Berlin. - Bucky surviving the chase by the authorities and Black Panther - Bucky not getting recaptured in the airport (Black Widow changed sides and stopped Black Panther) ...
    – Oliver_C
    May 14, 2016 at 10:08

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