Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion wrapped up in a fiery battle this week by escalating Skrull-human tensions and giving us one of the most powerful new characters in the shared universe. But one reveal still has us asking questions.
The below contains full spoilers for Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion.
In episode 4 we learn that, sometime in the recent past, the rebellious Skrull faction kidnapped Avengers member and long-time Iron Man friend Colonel James Rhodes, also known as Rhodey, and put a Skrull in his place. And so the version of Rhodey we see in Secret Invasion, who now serves as a close advisor to the United States president, is in actuality the Skrull Raava in disguise.
But this leaves the question: When exactly did this switch happen?
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has said that viewers will come to find out exactly how long Rhodey has been a Skrull and that he likes the idea of fans going back to watch earlier appearances of Rhodey with the understanding that it wasn’t truly him.
However while the show’s finale does not give us an explicit answer on this question, it does heavily imply one. That’s because after the Skrull Rhodey is killed and G’iah finally rescues the real Rhodey, we see him wearing a hospital gown and visibly limping. And we have seen Rhodey in a hospital gown weakened like this before, in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War after he sustained an injury paralyzing him from the waist down.
So, the implication would be that Rhodey has been a Skrull since the events of Civil War, meaning the character we’ve been following on screen since 2016, nearly a decade in MCU years, has been an imposter this entire time.
This leads to some odd conclusions if we, as Feige suggests, go back and re-watch older scenes with this idea in mind.
This would mean Tony and Rhodey’s touching moment during his recovery at the end of Civil War was not actually him. It would mean the epic story of all the Avengers banding together, failing, and mustering their might to save the world against Thanos involved not a close friend of the other Avengers but a complete stranger. It would mean the first person to come to Tony’s side in his moment of death was not his best friend, but an enemy alien. And, perhaps most devastatingly, it would mean the real Rhodey has no knowledge of any of these events nor of his friend Tony Stark’s death.
But perhaps we could just accommodate this new detail into all of that character work. We could maintain that the Rhodey we’ve come to love is still noble in all those ways, just as a Skrull. And we could believe that he isn’t an enemy but truly did care for the other Avengers and their missions. But, Rhodey’s actions in Secret Invasion are so clearly immoral and different from what we’ve come to expect of Rhodey when acting honestly, that that conception is hard to come away with as well.
Secret Invasion director Ali Selim supports the idea that the switch happened in 2016. But, just as the show does, he comes shy of outright confirming it. Thus, this leaves room for continued speculation.
Another way to approach this would be to keep an eye out for when, starting in 2016, Rhodey can be seen wearing his leg braces that allow him to walk. He has them in Captain America: Civil War, Avengers: Infinity War, Avengers: Endgame, and even in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. In that last example Rhodey only appears briefly and in military uniform. But still we can see the lights of the leg braces shining through his trousers. So this would mean the only time, after 2016, that we don’t see Rhodey with the leg braces is in Secret Invasion, supporting the idea that he was swapped with a Skrull sometime off screen right before this show began.
This would solve the issue of the Rhodey we’ve known for so long being an imposter. However, this would make it impossible for fans to, as Feige suggests, go back to earlier appearances of Rhodey with the understanding that they are watching a Skrull on screen.
Looking at only what we see on-screen, the full answer at the moment is still unclear. But both the show and behind the scenes players are implying the 2016 date, even if it means undoing or at least complicating some of the character work in previous entries. So, fans may need to continue on with their wondering.
We should soon get more answers though. This may come in upcoming titles such as The Marvels, Captain America: Brave New World, Loki’s second season and others, or in the distant film Armor Wars, which should see the real Rhodey taking a much more central presence.
We’ll just have to wait and see.
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