The following story contains spoilers for Secret Invasion Episode 4, titled “Beloved.”
PART OF what made the original Marvel Comics Secret Invasion event—written by Brian Michael Bendis and released back in 2008—so exciting, so engaging, and, really, just so overall good, was the fact that with every page turned, there could be another huge, world-shattering reveal. Anyone, from Spider-Woman, to Captain America, to Hawkeye, had an equal chance of being exposed as a Skrull All Along. Hell, even real-life figures like Barack Obama, John McCain, Paris Hilton, and Stephen Colbert were revealed to be Skrulls!
With the scale on Secret Invasion shrinking down for its adaptation into a espionage/spy Disney+ series—an loyal version of the 2008 comic’s storyline would have to be an Infinity War/Endgame-level event—its been harder to capture that same tense, paranoid, magic. No offense to Everett Ross (and we love to see Martin Freeman show up), but it’s not exactly the same punch to see him revealed as a Skrull as some of those comic reveals that really managed to get the juices flowing.
But as Secret Invasion continues its run, we’re finally starting to get some reveals that manage to change the game both in the present and retroactively. Nick Fury has a Skrull wife, for one. Obviously, that’s a retcon and wasn’t always the plan, but it still forces MCU fans to reconsider everything they’ve seen before and consider how that revelation changes things.
But as Secret Invasion gets toward its final stretch run, it’s also put some major cards on the table: one of our longtime MCU heroes is, in fact, not who they claim to be. That’s right: anyone suspicious of Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes had those fears confirmed in Episode 4, “Betrayal,” when it was revealed that (this version of) Rhodey is actually working side-by-side with Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir).
And now, perhaps, the game will continue to change.
Is Rhodey a Skrull in Secret Invasion?
Episode 4 officially confirmed that the Colonel James Rhodes we’ve been seeing throughout Secret Invasion is, indeed, a Skrull. He sure is. Or should we say… she sure is?
While Episode 3, “Betrayed” pretty heavily hinted that Rhodes was a Skrull—it was clearly Don Cheadle’s voice on the other end of Priscilla Fury’s (Charlayne Woodard) episode-ending phone call—Episode 4,”Beloved” confirmed it. A scene showed a female Skrull in the shower washing up, and coming out and looking at herself in the mirror; a quick swipe later, and the Skrull was in Rhodey form once again.
Fury clearly knows it at this point, too, as he had a listening device on his wife during her conversation with Rhodey in the church; he knows he’s working with Gravik, and he knows there’s a plot to kill him.
The shower scene also reveals that the Skrull impersonating Rhodey is a woman, and the closing credits reveal that Skrull’s name is Raava, played by actress Nisha Aaliya. Granted that the character has a full name, we can presume that we’ll be learning more of that backstory in Secret Invasion‘s final two episodes.
How long has Rhodey been a Skrull in the MCU timeline?
Now that is a great question. We don’t have a ton of hard evidence pointing in one direction or the other, but we can look at a couple different possibilities.
The most likely option would be that Rhodes was kidnapped by the Skrulls at some point between his last MCU appearance (either on the big screen in Avengers: Endgame or during his brief appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier) and the start of Secret Invasion. While this still allows for the plotline of Rhodey being a Skrull and getting close to the President of the United States (Dermot Mulroney), it also has minimal impact on any of Rhodey’s past in the MCU; Kevin Feige and company may not want to mess too much with the past.
But that being said, they haven’t been super shy about doing that in the past. Never forget the SHIELD twist in Captain America: The Winter Soldier, when it was revealed that the “good guy” intelligence agency was actually infiltrated and taken over by Nazis long ago. Whoops!
So if we’re following that line of thinking, it could be, essentially, anywhere. Maybe Rhodes was captured and replaced when he was flying through space and time with Nebula in Avengers: Endgame. Maybe Rhodes really died at the end of Captain America: Civil War and was replaced with a Skrull replica—and the only person who knew about it, Tony Stark, is now dead. Maybe the entire time that Rhodey has looked like Don Cheadle and not Terence Howard—since 2010’s Iron Man 2—he’s been a Skrull!
We don’t know. But we will certainly find out in the final two episodes of Secret Invasion.
Is the real Rhodey still alive somewhere? Was there ever a real Rhodey?
We lean toward the answer to both of these questions being a resounding “Yes.” Given that Nisha Aaliya’s character is credtied as “Skrull Rhodey,” that implies that there, at least at one point, was a “Human Rhodey.” And we imagine that he’s being held prisoner somewhere like all the others we’ve seen thus far in the series.
There’s also the fact that Don Cheadle is still set to lead the long-gestating Armor Wars movie (which was originally planned as a series). It doesn’t seem particularly likely for that story—which is about Tony Stark’s advanced weapons technology falling into the wrong hands—to be led by a shapeshifting alien in Tony Stark’s best friend/a decorated military officer’s body.
So, we’re guessing that the real Colonel James Rhodes will likely make his grand return some time before the end of Secret Invasion. Until then, though, we’re still holding our breath to see how this all plays out.
Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.