Across Secret Invasion, Don Cheadle's James Rhodes, aka War Machine, was one of the most theorized characters to be a Skrull imposter. And, sure enough, the theories paid off as it was revealed that the Skrull Raava was impersonating him.
Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige didn't give an exact timeframe on Rhodey's replacement but did suggest he had been a Skrull for at least one of his prior MCU appearances - his last being in 2021's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Cheadle commented in his game-changing twist, calling the experience "fun" after Feige previously stated how the actor was "very much into" the idea.
When Did Rhodey Become a Skrull in Secret Invasion?
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ComicBook, Secret Invasion director Ali Selim opened up about the series' big reveal of Rhodey having been replaced by a Skrull and even revealed exactly when the real hero disappeared.
Warning - The rest of this article contains spoilers for Secret Invasion Episode 6, "Home."
Selim noted how Rhodey wearing a hospital gown and having difficulty walking after he was woken up in the finale "points to" his replacement coming after his injury in Captain America: Civil War:
“A lot of people have asked about, ‘Definitively, when did Rhodey...?’ I think his legs not working in the end of episode six and him being in the hospital gown points to ['Captain America: Civil War']."
The powerful blast hit the Arc Reactor on Rhodey's suit, thus sending him crashing down to Earth where he was left severely injured and his spine shattered.
Shortly after his injury in Captain America 3, Rhodey appeared in the hospital going in for an MRI scan where he appeared to be wearing the same gown that G'iah rescued him in from New Skrullos.
This seems to suggest Rhodey was replaced sometime between this hospital visit and when he was seen learning to use his bionic leg braces at Tony Stark's house towards the end of the 2016 blockbuster.
However, Selim was clear about how the exact moment of his replacement may not be "definitive" as fans can now "go back and revisit every moment" to develop their own theories on whether he was a Skrull. But the filmmaker did note how audiences may see that question "answered in Armor Wars:"
"And, from there, does it have to be definitive, or is it more fun for the audience to go back and revisit every moment, every Rhodey moment and look at it with a different lens now that they think, 'Oh, he might’ve been a Skrull there.' And make the decision for themselves, or it’ll be answered in 'Armor Wars.'"
How Rhodey's Big Twist Set Up a Crazy Armor Wars Story
The clues in Rhodey's walking and attire, combined with Selim's comments, may ultimately be the closest fans catch to an explanation of his replacement. Unless, of course, Marvel opts to dive into that once again in his upcoming solo movie Armor Wars where he will have to re-adapt to a world after missing a few years.
If Rhodey was actually replaced after Civil War, he has not only been out of action through The Blip and the Battle of Earth but also the death of his close friend Tony Stark among other members of the Avengers too. All of these events and losses will leave him plenty to catch up on when his Armor Wars movie rolls around.
Marvel Studios already confirmed how Armor Wars will revolve around Tony Stark's technology falling into the wrong hands. If Rhodey has been a shape-shifting imposter all this time and still had access to his War Machine suit, perhaps it may be the Skrulls he has to recover this advanced technology from.
As of now, Armor Wars has yet to set an official release date since it was upgraded from a Disney+ series to a big-screen movie. There were reports it was set to film as early as the "end of this year" but the ongoing writer and actor strikes may push that back to early 2024, likely landing at some point in 2026.
Rhodey's Skrull Reveal May Not Be What It Seems
In many ways, Rhodey's crippling injury and the Avengers' ongoing civil war provided the Skrulls an easy opportunity to replace not just a superhero, but a high-ranking colonel and important figure in US politics.
During this time, Rhodey was not only crippled himself and thus easy to abduct, but the Avengers were perhaps too preoccupied with their ongoing conflict and the Sokovia Accords to notice Skrulls taking him away.
After his injury, Rhodey was often spotted wearing leg braces, developed by Tony Stark, which allowed him to resume walking. These braces may have been simply redundant as this was actually a perfectly healthy Skrull after all, or perhaps the shape-shifting process also carried over Rhodey's injuries.
It's worth noting that, while Selim hints Rhodey was replaced after Captain America: Civil War, he avoids giving any solid answer. Having suffered such a major injury, the Avenger likely attended regular hospital appointments for check-ups and scans, so, in theory, he may still have been replaced at a later point.
All six episodes of Secret Invasion are streaming now on Disney+.