Don Cheadle’s armoured Avenger was revealed to have been kidnapped by the shape-shifting aliens during the MCU’s Skrull-centric streaming series, with the version fans had seen for years secretly being a Skrull in disguise.
Cheadle’s War Machine was apparently swapped out quite some time ago, with Secret Invasion director Ali Selim remarking that evidence “points to” the swap occurring at the end of Captain America: Civil War.
This Civil War timing raises many questions, particularly about the events of the Infinity Saga finale Avengers: Endgame.
Four Endgame Scenes Reconned by Secret Invasion
1.) Tony & Rhodey’s Confrontation
Fans will remember this scene for the tense argument between Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark and Chris Evans’ Captain America. When Tony returns to Earth after three weeks in space, he makes the case for his “suit of armour around the world,” citing the Avengers’ failure.
Towards the end of the scene, Rhodey grabs Tony, which was previously interpreted as a longtime friend reaching out to help his compatriot who was clearly spiralling. The revelation that this was, in fact, the Skrull version of Don Cheadle cheapens the moment.
Knowing that this version of Cheadle has no history with Tony Stark means that all of the emotional tension has dissipated, and the character is simply acting as if it were something Rhodey would do, rather than Rhodey doing it himself.
2.) Rhodey & Nebula on Vormir
As Avengers: Endgame sends its team of heroes on an adventure through space and time, Cheadle’s War Machine is paired with Karen Gillan’s Nebula and sent back to 2014 to retrieve the Power Stone before Chris Pratt’s Star-Lord does.
Nebula and Rhodey have a brief but touching conversation as the unlikely duo discovers the Stone on the mysterious planet of Vormir. “I wasn’t always like this,” Gillan’s Marvel hero tells the armoured Avenger, to which Rhodey responds, “Me neither, but we work with what we’ve got.” This was always interpreted as Rhodey describing his inability to walk on his own after fracturing vertebrae during the Civil War.
However, the entire context of this interaction is altered as a result of Secret Invasion’s Skrull Rhodey storyline. Could this have been the first hint that the hero was not who he claimed to be? If it is, it feels a little forced and would be the only allusion to such a twist prior to Secret Invasion.
3.) Rhodey’s Reaction to Tony’s Sacrifice
While some of the other moments discussed here could be dismissed, the next two feel like a slap in the face after Secret Invasion. After more than a decade of working together in the franchise, Rhodey has one last moment with his best friend Tony Stark before the likes of Peter Parker and Pepper Potts arrive to mourn their loved one.
This was a touching scene with no dialogue before it was revealed that Rhodey was a Skrull during Endgame. Rhodey reaches for a dying Tony, knowing that, while it is sad that he is losing someone he considers his brother, Tony can now finally rest.
When the second Skrull Rhodey is introduced into the equation, all emotional weight is sucked out of the sequence. Because this is now an alien impersonating Don Cheadle’s hero, audiences should consider him to be a completely different character. So, because there is no history between this Skrull and Tony Stark, there is almost no emotional punch where there was once one of the most powerful tear-jerkers in MCU history.
4.) Tony Stark’s Funeral
To conclude Avengers: Endgame, Tony Stark receives a funeral march fit for an Avenger after his universe-saving sacrifice. The entire super-powered universe gathers to say farewell to the hero who started it all.
Tony’s closest friends and family are present, including Pepper Potts, Tony’s daughter Morgan, Happy Hogan, and Rhodey. During this scene, Rhodey can be seen mouthing something to Happy while the two console each other. Of course, now that their good friend has died, everyone is visibly distraught.
However, this is yet another instance of Rhodey’s Skrull twist undermining an emotional beat from Avengers 4. Cheadle’s hero not only did not get to say goodbye to Tony Stark, but he also does not know he is dead. So the character’s presence at the funeral removes any gut punch that would have come from thinking Rhodey was actually present to send Tony off.