The following story contains spoilers for Secret Invasion Episode 5, “Harvest.”
SAY WHAT you will about the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but one of the most fun things that the ever-expansive superhero franchise has established is the fact that any character, big or small,can come back at any point. When Sir Ben Kingsley was revealed in 2021’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, eight years after he played hapless actor/sinister pawn Trevor Slattery in Iron Man 3, it was a joyous moment, a return that no one was asking for or expected, but just so much fun and kind of just made sense. It’s probably a little harder to justify the returns of fan-favorite characters whose arcs have closed (like, say, Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark), but smaller notable characters should be seen as fair game to return whenever Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige deems it to make sense.
Case in point: Secret Invasion‘s penultimate fifth episode, “Harvest,” which found Nick Fury needing a favor and some help to carry out a plan. Now, this could have been a nice cameo spot for just about any resourceful character that has been introduced in the MCU. Everett Ross (Martin Freeman)? Sure, could’ve been helpful, except he opened up Secret Invasion as a Skrull and is probably being held prisoner somewhere. Shuri (Letitia Wright)? Yeah, she may have made some sense–but we don’t have any indication that she and Fury have ever actually met. Phil Coulson (Clark Gregg)? The MCU probably doesn’t want to open the whole Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. can of worms.
So that’s how Secret Invasion, probably, ended up with a character who most MCU fans have seen, but almost certainly didn’t have at the front of their memory: Rick Mason. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself: Rick Who? Which is totally fair. But this secret agent/black market dealer has been in the MCU before (only two years ago, though at this point it feels closer to 20 ), and his established character makes pretty good sense with what Fury needed to get his mission accomplished.
Who is Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle) in Secret Invasion?
Nick Fury meets with an old S.H.I.E.L.D. friend in Secret Invasion Episode 5, “Harvest,” in Rick Mason. Mason shows up, briefly, remarking on his hard-to-get Red Notice from Interpol. When Fury tells him he wishes he was on a Helicarrier like the old days, Mason tells him what just about everyone has told him over and over and over in the series: the Helicarrier has been retired (“mothballed”) and you probably should be too. For the 100th time, people, everyone thinks Nick Fury is washed–but it’s Samuel L. Jackson, so he will quite literally never actually be washed.
Mason helps him out with a private jet ride to Finland (where, by the end of the episode, we see him grab the Harvest (Avengers DNA) from one of his many false tombstones and suit-up in a snazzy duster and eye patch) and a Widow’s Veil, which is the Mission: Impossible–esque face-shifting mask that we previously saw Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff use in both Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Black Widow.
Speaking of Black Widow: that’s where we first met Rick Mason, played in both spots by English actor O-T Fagbenle. Secret Invasion marks the first time we’re seeing Fury and Mason interact on screen, but Black Widow implies that Mason was an old S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, and so it makes sense that the two have history.
Mason plays a key role in Black Widow. The movie details that he was, indeed, once a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent, but in the movie’s present (which, despite its 2021 release date, takes place in 2016 after the events of Captain America: Civil War), has become a black market spy fixer of sorts, getting gear, weapons, and equipment to whoever can pay up.
That is, with the exception of Natasha. The two have a semi-flirty friendship that goes throughout the movie, as her helps her evade General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (William Hurt), who is after her due to her affiliations at the time with Steve Rogers, who was a wanted fugitive after Civil War. Mason helps Nat with all sorts of things throughout the movie and by the end helps her get an old Quinjet–which is implied to be essential in her desire to get the Avengers back together before the events of Infinity War.
Is Rick Mason in the Marvel Comics?
He is. Introduced in a 1989 comic called Marvel Graphic Novel: Rick Mason, The Agent, Mason is, as you may have guessed, commonly referred to as “The Agent.” In the Marvel Comics lore, he’s quite similar to his character in the MCU–he has no superpowers, but is a talented people-person and capable handler of different superheroes.
He’s also canonically the son of Phinneas Mason, also known as The Tinkerer. You may remember this character from Spider-Man: Homecoming as one of Vulture’s (Michael Keaton) technologically-savvy henchmen, played by Severance and Orange Is The New Black star Michael Chernus. Fair to say that this familiar connection will not remain in the MCU, but interesting to note nonetheless.