Now that we’re three episodes into Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion, we feel it’s high time for a status report on the Samuel L. Jackson-led spy series. It’s no secret that Marvel Studios and its sprawling MCU are in a bit of a slump at the present date. Many fans were looking to Secret Invasion to be a shining beacon of better things to come for the careworn franchise.
Since its first episode, the series has been teetering on the edge of a rotten score on the critic aggregator site Rotten Tomatoes. It’s clear critics have been largely unimpressed by the series, but where do the fans stand? Has the series lived up to their expectations? Where might it go next? And is it enough to bring the MCU into greener pastures after its multi-year downturn? Let’s break it down.
What is Secret Invasion about?
Secret Invasion follows Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) as they attempt to thwart the rebel Skrull takeover led by Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and G’iah (Emilia Clarke). G’iah, Talos’ daughter, abandoned his side of the conflict when she became disillusioned with Fury’s inability to find the Skrulls a new homeworld.
Up until this point, the show has mostly taken place in the present-day MCU, sprinkled with flashbacks to the mid-1990s. The flashbacks pick up right where 2019’s Captain Marvel leaves off, showing us how Fury employed some of the remaining Skrulls as spies. In exchange for their labor, Fury promised the Skrulls he would work with Carol Danvers to find the Skrulls a suitable new planet for them to call home.
However, thanks to the Blip and the trauma it caused him, Fury decided to go off-world to the S.A.B.E.R. space station. Outraged at Fury’s abandonment, many of Earth’s Skrulls desperately turned to Gravik for an alternative plan. Gravik and his ever-growing band of shape-shifting extraterrestrials hatched a plan to infiltrate the highest echelons of power in human society.
In episode two, we find out that the British Prime Minister, the commander of NATO, and one of America’s leading news anchors are all being impersonated by high-ranking members of the Skrull council. They elect Gravik as Skrull General, giving him near-total control over the million Skrulls living on Earth. Gravik’s plan involves setting up false flag terror attacks to turn the human populace against each other. Fury must work with Talos and the ruthless British spymaster Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman) to stop Gravik from ending human civilization as we know it.
Is Secret Invasion any good?
As a premise, Secret Invasion has so much potential. The first scene of the pilot episode involves a shocking plot twist and gripping chase sequence where we discover Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), the CIA agent prominent in the Black Panther films, was a Skrull in disguise. Many fans expected Secret Invasion to be chock full of these fun cameos and reveal, but after the first one, there haven’t been many to write home about.
Instead of utilizing the MCU’s massive cast of super-powered characters to play around with the shape-shifting nature of the Skrull threat, Secret Invasion has opted for a bone-dry tone that seemingly has no room for fun. It’s clear the series takes many cues from old spy movies like The Third Man, particularly in terms of shot composition and costuming. It might pay homage to the aesthetic of those films, but it often falls flat when trying to replicate the intrigue and mystique they so effortlessly exude.
Perhaps the most promising aspect of Secret Invasion until this point has been Emilia Clarke’s character, G’iah, and her conflicted allegiances. Until episode three, viewers couldn’t be sure which side of the fight she was actually aligned with. After foiling Gravik’s submarine missile launch at the end of the episode, it’s made clear that she’s been a double agent working for Talos and Fury the entire time. Unfortunately, after discovering her betrayal, Gravik appears to kill her during her escape from his compound.
Only time will tell whether her character is gone for good. Shape-shifting aliens notwithstanding, the MCU is already stuffed to the brim with death fakeouts and resurrections. But if she is gone, one can’t help but wonder why the series would stomp out its most interesting character at the mid-way point. We still have three episodes of Secret Invasion to go, and it’s not impossible for Marvel Studios to turn things around at the midway point. The third episode was home to more than a few promising signs of improvement, so we’ll cross our fingers and hope for the best.
Where will Secret Invasion go from here?
As with almost every story set in the MCU, the heroes will almost certainly win. But what separates Secret Invasion from many other Marvel properties is its intentional lack of traditional comic book heroes. Rhodey (Don Cheadle) has appeared in cameos a few times, so it’s possible he could show up in the finale in his War Machine digs to help Fury save the day, but other than him, the series is almost entirely devoid of superheroes.
Since Captain Marvel has an inextricable relationship with the MCU’s Skrulls, there’s always the potential for Brie Larson to make an appearance towards the end of the series. Although the MCU has had trouble finding appropriate places for her to fit into stories due to her titanic powerset, it would make sense from a narrative perspective to make a cameo in Secret Invasion.
It seems the task of putting Gravik in his place will fall largely upon Fury. One of Secret Invasion’s most prominent themes thus far has been the concept of aging and grappling with the loss of youthful assuredness. This series’ depiction of Fury is far from the eye-patched badass of the MCU’s yesteryear. That Fury was always ten steps ahead of his enemies, while this one seems to lose his footing at every turn. One of Secret Invasion’s greatest strengths has been this world-weary depiction of its main character. It will be interesting to see how he overcomes these struggles in the coming weeks.
What does this mean for the MCU at large?
Here at the series halfway point, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that Secret Invasion will not be the barnstorming return to form MCU fans were hoping to see. It’s slow and listless when it should be action-packed and laser-focused. Unfortunately, it seems this series will pass through the Disney+ digestive tract with as little impact as many of its middling predecessors. The MCU needed a major pick-me-up after the disappointments of its post-pandemic era, and we’re sorry to report that Secret Invasion isn’t up to the task.
However, the future is not all doom and gloom. Recently, Marvel Studios finally put an official release date on the highly anticipated second season of Loki. On October 6, 2023, fans will finally return to the wacky world of the TVA to find out what’s next for one of Marvel’s most popular anti-heroes. If Loki can stick the landing, perhaps the vague disappointment that was Secret Invasion will soon feel like a distant memory in the eyes of MCU fans.