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Secret Invasion Episode Two Review: “Promises”

*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for the second episode of Secret Invasion*

While the first episode of Secret Invasion had its moments, it certainly wasn’t as exciting of a series premiere as Moon Knight or Ms. Marvel. Still, the ending, which saw Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) killed at the hands of Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) in disguise as Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), was a moment that caught me so off-guard I almost didn’t believe it. I told my friends, “Nah, she’s not dead. It’s a fakeout à la Winter Soldier,” because they all left her body there.

That’s what I thought would happen, but the episode doesn’t waste any time confirming that, yes, Maria Hill is dead. What a shame. Smulders has always given her A-game as Hill in every MCU title, and she was one of the more interesting side characters of the franchise that felt her arc could be explored the most. We get a poignant scene with Fury and Hill’s mother, Elizabeth (Juliet Stevenson), who predictably blames him for her daughter’s death while not knowing about the details, but that’s about it. If Hill were to die in this show, fine, but this early? It feels a bit cheap and a disservice to the character while also wasting the talents of a great actor. Oh well — at least she got a semi-sendoff, unlike Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers: Endgame.

The episode then moves swiftly to expand character arcs and the overarching Skrull threat. In doing so, Secret Invasion becomes a thematically richer, aesthetically competent series than in its messy pilot. While there is only one action sequence in this episode, compared to the first, it’s far better photographed and edited than the pilot’s one-on-one fights and the Unity Day bombing, which had flourishes of unfinished CGI. Late in the episode, Gravik and Pagon (Killian Scott) free a Skrull named Brogan (Ben Peel), who is interrogated by Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman) on Gravik’s plans at a butcher shop. And that’s where the “violent” comments from critics are from. Yeah, some fairly neat kills feel closely inspired by the world of John Wick, though it occasionally cuts away from the blood instead of fully leaning into its aesthetics, which occasionally hinders the proceedings. But it’s a far better table-setting action scene than anything presented in episode one, signaling that fight scenes could hopefully be more elaborate and exciting in later episodes.

Gravik is also much more fleshed-out this time around. I feared he would be a one-note genocidal maniac. Still, there’s a lot of depth director Ali Selim and screenwriters Brian Tucker and Brant Engelstein give him in a scene where he discusses his plans with the Skrull council, composed of the NATO Secretary General, the UK Prime Minister, and a crank news anchor (played by Christopher McDonald). That’s right, Shooter McGavin plays the MCU’s Tucker Carlson, who’s also a Skrull. Suddenly, everything about FOX News and their coordinated disinformation campaign makes sense now.

The scene is a terrifically-written exchange with a power-hungry Gravik, reminding him of Fury’s failed promise to find them a new and stable home (an opening flashback with a de-aged Sam Jackson sees Fury meet a Young Gravik and Gi’ah). Instead of reprimanding Gravik for his actions, which they initially do, the antagonist quickly turns the tables around with some good ol’ psychological manipulation, and he ends up Skrull General. Imagine being this evil that you’re able to get the council right where you want it to be. Incredible. One thing that Marvel has definitely excelled at post-Endgame was its villains: they’re much more fleshed-out and less underdeveloped than their earlier antagonists (though there are some exceptions). Gravik has the potential to be another great threat to our protagonists, though I fear they will not deliver as the show only has four more episodes to go.

The episode also brilliantly explores Fury’s past through riveting bits of dialogue, from a thrilling train car conversation with Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) where he tells him about a game he used to play with his mother that leads him to discover that more than one million Skrulls migrated to Earth after they were unable to find a home, to a tableside conversation with James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) where he bluntly tells him, “I’m Nick Fury. Even when I’m out…I’m in.” Best. Fury. Line. Ever. You cannot do any better than that. Whoever came up with that is a genius. And that’s why you can never replace humans with AI. Jackson has never been better. He’s always been the king of monologues, and the showrunners know this: they give him two incredible monologues in a 57-minute episode that greatly expands the character arcs introduced in the pilot, and Jackson delivers them effortlessly. We also get a glimpse at his wife, Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard)…a Skrull. Does Fury know? Is Fury himself a Skrull? That would be doubtful because they’ve done the switcharoo already at the end of Spider-Man: Far From Home, but I am curious to know if Fury knows about her wife’s origins and if Gravik sent her to keep tabs on him. One line that stuck out with me was, “You think I haven’t thought of that?” a response given by Gravik after he is asked about the Avengers potentially being brought in.

Who has been a Skrull all along? Rhodey seems too easy, and it would be a total cop-out, but it would certainly change everything we knew about the character and the franchise’s lore thus far…

The second episode of Secret Invasion is now streaming on Disney+.

About Post Author

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal, with a specialization in Video Game Studies. He is now currently enrolled in a graduate diploma in Journalism.

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