*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode four of Secret Invasion*
“And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.”
The most poignant scene in episode four of Secret Invasion involves Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) reciting Raymond Carver’s Late Fragment, realizing that his wife, Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard), is about to kill him. She has been ordered by Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) or, in this case, James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) to kill Fury after he successfully found out that Skrulls are infiltrating the U.S. government. And would you imagine that shocker (but not really), Rhodey turned out to be a Skrull? Yeah, it happened, and I hate it. How long has Rhodes been a Skrull, and when did the switch happen? Was he a Skrull during Avengers: Endgame? If so, that renders Tony Stark’s death completely meaningless for the character because the real Rhodes doesn’t have the emotional baggage the alien Rhodes has. It would theoretically make more sense if the switch happened between the events of Endgame and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, where he briefly makes an appearance in the first episode.
Because of this haphazard decision that raises more questions than answers, viewers instead cling to the human aspects of the story, where Fury has to choose to kill Priscilla or let himself die at the hands of his wife. The two shoots at each other, but their bullets hit the wall, to which Fury cheekily states: “I don’t know if we should file for divorce or renew our vows.” Those specific moments make Secret Invasion a more engrossing show than the world war-building stuff, which is consistently stuck inside its centrist politics. You can’t make a political show (or film) with a neutral point of view. It completely defeats the purpose of being called a “political thriller.” What does it actively want to say about government corruption, shadow agents, and world wars? Secret Invasion shows a lot of those elements occurring throughout the series but never actively takes a stance and/or engages in its politics. Understandably, they would want to take a step back to present the conflict before engaging in it, but we’re now at its fourth episode, and we don’t see director Ali Selim and writer Brian Tucker delve deep into the material.
Oh, and by the way, G’iah (Emilia Clarke) isn’t dead. Did you fall for it? I hope not because they’ve already done that cliffhanger ending once already and have killed someone off. They weren’t going to do that again! We immediately get a flashback that sees her obtaining Extremis powers in secret, which now means that she can regenerate and heal quickly and shoot fire (oh yeah, they’re definitely going to go full Aldrich Killian for sure). She shares a rather meaningless scene with Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), which has some of the worst writing of the entire show thus far. Mendelsohn and Clarke are fine together, but the material they’re given doesn’t do their acting talents justice. It’s especially embarrassing for Talos to be “killed off” by Gravik, as if he will not magically reappear in the fifth episode, saved by G’iah’s Extremis powers. Fool me once…
Were the writers this stuck in such a cycle they thought the only way to keep the audiences invested in the story was if each episode ended with a cliffhanger ending that saw a pivotal character die? Episode two didn’t do that, but every other one did. One was a legitimate (and disappointing) death, but the other was total fake-outs. I don’t believe Talos is dead for a second It would be the biggest whimper of the MCU if he perished during one of the most poorly-constructed battles I’ve seen from Marvel in quite some time. Essentially, Gravik wants to hit President Ritson’s (Dermot Mulroney) motorcade to seemingly make them believe that Russians are attacking the President, effectively starting World War III. However, their plans go awry once Fury and Talos show up and save the President away from the scene of battle. Fury leaves Talos for dead behind and drives off with the President, which is where the episode ends.
However, the central action sequence that leads into the cliffhanger is completely nonsensical. The editing never follows a clear logic, and the cinematography cuts from trying to make it look like a considerably epic moment to cheap, SyFy original drivel. One moment, you feel like you’re watching a television show that’s amazingly epic in scale and the other, you feel like you’re in a completely different environment without any substance or energy. There’s no energy to the action, rendering Gravik’s Groot-arm reveal completely flat and lifeless, just like the moment when Fury blurts out a “NOO!” as Talos “dies” by Gravik’s hands, leading him to shoot his Extremis-protected face. There’s no weight to any of what we’re seeing. It’s poorly constructed and seems like it’s just “there” to distract us instead of entertaining audiences.
The episode is also mercifully short, zipping through lots of material with little development for thirty minutes. At this point, it doesn’t seem worth it to invest so much money (allegedly over $200 million) into a six-episode series with thirty-minute episodes, uninteresting character development, badly-constructed action, and no engagement in any of its political subtext that it attempts to present. I enjoyed some of the episodes of Secret Invasion, and it would’ve arguably been a better series with more (and longer) episodes. But the six-episode mandate is officially killing the Marvel Disney+ model. Thankfully, the studio seemed to have realized this and will hopefully spend the next part of their streaming era making shows and not six-hour movies. This needs to stop.
The fourth episode of Secret Invasion is now streaming on Disney+.