*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode five of Secret Invasion*
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the show being covered here wouldn’t exist.
Secret Invasion is Marvel’s most disappointing effort on Disney+ yet. The flourishes of great moments can’t overshadow how aimless this entire affair is. We’re five episodes in and have barely scratched the surface of the conflict between Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and an army of Skrulls that want to take over Earth. This should be treated as an Avengers-level event (they don’t need to show up, but the stakes should feel Endgame-style). We’re talking about a political conspiracy unlike any other that could escalate in World War III. That’s huge, yet it doesn’t feel like it matters much. That’s partly due to how poorly developed most characters are.
Aside from Fury, who gets lots of backstories and a time-evolving arc from the last time we saw him (in full) in Avengers: Age of Ultron to now, none of the side characters have a specific time to shine. Olivia Colman is surely entertaining as Sonya Falsworth and kicks major ass in this penultimate episode, but something is missing in her character arc that a longer episode could’ve scratched the surface. Last week, it was reported that Secret Invasion cost over $200 million to produce for Disney. With a budget like that, the studio has more than enough time to make hour-long episodes. Yet, Secret Invasion’s fifth episode, where most of the development should occur, lasts a meager 38. The episode zips by incredibly fast that there is little room for character development, especially in regards to Falsworth and G’iah (Emilia Clarke), who act inside shells of characterization instead of fully-formed side protagonists.
Oh, and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) is actually dead. Like. They burn his body dead. What a massive waste of opportunity to turn one of the most promising Phase Three introductions into…absolutely nothing. Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), I semi-understood, as a way to liven the stakes and make them feel massive, but Talos doesn’t feel as gut-wrenching as Hill’s. Plus, Fury never once mourns his loss. The episode opens as he brings President Ritson (Dermot Mulroney) to the emergency room and pleads with him not to trust James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who is a Skrull. There is an interesting confrontation between “Rhodey” and Fury in the hospital that teases what would’ve happened if there were more (and longer) episodes, but it’s about the only good scene of the episode, which has lots of moving pieces, yet without much weight holding the scenes.
“Rhodey” wants President Ritson to strike New Skrullos and makes him believe Skrulls collaborated with the Russians to assassinate him. I do have a feeling that this will not happen, as he now knows he cannot trust anyone. I hope we’ll get to see more of Mulroney in the finale, yet another character who was barely in the show and did not have one moment to shine. It’s incredible how this show has stacked one of the best ensembles in the MCU’s recent memory yet, beyond Jackson and Mendelsohn, doesn’t do anything with any of the characters. Yes, there’s a neat enough action scene with G’iah and Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard) in her apartment, showcasing Clarke’s action-movie skills better than in Terminator: Genisys, and a rather rough fight scene between Beto (Samuel Adewumni) and Gravik that’s also cool to watch, but you feel nothing when Beto and Pagon (Killian Scott) get killed because we barely knew them. Oh yeah, and Rick Mason (O-T Fagbenle) briefly reprises his role from Black Widow, a cameo that no one will care much about.
After the second episode, Gravik seemed like an interesting villain, but he’s now become one-note again. He’s after “The Harvest,” which is a collection of DNA samples from every single Avenger’s blood after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and it should’ve been the main point of focus of the show. But this element only gets introduced in the fifth episode. We only learn about what it exactly is during a brief car conversation between Fury and Falsworth, and now we’re off to the final battle. How come we didn’t know about this when the show started? Why does it feel like the writers are making it up as they go because they consistently encounter a massive block with every choice they make?
Now, we’re going to get another rushed finale with no properly developed pieces and a direction that seems to go nowhere. We were promised “big reveals” and a “game-changing” entry into the MCU, but we had the most predictable plot twist of all time alongside THREE cliffhanger endings that left major characters’ fate in limbo, with two being actually dead with no sense of closure. I’m sure there will be some bigger reveals (and cameos) saved for the final episode, but it seems of little interest now than if the show actively cared about the characters and the story it wanted to tell. The Secret Invasion comic run might not be the greatest Marvel crossover run out there, but it’s at least better than whatever the hell they’re trying to do here. With Marvel having a hard time finding its identity, Secret Invasion could’ve been the show to bring viewers back on board, but with every opportunity they’ve had to move the story forward and properly expand its world, they’ve done nothing remotely of interest. What a shame.
The fifth episode of Secret Invasion is now streaming on Disney+.