Episodes viewed: 2 of 6
Streaming on: Disney+
Secret Invasion, created by Kyle Bradstreet, is not a superhero show. This may surprise those familiar with the 2008 comic storyline from Brian Michael Bendis and Leinil Francis Yu, which saw nearly every costumed hero and villain mix it up with the alien intruders; the Disney+ series ditches The Avengers in favor of cold, hard espionage. It’s an area the Marvel Cinematic Universe has played in before, with Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Black Widow being notable examples. But even then, we were still firmly in the world of heroes. In Secret Invasion, spies cannot be heroes by their very nature, and the murky moral waters they must wade through are anything but the expected Marvel method.
The crisis at the center of Secret Invasion is allegorical to our own global socio-political state. Nearly 30 years ago, during the events of Captain Marvel, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) made a promise to the Skrull refugees — whose homeworld was destroyed by the Kree Empire — to find them a new home. Well, a lot happened over the course of those 20 years: Iron Man, The Avengers, the collapse of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Registration Act, Thanos, five years of lost time, and Thanos again. Promises made were promises forgotten in the eyes of many Skrull refugees, who once trusted Fury. And many of those who have survived on Earth, in hiding, their culture eaten away, their racial memory one of tragedy, have given up on the noble idea of Earthly saviours. Fittingly, there are no saviours to be found in the series, even in the form of returning faces once associated with Earth’s mightiest heroes.
After the MCU’s customary comfort watches of the past year, Secret Invasion is quite a sharp turn.
Jackson gets the chance to dig into the character here, revealing the toll his age, race, and history of using individuals, even with the best intentions, have taken on him, and impacted the way in which he moves through the world. His actions have put Earth on the brink of World War III, and even his seeming allies — Talos, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), and a delightfully menacing addition to the MCU in the form of MI6 Agent Sonya Falworth (Olivia Colman) — may be not enough for him or anyone to emerge with clean hands in the war against charismatic Skrull leader Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and his lieutenant G’iah (Emilia Clarke).
We’ve seen Nick Fury as the cool mastermind, always one step ahead. Now, all of that is stripped away, and we have a man who’s suffering a crisis of faith, caught in a war of his own making. Secret Invasion doesn’t simply play at spy games in the sense of fun with superpowers and gadgetry as Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. did. This is a dirty business. Familiar faces are killed, acts of terrorism leave thousands of casualties in their wake, and individuals are tortured — quite mercilessly — for information. After the MCU’s customary comfort watches of the past year, Secret Invasion is quite a sharp turn.