Secret Invasion serves as the first Disney Plus project for Phase 5 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While many fans consider Marvel’s limited series for Phase 4 to be a large factor in their superhero fatigue due to the sheer amount of content released since Avengers: Endgame, Secret Invasion bucks the trend in being a breath of fresh air for the MCU that falters just short of being the perfect political thriller for the new age of superhero entertainment.
Secret Invasion follows the return of Nick Fury to Earth (played by the always wonderful Samuel L. Jackson) to stop a Skrull invasion from destroying humanity as they know it. He’s forced to team up with allies new and old, from Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos to the MI6 agent Sonya Falsworth played by Olivia Colman. Though when going up against a threat like the Skrulls, no ally is ever truly trustworthy.
Secret Invasion takes a step away from the “Red Scare” theming of its comic counterpart, which serves as an ingenious departure. While Captain Marvel used the Skrulls as an allegory for refugee populations trying to find a new home on Earth, Secret Invasion tackles the concept of what happens when that minority population feels abandoned by the people who promised to protect them.
This doesn’t mean Secret Invasion is devoid of laughs. Unlike other MCU projects which tend to write jokes for the audience or include quippy one-liners, nearly all of the comedy in the series comes from the natural chemistry between characters. The levity never brikes the dire tone, but rather serves to enhance it by making every character feel truly human.
Samuel L. Jackson gives his best performance since The Hateful Eight in this series. Fans will get to experience a brand new Nick Fury in Secret Invasion; one worn down by the time and fear that he may not be the spy he once was. This new depth is the first time Fury will be seen as truly vulnerable in the MCU, while not stripping him of the skills and mind that made him the most feared spy on Earth.
Ben Mendelsohn receives a similar reinvention as Talos. With higher stakes than ever, fans will see a man torn between his honor and his duty to the people he loves the most. This includes his daughter G’iah, who’s played by Game of Thrones alum Emilia Clark. Both of their performances perfectly represent the thematic and literal rift between the Skrulls that serve as the central conflict of Secret Invasion.
While not being on many people’s radars, Oliva Colman’s performance as Sonya Falsworth is sure to endear her as an instant favorite in the series. Serving almost as a female counterpart to Fury due to her M16 status, her chemistry with Samuel L. Jackson is impeccable and imbues the much more grounded tone Secret Invasion with a jolt of unnerving electricity.
Don Cheadle also steals every scene he’s in as James Rhodes, a.k.a. the War Machine. Fans are reminded why they fell in love with the character. Despite only serving a supporting role, he proves as a worthy thematic foil to Nick Fury and a perfect scene partner to Samuel L. Jackson, leaving fans wishing they had more time together during the Avengers films.
Martin Freeman and Cobie Smulders also have special guest appearances as Everett Ross and Maria Hill respectively. They may not get as much screentime as the other characters, but they do get enough to finally step out of their supporting roles in the films and really sink their teeth into their characters, giving their best performances yet.
The only actor that may leave fans wanting for more is Kingsley Ben-Adir as Gravik. Despite serving as the leader of the Skrull rebellion and titular invasion, the first two episodes don’t give him a lot of room to show the complex nature of his character. His performance is able to hold its own against actors like Emilia Clarke and Samuel L. Jackson, which is commendable, but the jam-packed opening of the series may leave him a tad undercooked in the eyes of some fans. Though knowing Marvel, it’s likely these problems will be remedied as the series continues on.
Despite how many Skrulls are running around, the show never feels like its bucking against a budget. Secret Invasion feels like the truest definition of “Prestige television”, where the quality of the CGI and costumes all have the quality of a feature film while being spread out across a six hour event.
Secret Invasion is also a master class in how to pace a thriller. The first two episodes answer plenty of questions fans may have about the series such as the lack of Avengers or what Fury was doing up in space during Spider-Man: Far From Home, along with more it poses to the audience, but it never gives all of the answers, and is sure to set up more questions about the world to be answered down the line.
Secret Invasion serves to accomplish what the Disney Plus series were originally meant to do: flesh out plot threads and characters that may not be important to the films, but add a depth and complexity to the Marvel Universe that you can’t get in a two hour runtime. The show isn’t required viewing to understand the future of the films, but the first two episodes are a thrilling example of the heights Marvel can reach when they’re allowed to stray from the usual formula.
Secret Invasion premieres on June 21st exclusively on Disney Plus, with new episodes debuting every Wednesday.
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