Episode four of Marvel shows are usually the best of their respective series, and that holds true here. “Secret Invasion” delivers an episode with some great, well-written and acted conversations, though the action at the end falters, and the expected cliffhanger has little more than shock value. It had the potential to go further, but pulled back.
At the start, a flashback to just after “Avengers” is shown, with Fury meeting his wife Priscilla. Here she’s reading poetry by Raymond Carver, and importantly one titled ‘Late Fragments’. It’s about learning to be content with life, and it’s short and packs a punch.
The poem complements the show in more ways than just fitting Priscilla, it hits the theme of the Skrulls trying to find a home, being comfortable in one’s body,content with the way things are in life, and resonating with the political themes of the show. And in a Marvel meta fashion it fits the episode, with this being the shortest episode but it still packs a hit.
In the present day, Priscilla is tasked by a ruthless Rhodey to kill Fury, unsurprisingly though she doesn’t go through with it. But the quiet scene between her and Fury gives audiences some important backstory to her character, and adds a tinge of sadness to her. “Secret Invasion” shines in these dialogue based scenes, letting the actors properly do their thing.
Charlayne Woodard, the actress that plays Priscilla, has done an excellent job of selling the hardship of being trapped in an alien’s body, in a thankless marriage, and now as someone who has to betray her love. But she conveys this sadness in a heartfelt manner, making the audience feel for the character, despite her small screen time.
G’iah is revived, which at this point in the MCU isn’t surprising, but instead of joining the good guys because the bad guys betray her, the writers of the show have her make the more human choice (even if she is a Skrull) of having her keep her radical views. It’s a more honest look at how entrenched these beliefs can go. Her conversation with Talos is frank and open, and only leaves her more concrete in her thoughts. It’s a great journey for her, and puts her as a chaotic force for both the good and bad guys going forward.
Don Cheadle is by far the stand out of this episode. While Rhodey does have rare moments of outburst, such as at Thaddeus Thunderbolt Ross in “Avengers: Infinity War”, he’s mostly a reserved character, and plays Mr. Nice Guy. Here, Cheadle gets to let loose and ham it up as evil Skrull Rhodey, with a wicked smile on his face as he blackmails Fury. “Secret Invasion” will set the stage for “Armour Wars” later down the line, with the real Rhodey likely picking up the pieces of his broken life.
Audiences are more firmly introduced to U.S. President Ritson, who was last seen in episode one for a cameo role. He’s flustered, the recent attacks have taken their toll. With Skrull Rhodey in tow, they are attacked by Gravik and the Skrulls, attempting to pose as Russians. But the show only half commits to this, with Gravik audibly yelling in English at times and then impaling people with Groot-like branches. He even switches targets halfway through to the personal and less politically important Talos, dealing him a mortal blow.
If the show wanted a darker false flag attack, it had the perfect opportunity to pull it off, but instead it falls into a typical action sequence, weakening the geopolitical angle of the show which has been quite interesting. The ending of Talos’ death packs a punch, but because it comes at the cost of the premise of the show, and also is done purely for shock value, feels unearned. But hopefully there will still be significant political fallout from the attack, one that brings in the Skrulls high up in NATO and the UK government out to play more.
While the action at the end was disappointing, the scenes that elevated the show really worked, the standout being Cheadle’s brutal and terrifying demeanour, but also a sombre performance from Woodard. G’iah’s revival avoided falling into the generic cliche of resolving everything and putting her on the side of good, setting her path up for some unique avenues going forward.