Secret Invasion episode one review

The Secret Invasion has begun on Disney+, and so far, it’s off to a good start. Samuel L. Jackson gets to shine as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn is hilarious as Talos. The series has set compelling stakes, and shown truly what the Skrulls are capable of.

To get the one truly awful aspect of the show out of the way, Secret Invasion hits audiences with an awful AI generated opening sequence. And look, it’s easy to see why this was chosen, the series is about deception, paranoia and being unable to trust anyone, so an opening that deceives its audience as a human one is a clever idea in concept.

But what works in concept doesn’t always translate in execution, and, to quote Thanos himself, “reality is often disappointing.” AI generation is fraught with legal and moral issues, and, for a studio known to poorly treat VFX artists and during a writer’s strike, this is done in very poor taste. Hopefully this is an experimental opening for one episode, and audiences won’t have to be reminded of the abomination again.

The original Secret Invasion comics run, apart from featuring the Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four, is different from this adaptation in its tone. The comics run was a traditional beat-them-up kind of affair, with it the added shock factor that people’s favourite heroes were actually aliens all along. But the TV adaption is a much darker affair, and is much more interested in global politics than who might be an alien.

With this tone,the show has more in common with Captain America: The Winter Soldier. While that departure from the comics is a missed opportunity (imagine the Avengers fighting Skrull versions of themselves on the big screen), it’s a fascinating take that keeps the series from falling into another generic Marvel action flick. Hopefully the show can keep up this keen political awareness throughout the rest of the series.

That’s not to say there aren’t shocking reveals. But right from the first scene, the show opens with a swing for look into contemporary paranoia, the deep-state, literal illegal aliens and terrorist attacks, even if it forcefully drops a lore dump on audiences to get them caught up with Captain Marvel. The tone of the show might have changed, but the MCU’s need for interconnectivity hasn’t.

Samuel L. Jackson gives audiences a new Nick Fury, one who himself is wracked with paranoia and feelings of failure. He’s lost his ability to be ten steps ahead at all times, and is instead unsure of what to do, and no longer knows his place in the world. Though this is shown through Jackson’s performance (he’s also old too), the audience are constantly told this, which becomes grating.

Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos is a delight. He gives off serious dad vibes, fitting as that will be one of his arcs in the show. It’s impossible not to find his partnership with Fury funny, but it’s still nuanced with Talos wanting to be useful in a fight.

It isn’t just returning characters that grab audiences’ attention. Olivia Colman’s Sonya Falsworth is an absolute scene stealer, being extremely playful with Fury while hinting at a prior past. It’s said that she’s ruthless, though audiences have yet to see that side of her.

Despite the gritter tone Secret Invasion fashions for itself, it’s not devoid of humour. It’s mainly injected by the duo of Fury and Talos, and the scene stealing charm of Colman’s Sonya Falsworth. More importantly, the humour is injected in the appropriate places, and doesn’t detract from the heavier tone. Fury and Talos aren’t a forced pairing like Bucky and Sam in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and the comedy shows.

The Skrulls have a similar goal to the Flag Smashers in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, refugees who want to establish their own society. But the Skrulls succeed over the Flag Smashers because they’re much more threatening, putting Fury on the back foot and keeping him there. They’re a personal, immediate and complicated danger, characteristics The Flag Smashers didn’t have.

Leading their invasion is Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Gravik. He’s ruthless, something demonstrated by his willingness to attack a public square personally. He’s not a commander leading from the back, but one who gets his hands covered with blood and dirt. It’s teased he has a personal connection with Fury though it’s yet to be exposed.

But the episode isn’t perfect. Lighting is an issue, with the darkness of the themes translating to darkness in the show. It makes scenes hard to watch. How Marvel treats Cobie Smulders’s Maria Hill after under-using her for years is disappointing, teasing a central role for the character but shoving her aside.

This show might be able to become Marvel’s Andor if further episodes can deliver, and it’s desperately needed. If it’s complicated politics can continue, with so far compelling villains and characters,

Kieran Burt

My name is Kieran and I am based in the UK. I love writing about all things science fiction and fantasy, particularly Star Wars and Marvel. When I’m not writing or watching anything sci-fi related, you can probably find me exploring the open worlds of alternate lands through my Xbox.

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