The HoloFiles

REVIEW: Secret Invasion – Episodes 1-2

By Josh Bate & George Bate

Kingsley Ben-Adir as Rebel Skrull leader Gravik in Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

In 2007, Samuel L. Jackson arrived in secret to film a cameo in the Marvel superhero film Iron Man. The plan was, according to Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige, to have Jackson’s appearance as Nick Fury lay the groundwork for the assembly of the iconic Avengers team in a future project. But for years, Nick Fury has been known as just that – the man that brought the Avengers together. Little has been known about him, and although certain stories like Captain Marvel have given fans some minor details on this mysterious figure, he has largely existed in the shadows of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Until now. 

Samuel L. Jackson’s character takes center stage in the latest MCU Disney+ series Secret Invasion, an adaption of the fan-favorite comic book storyline of the same name. Jackson is joined by an A-list cast, some of whom are making their Marvel debut, that includes Olivia Colman, Emilia Clarke, Ben Mendelsohn, Don Cheadle, Martin Freeman, and more. In the comics, Secret Invasion was a story centered on the superheroes in the Marvel world, whereas in this new Disney+ series, the more grounded characters are in the spotlight.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.

Secret Invasion follows Nick Fury and his small team of trusted allies as they discover a plot from a rogue sect of Skrulls to takeover Earth. The Skrulls were introduced to the MCU in 2019’s Captain Marvel, initially thought to be an evil force but a twist revealed them to be innocent and peaceful. However, in this new show, a faction of Skrulls living on Earth have grown frustrated at their refugee status and the lack of a home of their own, leading them to become violent and plot a takeover of the planet. There are still some allied Skrulls, however, mainly Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos. 

Secret Invasion is a prime example of the MCU finally committing to a given sub-genre. This is a political thriller through and through, and unlike some of the other past projects that promised an approach that never came to fruition, Secret Invasion follows through on the similarities to Bourne, John le Carré adaptations, and other famous spy thrillers. This means that much of the classic MCU humor is gone, with the writers instead opting for more well-timed and subtle comedic relief. This creative decision works much better for the story as well, as does the series’ more serious tone serving as a refreshing juxtaposition to the humor of more recent MCU stories like Thor: Love and Thunder and Guardians of Galaxy Vol. 3.

(L-R): Emilia Clarke as G’iah and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL.

At times, the lack of heroes within this story works well too. That there are no Avengers present was the biggest question mark heading into this new series, particularly as not including these heroes appeared to abandon the fundamental premise of this story from its source material. However, the plot largely remains the same, albeit with much more of a grounded approach. That’s not to say that a valid reason is provided for the superheroes not to arrive and help out, though (more on that later). 

Ben Mendelsohn is arguably the standout in this ensemble cast of characters. He rarely, if ever, appears in his natural Skrull form, but it works as it allows Mendelsohn to show off his full range of skills and bring his usual charm to this story. He’s also the character that is most invested in the story, not only because he’s caught in the crossroads with some members of his own species creating this conflict, but because of a very person connection as well. It’s also nice to see the Australian actor in a more substantial role years on from his first MCU appearance in a film that was lacking in creativity, and ingenuity. 

Olivia Colman as Special Agent Sonya Falsworth in Marvel Studios’ Secret Invasion, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.

Many of the past MCU shows have been hit or miss, some of which existing in a perplexing conundrum where the season somehow feels too long and yet too short. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, another political thriller, is arguably the greatest example of that; the six episode limited series didn’t really get going at all until around the halfway mark, and by the time the story had concluded, it felt rushed and anticlimactic. Secret Invasion, which is also a six episode season, appears to overcome at least some of those concerns. It gets going right away (perhaps even too quickly), and the hour long episode lengths feel more justified than they have in the past. 

Secret Invasion does a better job of actually being a TV show than some of the other MCU stories in this medium. Previous Marvel Disney+ shows have often found themselves in a conundrum where they have big stars, a massive budget, and a place within a franchise that made a name for itself on the big screen, but the telling of the story fails to take advantage of its place on television. At the very least, Secret Invasion does do more with its presence on TV than past MCU shows, which is noticeable right from the off. 

(L-R): Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL.

The story does begin right away, though, which does mean it could be a struggle to keep up with everything for audiences. There’s no introduction to the Skrulls or anything about this subsection of the MCU, and, oddly, there’s more of a recap in the second episode of Secret Invasion than the first. While other MCU stories have gone out of their way to be approachable for viewers who haven’t seen every previous show and film, Secret Invasion requires a lot of homework. It’s not a particularly complex story per se, but the requirement to understand the number of characters and rich background of the Skrulls and their conflict with the humans right off the bat is a little jarring.

As good of a character as Nick Fury is, and despite the fact that the writers do a relatively good job of telling this story without any leading MCU characters, it does still feel like this show lacks a central hero. There isn’t even a good explanation for their absence, nor is there any reason why the Skrulls, who are actively trying to cause chaos on Earth, aren’t simply using their shapeshifting powers to take the identity of a well-known hero and cause even more mayhem. And while this show might be an interesting adaption of the original storyline, it’s hard not to think that Secret Invasion would perhaps be better suited to a more comic book accurate portrayal of the proceedings. Although, the jury is still out as there are still four episodes to go of the series.

VERDICT: 7/10

Secret Invasion embraces its political thriller elements and stands out as one of the more serious, grounded installments of the MCU. Although jarringly requiring extensive knowledge of previous Marvel plot threads and characters, the new Disney+ series features a captivating premise inspired by the acclaimed comic series of the same name. Ben Mendelsohn is the standout of an ensemble cast that, despite its A-list talent, lacks the strength and presence of a central character. With the first two episodes under its belt, Secret Invasion has set the stage nicely (for the most part) for an engaging political thriller to unfold.

The HoloFiles

The HoloFiles is a website and series of social media accounts, including Star Wars Holocron, Marvel Tesseract, DC Motherbox, Film Codex, and Horror Necronomicon. We love cinema and television, and aim to spread positivity across different fandoms. Come to us for news, reviews, interviews, trivia facts, quotes, behind the scenes photos, analytic features, and more!