The Marvel Cinematic Universe has grown to be so large that its television branch encompasses a slew of characters who have appeared in previous films, and it isn’t limited to any one specific point in time. Some, like Hawkeye, have filled in gaps between movies, while The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, and others have continued the story, and Loki and What If…? have imagined altogether different timelines. The latest MCU offering picks up a major thread from the 1990s-set Captain Marvel that sees an alien race biding its time and finally ready to stage a surprise attack designed to cripple Earth and its human inhabitants.
Secret Invasion is most notable because its central character is one who has appeared in small roles throughout all five phases of the MCU starting at the end of Iron Man: Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). The eyepatch-wearing director of S.H.I.E.L.D. was also a key player in Captain Marvel, and he’s joined again by Ben Mendelsohn as Talos, a Skrull sympathetic to humanity who is actively working against the rebellion. The two have their work cut out for them, since Skrulls are able to shapeshift and could be anyone, potentially having infiltrated the highest levels of government and the very organizations designed to root them out.
Fans of other Marvel properties will be pleased to see additional familiar faces like agents Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) and Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), as well as James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), who acts as a chief bureaucratic antagonist to Fury and serves as the official government representative who doesn’t buy into Fury’s worries about this imminent action or sanction anything he’s doing. Seeing characters work against the system is hardly new, and there’s a certain excitement to it, even if the fate of the human race is on the line, which should really be no laughing matter.
The best assets in Secret Invasion are the two key Skrull figures who serve as figureheads of the group responsible for the show’s title. Kingsley Ben-Adir, a standout player from previous series like High Fidelity and The Comey Rule, brings an unsettling calm to Gravik, a true believer who is intent on getting his point across to those he sees as enemies. Emilia Clarke, best known for her portrayal of Daenerys in Game of Thrones, is considerably more animated and harder to read – in an intriguing way – as G’iah, Talos’ daughter who doesn’t see eye-to-eye with her father’s vision for the Skrulls.
Given that there are never only two sides to any Marvel storyline, another noteworthy piece of this show comes in the form of Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman), an MI-6 operative with extraordinary reach and seemingly sinister motives who knows Fury well but has little desire to cooperate with him. Colman, who has had a number of prominent television roles recently in The Crown, Landscapers, Heartstopper, and Great Expectations, delights in chewing scenery, and it’s difficult not to find her scenes equally riveting and chilling.
Like most Marvel shows before it, Secret Invasion will run just six short episodes, two of which were provided in advance for press. The action scenes are engaging and frequent, but it’s hard to imagine that just four more episodes will suffice to play out the entire story. It’s most reminiscent of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier in its globe-trotting scope, with the signature Marvel humor mixed in from all sides as Jackson does a slightly more serious version of Fury than he typically offers in his regular cameos. Due to the highly integrated nature of the MCU, this show is a necessary watch for narrative purposes, but it doesn’t yet boast enough gripping creativity or superb storytelling to put it on the level of a must-see for its own sake.
Secret Invasion premieres Wednesday, June 21st on Disney+.