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Marvel’s ‘Secret Invasion’ Is A Welcome Takeover – Review

It’s about damn time that Samuel L. Jackson is the central character of an MCU project, and that project is Secret Invasion.

From his new look to the slower pacing of the series, Jackson as Nick Fury always works. Based on the first two episodes of the new show, there are fewer jokes and joy than the last time we saw Fury in a major role (2019’s Captain Marvel). However, Jackson’s connection to what makes Fury so watchable is as strong as ever. At the start of the series, Fury has been off-planet for a few years (as seen in the end credit scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home). The Fury we get in Secret Invasion is an older spy struggling to find his way and his breath in the post-blip world.

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion. (Photo by Gareth Gatrell. © 2023 MARVEL.)

Billed as an action thriller, the spy tone for the series is a solid follow-up to the mood established in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Many comic fans have Cap’s second outing in their top five MCU movies (and it’s not five). This series draws from that tone at times and can feel like a Winter Soldier successor, but it is definitively not that film’s sequel. In general, spy stories are a slower burn, but the pace of this show is helped by quality dialogue, understandable stakes, top-tier performers, and an interesting villain. 

Seriously, Secret Invasion features a ridiculous supporting cast. This might be the most award-nominated cast for an MCU series to date. First, we get a parade of spies from various factions featuring the likes of Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and Olivia Colman’s newcomer Sonya. Ben Mendelsohn reprises his role as Talos, Don Cheadle is back as Rhodey, and Emilia Clarke plays the older version of Talos’ daughter G’iah. 

Cheadle and Mendelsohn have strong returns to their respective roles. Mendelsohn’s Talos is firmly in the co-pilot seat of the series as the right-hand man to Fury. Talos is the main Skrull we’ve rooted for, and it’ll be exciting to see how that relationship evolves during the course of the show. As always, Cheadle is undeniable. He brings his signature charm and quips along with some new responsibilities as a major player in the US government. 

Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.)

Moving on to the new faces, it seems like Colman is having a blast. Each scene she’s in has a different energy than the rest of the show (in a great way). Colman’s Sonya can go toe to toe with Fury, and it’s clear that Sonya enjoys the chess game of spy work. Even when the material is dense, and the situation is dire, Sonya is the kind of character who has moves and countermoves set up and ready to go. The one character it’s difficult to get a read on is Clarke’s G’iah. G’iah gives the audience a lens into what the Skrulls are going through, but it’s hard to tell what side of the line she’ll land on. Clarke is often playing off more silent characters, so it will be interesting to see what she does during her stint on the show.  

The glaring omission from this hype train is Kingsley Ben-Adir, who plays the series antagonist Gravik. The Skrull terrorist leader brings a striking silence that lets you know he’s not messing around. Gravik is surgical, precise, and has an interesting connection to Fury’s past. He has all the swagger and skills of a seasoned spy with the cold calculating nature of a villainous mastermind. The action scenes that Ben-Adir takes part in elevate the show and have us hoping for more. Gravik excels in quiet moments but shines most when he gets to be loud. Many MCU projects go from good to great on the strength of the villain, and Ben-Adir is convincing as the intimidating leader of the Skrull invasion.     

Marvel has been largely successful at adapting its major comic events to the big screen. Civil War and The Infinity Gauntlet are proof that it can work. Those tales were modified to fit the current canon, and Secret Invasion is no different. The scale is much smaller than the comic, lacking many of the heroes that anchor that version. We would not expect Wolverine, Jessica Drew, or Ironman to pop up. On the page, Secret Invasion is focused on which heroes are sleeper agents and who can be trusted as the Skrulls invade and copy our heroes. On the screen, the invasion is a personal story with Fury at the center of a shadow war. It would have been great to see more of the major heroes involved in a Defenders-type crossover, but it does make sense that this comic legend would be adapted to star the former head of S.H.I.E.L.D., given his proximity to the green shapeshifting aliens. 

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill in Secret Invasion. (Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. © 2022 MARVEL.)

Overall, the series satisfies. The chase scenes are more silent than loud. The action is measured and then gets bombastic. The effects and makeup on the Skulls are believable, and the early hours raise a good amount of questions while also packing in a few interesting reveals. The main question after screening the first two episodes is can the MCU faithful do slow burn? “Superhero fatigue” is a term used more and more, but Secret Invasion isn’t about heroes; it’s about spies. The tonal shift is welcome, and Samuel L. Jackson’s Fury remains one of the best performances to grace the MCU. 

Yes, Nick Fury is finally at the center of the story after 15 years. Secret Invasion is not 2 Winter 2 Soldier, it has a similar tone to the highly rated Cap film, but it carves out its own path. From the dialogue to the pacing, if you love spies, Secret Invasion is for you. It’s appreciated that after all this time, the MCU can still switch things up with familiar characters while bringing new layers. 

We’re excited to see more of old man Fury as he nears the end of his road. Secret Invasion has enjoyable espionage, with a stand-out performance from Jackson. If Jackson’s not enough to convince you, the incredible cast they’ve assembled around him makes Secret Invasion a show worth investing in.

Rating: 8/10

Secret Invasion begins streaming on Disney+ on June 21.

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