Secret Invasion’s finale was released today, and man, did it land flat on all points. After a lacklustre five episodes, I didn’t have high expectations for the Marvel Disney+ series’ sixth, but the circular ending and failure to meaningfully engage in any emotional beats truly left me cold.
All Secret Invasion episodes were directed by Ali Selim, and episode six, “Home,” was written Kyle Bradstreet and Brian Tucker.
We start out the episode with the reiteration of Nick Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) promise to find the Skrulls a planet, which didn’t fucking happen—and a reminder that Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) was elected to Skrull General, which seems like it should mean something, but considering how so many Skrulls turned on him in episode five, doesn’t seem to matter at all. We jump right into a domestic scene with Vaara-as-Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard) and Fury. She asks Fury if he’d have loved her if she had appeared as a Skrull and wasn’t wearing a human skin. Fury is noncommittal, and either he’s manipulating her or he’s a shit communicator, which is honestly Fury’s modus operandi this entire series, if not across his entire lifecycle in the MCU.
Then we’re back in New Skrullos, as an empty car rolls towards the entrance. Two Skrulls are taken out by Fury as he launches a one-man attack on New Skrullos, assuming Gravik is there? Which makes… no sense since the United States is actively planning a strike on New Skrullos and if I were Fury I wouldn’t assume Gravik was hanging out there because like… what about the bluff? And wasn’t he just in London with Vaara? Already, this isn’t adding up.
Back in London, a laid-up President Ritson (Dermot Mulroney) gets War Eagle advice from Raava-as-James “War Machine’’ Rhodes (Don Cheadle), while a much more moderate Navy Admiral tells Ritson that they don’t know it’s the Russians, and “President Vladimov” has denied responsibility. Genuinely, Rhodey is getting desperate, and it’s wild to turn this beloved character into such an aggressive military totalitarian. If anyone didn’t know it was Raava in there at this point, they sure do now. When Rhodes gave Ritson drafted “remarks” for the president to tell the American people, I fully lost it. This guy is pulling shadow government shit and not even being subtle about it. You gotta give yourself an out when you’re playing puppetmaster, Raava, that’s like lesson number one.
We’re back to Fury in New Skrullos, and he runs into the bloody scene of the put-down revolution. He’s also coughing, apparently because of radiation, but radiation doesn’t work like that unless you’re stepping into a live nuclear reactor, so Fury stumbling around just looks goofy. Maybe it’s a pretence? Maybe this isn’t Fury at all? Suicide has never been Fury’s go-to plan, and while I don’t agree with Maria Hill’s (Cobie Smulders) assessment in episode one that Fury doesn’t take risks, this seems foolishly risky. I don’t buy it! Not to mention that humans have literally gone into this facility as part of the Skrull replacement program and they seem to be doing fine. Granted they’re in stasis but it’s not like they’re in anti-rad pods or anything. They’re still exposed to the radiation. God, this is all so dumb.
Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman) calls Rhodes and tells him to get Ritson out of the hospital immediately. She’s so mad about Rhodes being a Skrull. Rhodes pulls Ritson to the top floor and tells his security team to go hunting, but they’re pretty effectively dispatched by an unknown gunman. To be honest, Raava has been so aggressive the past few episodes there’s simply no way she survives.
But again, quick cut to Fury, who’s literally in the Super Skrullification machine with Gravik. We get some backstory with Gravik, and I have to tell you that while I love Kingsley Ben-Adir, and I can see that he is working so, so hard to earn the Marvel Money—absolutely acting his ass off—this material is running him into the ground, and it’s upsetting to watch an objectively great actor attempt to squeeze blood from this stone of a script. Gravik screams about Fury’s failure, and like, I get it, he’s right, but when are we going to get some accountability, because I’m sure Gravik’s not going to deliver?
Fury then admits that he knew within the first few years of searching that there would be no other planet for the Skrulls than Earth (infuriating!), and that Fury’s plan B after this realisation was building a home for the Skrulls on Earth. And then the reason he didn’t even attempt plan B is that “humans suck.” Which, true, but god, that’s a shitty message, and still goes back to the fact that Fury basically conscripted a bunch of aliens into his spy ring and then decided to gaslight them for years and let them rot in human skins. And we’re supposed to like this guy? Fury then hands over the Harvest—this series’ shiny Macguffin that contains the DNA of all of Earth’s heroes and a few intergalactic ones too.
So Fury attempts to trade the Harvest for Earth, which is not a great deal. Especially when there’s no bargaining chip, no go-between, just… an old sick man with nothing left to hide. Except for the fact that this is very likely not Fury at all, as Fury has done one thing consistently this entire series, which is play on the people who underestimate him… or whoever looks like him right now. Gravik inserts the vial into the machine; we see superhero names flit across the screen, and thank god we’ve watched over 100 hours of the MCU at this point so we know who all these characters are Thanos, Thor, Hulk, Valkyrie, Winter Soldier, Captain Marvel, and a dozen more I didn’t catch.
Gravik flips the switch on the Super Skrullification machine while Fury is still inside of it and truly this is so suspect, they could not have been clearer about the way that Gravik will be undone by his own creation, much like Fury in a moment of attempted circular storytelling. I’m already tired.
The machine turns off and we get full Skrull Gravik, who is the beefiest Skrull I’ve ever seen, because apparently getting superpowers has the same side effects that they had back in the 1940s when Steve Rogers became superhuman. He immediately tries to kill Fury, but Fury fights back with powers and then, the reveal: it’s G’iah (Emilia Clarke)! She hasn’t done much for a few episodes, so it’s no surprise to see her back, but it is pretty weird how there’s just a lot of teleporting around.
Also, as an aside, I know that this sequence where G’iah and Gravik fight is supposed to underline that G’iah can control these powers better (somehow?) but she looks goofy as hell with just a full-sized Drax arm popping out of her body. At least with Gravik in full shirtless beefcake mode the CGI flows better.
Back in the hospital, Sonya flips on Raava-as-Rhodes, pulls a gun, and is apparently going to try to tell Ritson what’s up. By this point Fury’s shown up at the hospital and Ritson gets a rundown on the absolute wildest conspiracy theory I’ve ever heard—that shapeshifting aliens have kidnapped the world’s greatest minds, have them in pods, and unless the nuclear attack is called off right now everyone will die. Skrulls sounded more likely than this bullshit. “Don’t kill the pre-eminent people in pods underneath the abandoned Russian base” seems insane to me, as an argument. Not nuking people should be enough.
We’re back to the Super Skrull fight, which I know was a pain in the ass to do VFX for, but there is something absolutely ridiculous about this sequence where two very, very talented actors become dolls with different arms and legs attached. It seems Marvel can’t resist a massive blow-out-the-budget fight no matter what kind of story they’re telling. I dunno, man. I just don’t think you can call this show grounded when you have two Super Skrulls using literally Every Power in the MCU encyclopedia to fight each other. At least the fight only takes a few minutes, more MCU films should take note. Oh, Gravik dies, naturally. It’s a very boring death and nobody on screen cares.
Then, Ritson tells the American public about the shapeshifting aliens, and declares them enemy combatants, promising to find them and kill every last one of them. Which, to be honest, is exactly what I would expect from a president, but it really feels as if we’ve arrived at the worst possible option for this ending. Next, G’iah releases all the trapped prisoners, and there are really no surprises with who the Skrulls have been imitating. G’iah runs into Falsworth, who offers to help G’iah get the resources she needs to protect her people and stay safe. G’iah is unimpressed considering her dad’s long-standing love affair with Fury, and Falsworth immediately says “let’s leave love and friendship out of this,” offering a quid pro quo, but never actually saying what she wants from G’iah? G’iah heads to an underground bunker where hundreds of people have been put into a sleep stasis using Skrull tech. Spycraft, it seems, is still what the Skrulls are going to be used for.
So now we’re at the final denouement of the series. Fury calls Ritson, and we see Skrulls assassinated by vigilantes… but also innocent people dying for the crime of being suspected of being Skrulls. Fury ends the series by walking towards the exact same SABER light that transported him down before he’s intercepted by his wife. Priscilla, girl, you are too good for this man. Why are you chasing this asshole who left you for like three years to fuck off into space? You can do better!
Now, for no reason at all, the Kree are “open to peace talks” with the Skrulls?? WHY? HOW? WHEN DID THIS HAPPEN? God, here it is, finally an interesting plot, a fascinating story that I would have actually loved to have seen on screen and it’s literally just an epilogue note. None of this makes sense, and it feels like such an obvious set up for The Marvels that it makes me want to tear my hair out. None of this reveal is good! What is the point? Why is Fury abandoning the million or so Skrulls on Earth? He still has to make this right and he’s just pretending like the Skrulls who will be forced underground will want to have anything to do with him and this bullshit “peace treaty!” Talos would be so disappointed in you, Fury.
Then Varra transforms and tells Nick that she loves him. They kiss, as if this is a giant romantic moment, some kind of sweeping gesture, and I have to tell you I am unmoved! I don’t care about Fury’s romantic entanglements! This is boring! The happy/extremely dysfunctional couple goes to space together, fucking off Earth entirely.
Honestly, this whole entire series feels like an intermission. A very boring, staid, sad intermission where all that’s really accomplished is killing Talos and Maria Hill. The point of Secret Invasion is content. The point is that it’s a story and Marvel can tell it, but it can’t actually affect the larger MCU in any way that matters, so it’s filled with quickie deaths and cheap imitation games. What’s truly changed? Nothing, except that now everyone knows there are Skrulls on Earth. But they’ve traded Fury and Talos for Falsworth and G’iah, and Gravik is an inconvenient blip.
There was such potential for Secret Invasion and the last episode renders the entire series forgettable, a footnote that can be summed up in two sentences, where nothing feels changed. If there was ever a series that probably could have been part of an email chain rather than the subject of a pitch meeting, this is it.
All episodes of Secret Invasion are now streaming on Disney+.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the movie being covered here wouldn’t exist.
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