Secret Invasion’s Plot Craters, But Leaves Little Impact

Secret Invasion’s Plot Craters, But Leaves Little Impact

We are in the penultimate episode of Marvel’s Disney+ series Secret Invasion, and, surprisingly, we don’t have a lot of questions or plot points to wrap up. After the first four episodes of the Samuel L. Jackson-led spy-thriller series, most mysteries have been solved or explained in… Gravik detail. (Get it? Graphic? Gravik? Because if I’ve learned anything after the past four episodes, it’s that Gravik loves an evil villain monologue.)

Episode five, “Harvest,” was directed by Ali Selim, who directed the entire six-episode series, and it was written by Michael Bhim and Brian Tucker.

The episode starts with a reminder that Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) is creating Super Skrulls via machine in the basement of his Russian compound. We get a quick check of the current DNA splices we know they have in their system (Groot, Frost Beast, Cull Obsidian) and a reminder that both Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman) and G’iah (Emilia Clarke) know what Gravik is up to. G’iah also went through Super Skrullification, and is, apparently, still keeping that a secret.

Also, Nick Fury and his Skrull wife, Priscilla/Vaara (Charlayne Woodard), have “broken up” because Priscilla didn’t follow through with the Gravik-assigned assassination. Her orders came from Raava, a Skrull disguising herself as James Rhodes. Last episode, a Skrull strike force led by Gravik attempted to kill the sitting U.S. President (Ritson, played by Dermot Mulroney) while pretending to be Russian, hoping to start a nuclear war. Although Gravik’s assassination attempt was thwarted by Nick Fury, he did manage to kill Talos (Ben Mendelsohn)—apparently for good.

So we’ve got Nick on the run with literally nowhere left to go and nobody left to turn to. I mean, there’s G’iah, but we have no idea where she is, and she and Nick have barely interacted this entire series. Fury delivers the president to the hospital, attempts to tell him deeply important information as he’s being wheeled into surgery, and sees that a news report has picked up “President Ritson Saved by Shapeshifting Alien,” so it’s going pretty fucking bad on all fronts, especially secret and clandestine spycraft fronts.

Gravik returns to New Skrollos alongside Pagon (Killian Scott) and Beto (Samuel Adewunmi). Pagon confronts Gravik and says that Gravik gave them bad information on where Fury hid Avengers DNA and… did that happen? Was that a plot point in some other film? I’m putting a pin in this one. I don’t think this was ever done, which is… fine, I guess. But it’s deeply annoying that for a series of movies and films that insists on sharing a universe, there’s just a ton of retconning done every single episode to justify the choices of whatever’s happening on screen. For some reason, Pagon just keeps pushing and, of course, Gravik kills him. He then demeans the rest of his “nameless, faceless” soldiers and tells them to fuck off. Which… I guess. This isn’t exactly inspiring. I smell revolt.

Gravik calls Raava (as Rhodes) and tells her to keep Ritson alive, and tell Ritson that it wasn’t just the Russians, it was Russians and Skrulls. Raava is to reveal New Skrollos to the president and make his own people a target in order to put pressure on Fury. Pressure on Fury to… reveal this DNA? I guess? Although how they’ll ever put revealing New Skrollos back into the bag after the president knows about it is beyond me.

Raava meets up with Fury in the hospital, Fury draws a gun, Rhodes tells him that the footage of him killing Maria Hill is about to go live, and Fury leaves the hospital. And all this before the (horrible, needless, kind of bad looking) AI title credits start rolling. We’re on a roll now, let’s see what else we’ve got heating up.

First, Sonya Falsworth confronts the Skrull disguised as Director Weatherby and asks him where Dr. Rosa Dalton is—the scientist working on Super Skrullification. Next, Beto confronts Gravik in the cantina. Gravik confirms the genocidal plan he gave to Raava-as-Rhodes and the Skrulls revolt on Gravik! Turns out they don’t care much for being used as pawns. But as Omar Little once said on The Wire… “you come at the king, you best not miss.”

Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) furious after being attacked by his own secret army.

To wrap up this arc of plot-point pushing, Fury and G’iah meet up in the old rec center where Fury recruited Skrulls to be agents in his spy war. G’iah again confronts Fury with his failures, again, which… it needs to be said, if Fury had just found the Skrulls a planet 10 years ago? Even five? None of this would be happening. Fury again tries to paint every setback as an opportunity, and G’iah isn’t really interested in his shit. He heads to Finland; she goes to bury her father.

Falsworth confronts Dr. Dalton—the Super Skrullification doctor—and I swear they give this unhinged little English maniac the best lines. “Cake or death?” What an absurdly silly line, I love it. Falsworth torches Dalton’s lab and kills a Skrull.

Somehow, G’iah has retrieved Talos’ body. I know this shouldn’t bother me, but it does. This Skrull was involved in an incredibly visible and highly publicized attack on the president and you’re telling me that an actual spy agency hasn’t come through and picked up his freaky green alien body? What? How? This is so dumb. This is the most handwavey of plot points and I cannot fucking stand it.

Raava/Rhodes makes her move; she urges Ritson to issue an attack on New Skrullos, on Russian soil, igniting World War III. No reveal here on whether or not Ritson does it. If he’s a Skrull loyal to Fury I’ll simply perish. (Ten bucks says he’s Talos and we get an episode six surprise reveal.) Gravik calls Fury as he’s heading onto a private plane, which is being flown by… his brother? Possibly? What the fuck?? Why?? What’s happening?? No answer, again!

G’iah and Vaara burn Talos’ body behind the Fury household. Vaara offers a Skrull prayer, but again, the grief of this moment falls flat. We don’t get any kind of score, no prolonged moment, not even a chance to watch as G’iah burns her father on foreign soil having failed his mission, having failed her, having failed their entire species. It could have been poignant! It could have been horribly sad. And instead we get truncated imitations of sadness, but no genuine horror, sadness, fear, hope. Nothing is explored, nothing gained. Just a swift visitation of plot points and facts with littl impact. And of course the moment just after this abbreviated funeral is ruined by a home invasion.

Falsworth picks up Fury at the airport (as he’s flown to Finland, presumably for the Harvest), and again, it has to be said, I would watch that mad little Brit do her thing for hours. They head north, Fury reveals that Rhodes is a Skrull, and Falsworth is deeply annoyed. We finally get the reveal that Fury used Skrulls—namely Gravik—after the Battle for Earth and collected blood spilled by the superheroes off the battlefield. So, essentially Fury has, like all other Marvel heroes before him, been hoisted by his own petard.

At his own grave in Finland—one of many—Fury reveals the Harvest, a small, unmarked vial hidden in his headstone. He enters the nearest mausoleum and retrieves a jacket, eyepatch, phone, and gun, transforming into the tried and true image of Nick Fury.

And, man. What a kind of boring episode. Any attempt at character development is delivered through stilted lines and kind of half-assed action scenes and what really pains me about this show is that it is both entirely predictable and forgettable. No mysteries at all. And the bigger issue is that the stakes for Secret Invasion have to be slotted into the larger MCU. Superheroes don’t care abut World War III. It won’t happen. None of this matters, and what could have been an intimate, dark, focused plot has instead turned into a kind of hum-drum shift between mostly unknown movers and shakers and they just spin wheels. This episode really makes Maria Hill’s death in episode one feel like a mistake, as even having one ally doing reliable human-stakes spycraft would have been a welcome balance.

Five episodes of Secret Invasion are available to stream on Disney+. The final episode will release Wednesday, July 26.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the television series being covered here wouldn’t exist.

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