Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury has been part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe since the very beginning. Ever since that unforgettable post-credits scene in Iron Man, when he introduced the concept of the Avengers, Fury has been the driving force behind the MCU. And yet, it’s taken fifteen years for him to be the focus of his own story. With Marvel Studios’ latest series, Secret Invasion, Fury is front and center and finally gets the spotlight he deserves.
Secret Invasion is the slick, spy thriller that many fans have been clamoring for since at least Captain America: The Winter Soldier was released in 2014 and laid the foundation for an espionage inspired story. While it’s taken longer than expected for Marvel to pick up that thread, the timing is fortuitous for fans, as Secret Invasion is a far more gritty and brutal story than anything we’ve seen in the MCU thus far.
Fans of the MCU and Nick Fury are sure to be pleased, while even those who have found their interest in Marvel waning are likely to be drawn back in with this surprisingly mature and intense story.
This review covers on the first two episodes of the series. Secret Invasion premieres June 21st on Disney+! Light spoilers below.
In Marvel Studios’ new series “Secret Invasion,” set in the present day MCU, Nick Fury learns of a clandestine invasion of Earth by a faction of shapeshifting Skrulls. Fury joins his allies, including Everett Ross, Maria Hill and the Skrull Talos, who has made a life for himself on Earth. Together they race against time to thwart an imminent Skrull invasion and save humanity.
Marvel Studios’ “Secret Invasion” stars Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Cobie Smulders, Martin Freeman, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Charlayne Woodard, Killian Scott, Samuel Adewunmi, Dermot Mulroney, Christopher McDonald, Katie Finneran, with Emilia Clarke and Olivia Colman, and Don Cheadle.
Ali Selim directs the series and executive-produces, along with fellow executive producers Kevin Feige, Jonathan Schwartz, Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Brad Winderbaum, Samuel L. Jackson, Ali Selim, Kyle Bradstreet and Brian Tucker. Kyle Bradstreet is also the head writer, and Jennifer L. Booth, Allana Williams and Brant Englestein serve as co-executive producers.
Samuel L. Jackson, who embodies the character of Nick Fury as much as Robert Downey Jr. embodies Tony Stark or Chadwick Boseman embodies T’Challa, looks like he’s having the time of his life in Secret Invasion. This series finally gives him the substance and depth to stretch his veteran acting muscles. While Fury has been a consistent cameo for over a decade worth of MCU stories, Jackson seems to be fully embracing the opportunity to take center stage.
It’s the perfect time for Marvel to bring Fury back to the forefront, as his presence has diminished after the Avengers truly got going through the first three phases of the MCU. Fury is the reason the Avengers happened in the first place, but once the meta-humans with god-level powers finally got together, there wasn’t much room for a human spy. As a result, it’s felt like Fury has been on the run constantly, with no real destination to run towards.
The aimless runnings finally stops with Secret Invasion. The Fury we find in this series is worn down, broken, battered and in some ways, beaten. Reminiscent of the fan-favorite film Logan, which told the conclusive story of Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine, Secret Invasion feels like this could be Fury’s final mission.
Central to the story’s success are the various relationships that Fury has forged over his long career. He and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos share a special bond, and the two have a comfortable chemistry that reflect brothers-in-arms who have been through many battles. Jackson and Mendelsohn are exceptional in every scene together.
While it’s not easy to share the screen with someone with the gravitas of Jackson, Mendelsohn more than holds his own, adding an emotional weight that elevates the story. Talos’ scenes with Emilia Clarke’s G’iah, though limited in the first two episodes, are full of fascinating tension and their relationship will clearly be a central element of the series.
Secret Invasion is unlike any Marvel project before it, if nothing else, because of its brutality and violence. Marvel Studios has taken the kid gloves off with this series, as there are unexpectedly graphic depictions of death and even torture. Secret Invasion is decidedly for more mature audiences, and it’s an interesting evolution of MCU storytelling, as the violence is taken to a level that previous projects like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier seemed to want to go, but stopped just short. In just the first two episodes, there are multiple “wow” moments that are sure to shock fans.
As excellent as the direction of Secret Invasion is, the characterization of the primary villain, Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), a rogue Skrull leader, isn’t as compelling as one would hope. In the first two episodes, Gravik’s backstory and ascent to power is hastily told, and as a result, is largely unconvincing. Ben-Adir has a strong screen presence and a natural swagger befitting a rebel leader, but with Marvel’s notable history of underdeveloped villains, Gravik might be little more than a character for Fury to vanquish. If so, that would be a wasted opportunity to tell a more nuanced story of an antagonistic group with relatable motivations.
Marvel already failed to fully grasp the potential of the Flag Smashers in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a group that many audiences could empathize with, and instead made them into one-dimensional villains. With the Skrulls in Secret Invasion, previously introduced as a friendly alien species, the opportunity is there once again for Marvel to tell a layered story where heroes aren’t necessarily heroic and villains aren’t necessarily villainous.
Speaking of villainous, perhaps the most disappointing part of the first two episodes is appearance of James Rhodes (Don Cheadle), also known as War Machine. Maybe it’s too much to expect different from a character literally named a machine of war, but Rhodes is uncharacteristically brutish and abrasive in the series so far. Rhodes cavalierly threatens to “carpet bomb” an entire country, arrogantly dismisses world leaders with American exceptionalism and mocks Nick Fury’s pleadings for solidarity as two high ranking Black men in the U.S. government. Given the nature of the show, I am genuinely hoping that this version of Rhodes is a Skrull in disguise, because otherwise, the character is being done a disservice.
Secret Invasion joins Ms. Marvel, Moon Knight and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier as a Marvel Disney+ series starring a character of color. With Kingsley Ben-Adir playing the primary antagonist, and various supporting diverse characters in the show as well, it’s wonderful to see the MCU continue to tell more diverse focused stories. The series hints at a global storyline, and there’s robust potential to explore more countries and more diverse characters in the remaining episodes. The standout in terms of diversity in the first two episodes is the council of Skrulls, a leadership group where the aliens are disguised as various world leaders. There, we see multiple diverse characters, who admittedly are Skrulls in disguise, but reveal a blueprint for the potential for more diversity in this series.
However, as mentioned above, the interaction between Rhodey and Fury is highly concerning, and I will certainly be paying special attention to how these characters develop in the remaining episodes.
THE RATING – 4/5 Pocky
Ron is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of POC Culture. He is a big believer in the power and impact of pop culture and the importance of representation in media.