It’s been a while since She-Hulk ended its season 1 run on Disney Plus last October, with all Marvel Studios releases since then being either one-off specials or theatrical chapters. Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is also done now, and Phase 5 began unimpressively with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, but wowed audiences worldwide with Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3.
The first T.V. show of 2023 and Phase 5 is Secret Invasion, a very loose adaptation of the famous comic book crossover storyline written by Brian Michael Bendis and released in 2008. While Marvel Studios might be saving some surprises for later in the season, this iteration of Secret Invasion is keeping the superheroes aside and instead focusing on the ground-level organizations that are trying to hold the world together after the Blip. That includes Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury, who has been spending too much time away from Earth…
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Spoilers ahead for Secret Invasion season 1 episode 1: ‘Resurrection’
The show’s prologue starts with the always reliable Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). He is meeting with a contact who might have compelling information about a secret Skrull invasion of Earth through seemingly disconnected terrorist attacks and power plays, all while also infiltrating the governments and key organizations. Ross knows about the Skrulls and Nick Fury, and SHIELD’s relationship with them, but buying into such a large and complex takeover from a rogue faction of the species is hard to accept.
Unsurprisingly, things go sideways when Agent Prescod unsuccessfully tries to kill Ross. We think he was a Skrull trying to cover his group’s tracks, but after a short chase, “Ross” is put down by an assailant who’s none other than Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos, the leader of the Skrull refugees we first met in Captain Marvel. The bad Skrull was Ross all along, and off we go into an AI-generated intro which resonates well with the story’s themes, but feels like a shady move by Marvel nonetheless.
Those uneasy vibes are carried throughout the episode, which is both adequate and rather flat and derivative. The whole setup reminds us of The X-Files’ main plot at its peak (arguably one of the best sci-fi T.V. shows of all time), yet Marvel’s take on the paranoia spy thriller – at least during this first episode – seems too self-serious and a bit scattered.
On the other hand, the scenes centered on Nick Fury’s return and his strained relationship with the comrades he left behind are interesting enough. This is mainly because Jackson plays the character in a more burdened, beat-up way.
Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Talos point out Fury has never been the same after the Blip, and they’re right. As we all know, he’s been focusing on developing the SABER organization to better shield Earth from alien menaces. However, in doing so he’s actually neglected his home plant, which is feeling shaky at best nowadays. As Black Panther: Wakanda Forever explored, power vacuums are a dangerous thing, and many new threats as well as public unrest are rising all over the globe. Even if the rogue Skrulls are taken out of the equation, a storm is brewing.
Superheroes are too busy fighting the too-big-to-handle, more obvious menaces, and it’s up to regular humans and their Skrull allies to figure out what the rogue aliens will do to gradually control Earth from the shadows. It was a bit surprising to see the overall threat already so far along, with Fury beaming down from outer space in the middle of a shadow war that Talos, Maria Hill, and others have been fighting on their own for a while.
The erratic montage – which supports the rumors of the show being reshot and rebuilt to death – also takes us briefly to the White House, where a President of the United States we hadn’t met before has a quick chat with Don Cheadle’s James Rhodes (we’re already betting on at least one of them being a Skrull). With Harrison Ford coming in next year as President Thaddeus E. Ross (replacing the late William Hurt) for Captain America: Brave New World, we’d say chances are against the current POTUS.
While most of the action in Resurrection takes place in (or near) Moscow, we already get to meet all the major characters, or at least those who have been part of the lengthy marketing campaign. It’s a rather strange decision; you’d think Marvel would want to keep some major players in the shadows longer and have Nick Fury scramble in the dark for a while. This makes for a first episode that often feels disjointed and jittery, although it could pay off already in the second chapter, with most of the table perfectly set up.
MCU newcomer Olivia Colman delivers the strongest performance of the premiere as Sonya Falsworth, a former friend of Nick Fury who presents herself as a cheerful and welcoming woman, with smarts to rival the main character. We’ll stick with “nearly” because Fury quickly bugs her home with a cool spy gadget. It’s too early to tell whether she’s an ally or foe, but we’re certain Colman was a good catch.
On the villain side of things, Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) represents the dream of a new world for the Skrulls, a new world that was promised to them decades ago by Fury and Talos, but is nowhere to be found. He and his people have made themselves at home in abandoned Russian nuclear plants, as Skrulls aren’t vulnerable to radiation.
Like we said, the first episode gains nothing from revealing the mastermind this early on, even when the whole thing ends with a handful of explosions and a bang. More useful is learning about where (and how) they’re keeping alive the humans that have been replaced. And that brings us to the question of how long Agent Ross has been out of the board and replaced by a Skrull, especially if we consider his part in the recent Wakandan conflict with Talokan and tensions with the outer world.
Perhaps the most engaging aspect of the episode is Talos and his relationship with her daughter G’iah (Emilia Clarke). After the (likely violent) death of his wife, he appears to be lost in the fight against his own species, and Ben Mendelsohn excels at letting the grief and tiredness seep through the cracks of his easygoing façade. While he certainly has his problems with Fury leaving for years, their reunion is heartfelt and the potential for a “buddy cops” dynamic is there.
As for G’iah, planting a family member into the enemy camp is a writing trick that pays off most of the time, especially when she allows a devastating terrorist attack to happen. After the Falcon and Winter Soldier series, however, we have our doubts about Marvel Studios successfully toying with the “bad people among the refugees” narrative without faceplanting, so we’re crossing our fingers until the whole thing is done.
To make matters worse for Fury, Maria Hill is fatally shot by Gravik at the end of the episode. Showrunner Kyle Bradstreet and his writing team could totally trick us into thinking she’s dead – there’s the precedent of Fury’s “death” in The Winter Soldier – but right now, this shocking demise seems like the perfect way to enrage Fury and bring him back into a spy game that has evolved in his absence.
Besides that final scene, episode 1 of Secret Invasion is a decaffeinated version of better show openers. That’s not to say it’s bad. In fact, it holds more promise than many other Marvel series because of how committed it seems to a somber tone and truly vulnerable characters, but the compelling spy thriller rhythm is nowhere to be found yet.