Recommending Secret Invasion to anyone other than Marvel Studios completionists has been a bit hard. Last week's episode felt much more solid and sincere than the premiere, yet the show as a whole has been struggling to justify its existence beyond serving as a well-deserved star vehicle for Samuel L. Jackson. The basic premise sounded like the perfect fit for a cinematic universe that had already hit a home run with paranoid action thrillers in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. However, Secret Invasion just doesn't have the same level of talent behind it and probably needed more time in the oven too.
Episode 3, titled 'Betrayed,' wraps up the season's first half by raising the stakes and erasing almost every chance of a peaceful resolution to the Skrull rebellion. The action simply isn't there, and jarring transitions between locations and characters persist, but there's something to chew on here for those who are okay with a cheaper spy thriller that happens to have sci-fi elements.
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Spoilers ahead for Secret Invasion episode 3: 'Betrayed'
Episode 2 ended on a high note with the reveal of Nick Fury's wife, a Skrull named Varra. After a short intro at Gravik's base of operations and clear confirmation that our "super Skrulls" suspicions were real, we go back to 1998 – one year after the last flashback – and witness how Fury and Varra's relationship started to blossom.
The playfulness we see here (and during the end of episode 2) quickly turns sour as Nick questions his wife's loyalties. This makes sense given the situation, but as she's right to point out, it's kind of the last thing you want to hear from a loved one that's been off the grid for far too long. The conversation itself is fine, but the shift between episode 2's final scene and this one (a straight continuation) feels odd. Putting some hours between them would've made the vibes-shattering exchange less forced. It comes across as the plot denying Fury the proper downtime to heal up.
Back in present day, G'iah is finding it difficult to dodge Gravik's very uncomfortable questions, which aren't surprising given she's the daughter of his biggest Skrull enemy. Nonetheless, she accompanies him to London, where he meets up with Talos for some quality museum time.
Gravik has a point when he takes shots at the leaders who comfortably sent men to die during war times, but he keeps circling back to an armed uprising that would endanger the entirety of his species, especially when they are few against many. On the other side of the table, Talos has faith in the humans distinguishing between green allies and foes if he pulls the curtain. While he's right about Earth (and other worlds) banding together against a transparent enemy like Thanos, we believe he's putting too much stock in us not being naturally paranoid when we can't rapidly know who's good or bad, especially after the whole HYDRA fiasco about a decade ago.
Things eventually go sideways, with Gravik responding to Talos' threats by revealing he's surrounded by militants that could easily overwhelm him if the Skrull terrorist gave the order. Talos' answer once the bad guy mentions his daughter is stabbing one of his hands with a table knife, which leads into yet another surprisingly graphic moment for Marvel Studios. Moreover, we now know he's already gone "super Skrull" and might even have added Iron Man 3's Extremis juice to his secret mix of super-ingredients.
For now, however, the tensions between Talos and Gravik haven't blown up, mostly because they still can't make a move on each other without negative repercussions. It appears that peace won't be an option, at least when it comes to shutting down Gravik and his closest followers. Nick Fury seems to agree, as he returns to his old friend to make amends and also make a move on high-ranking Skrulls. Once again, Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn remind us that they're carrying this entire show on their backs, going back and forth between pure badassery and realistic moments of vulnerability.
Olivia Colman's Sonya Falsworth doesn't get much screen time in episode 3. However, she does give Fury the location of a very important Skrull that has made his way into the Royal Navy and could kickstart World War III for Gravik by shooting down a United Nations plane with a British submarine.
Before we move on to discuss the episode's key scene, we must say we still aren't sure about Falsworth's true allegiances; she easily gives up crucial information that Gravik later confirms that he was happy to release in order to root out the traitor inside his closest circle.
You'd think Fury and Talos' assault on the high-ranking Skrull would be an exciting action (maybe stealthy) sequence, but the whole infiltration is a pretty mundane affair. It ends up with Talos held at gunpoint by "Bob" (their Skrull target) and Fury doing the same with Bob's kid. We know he probably wouldn't hurt the boy, yet this feels like something that Disney wouldn't let one of their Marvel heroes do on the big screen.
Our buddy cop duo can't get the password to shut down the attack order out of Bob, so Talos just straight up murders him – again, he can be both nice and cold-blooded – and calls G'iah instead. The security at Gravik's base apparently blows, so she easily goes into the room with all the kidnapped humans and accesses the real Bob's memories. The day is saved.
'Betrayed' packs a final "double whammy" though. As G'iah decides to finally leave the compound to rejoin her father, she's stopped by a car. Gravik steps out and shoots her in the chest. Unless plot armor says that wasn't a fatal wound, this villain is racking up shocking kills pretty fast. Another possibility is that Giah was well-trained enough to shift back into Skrull when hurt, fooling assailants into thinking she's dead. If this is the end for Emilia Clarke in the MCU, it's a huge waste of star power.
The second twist (although we could already smell something was wrong) comes from Varra, who retrieves a gun from a lockbox and gets a call from one of Gravik's friends to convene. Our first instinct is to believe she's gone bad while Fury was away, but we know better than to jump on obvious conclusions right away, especially when Skrulls are involved. Her betrayal could definitely make for a compelling emotional conflict with the show's main character, but, on the other hand, her marriage to Fury could be one of the keys to make undecided Skrulls choose peace over war.
With only three episodes to go, Secret Invasion should deliver some spectacle and more of the character interactions we got in episode 2 to trick us into thinking this show isn't a misfire that can't be salvaged by scattered good elements. In today's T.V. climate, it's a bigger sin to be forgettable than to unequivocally fail, since the modern viewer really values their time.