We're now entering the back half of Marvel's Secret Invasion, and everyone sticking around should know what to expect by now. On a writing level, Marvel Studios' latest is little more than a B-grade spy thriller you'd watch on cable T.V. However, its acting talent and decent production values manage to keep the whole thing afloat for now. In episode 4, the action ramps up and bold moves are made, yet we fear the Skrull threat won't be as far-reaching – at least on screen – as we hoped for.
'Beloved' is a noticeably leaner chapter of the limited series, and adequately mixes big character moments with a plot that's finally gaining serious momentum. There's also a much-needed action scene towards the end which has weighty consequences and should put the pedal to the metal as we approach the conclusion. It might be too little too late to get the show somewhere truly exciting and dangerous, unless the writers have a handful of twists up their sleeves.
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Spoilers ahead for Secret Invasion episode 4: 'Beloved'
After episode 3 ended on a somber note with G'iah seemingly shot dead and Varra choosing to betray her husband, 'Beloved' quickly nullifies those gut punches. We had speculated that Talos' daughter could've saved herself with a neat trick, yet we didn't consider the possibility of her simply taking advantage of the 'super Skrull' juice that Gravik had developed before leaving the base. The healing effects of Extremis take a while to kick in, but she's completely fine and ready to go off and rejoin her father.
We're not big fans of shows refusing to let fake deaths have a serious effect on viewers before walking them back, so this would've probably worked better as a later reveal. On the other hand, the relationship between Nick Fury and Varra – and how they've both made mistakes – is handled much better. Once again, we're sent back in time to 2012, right after the Battle of New York. The atypical couple has another odd meeting (Fury was a very busy man), and we get another heartfelt scene with the two that reminds us that their bond is quite strong, regardless of what ended up happening between them.
Back in present day, Varra (aka Priscilla) meets up with Rhodey, who Fury strongly suspects is a Skrull. Indeed, he comes to tell Varra that good old Nick needs to be taken off the board, and who better to do that than the person closest to him? As reinforced by the latest flashback, her understanding of her people's plight collides with her genuine love for Fury, so she tries to highlight that the former SHIELD director is rusty and not the threat Gravik and his associates think he is. Of course, she ain't fooling anyone.
Before we get to the best scene of the episode (and maybe of the entire show so far), Talos reunites with G'iah. Things go as you'd expect, with Talos worried sick for his daughter's wellbeing while also pushing his extremely optimist views of the humans and his hopes for a non-secretive future collaboration between the two species. Again, we know Talos can be a cold-blooded killer even against his own people, but there's a refreshing contrast with how pure-hearted he seems to be. When you've got an actor as outstanding as Ben Mendelsohn selling the most poignant of lines, almost everything surrounding the character works, and it's a shame Emilia Clarke doesn't have writing nearly as good to work with.
Moving on to the main course of this episode, we find Nick Fury and Varra opening up about everything that's gone wrong between them and how they still love each other in spite of everything. Secret Invasion cracked Fury's shell from the get-go, but it's great to see Marvel Studios going as deep as possible with the character, showing there's a simple man who yearns to be loved underneath all the badass spy attitude. His line of work doesn't really allow for long and stable relationships, much less one with an alien, yet here we are. If this show ever had a secret weapon, it's probably Fury's marriage.
Beyond trying to fix what's broken between them (and trying not to kill each other in the process), the scenes also give an earnest look into Varra's past on Earth and how she adopted Priscilla's identity. The story ranges from messed up to beautiful, but, more importantly, it's easy to see where both her actions and the original Priscilla's came from. Letting go of loved ones is a terribly hard thing to do, regardless of context, and that feeds into the possible resolution of her present conflict with her husband. It all culminates with two shots fired at the same time and missing their targets. As hurt as these two characters are, they can't live without each other. Will their relationship truly go back to normal once this whole Skrull mess is sorted out? Who knows, but it seems they'll definitely try.
Planting a bug on Varra last episode also allowed Fury to confirm his suspicions about a James Rhodes who was more aggressive than usual. He's the high-ranking Skrull plant at the White House, so that means there's a way to both thwart Gravik's big global war plans once again and warn the U.S. government of the threat they're facing. This entire Skrull conspiracy rides on the idea of nations turning against each other because of simple paranoia, so exposing who the real enemy is to as many important people as possible is the way forward.
Samuel L. Jackson's acting during his playful chat with fake Rhodey comes across as a bit too much, since he went from gloomy to upbeat with him too fast, but alcohol gets the job done. It doesn't even matter if Rhodey believes Fury's lies; the main objective was to get that Mission: Impossible tracking liquor into him. Off he goes to meet up with the POTUS, who's coming to England to negotiate with the Russians after the major incident of episode 1. Surely nothing bad will happen.
The convoy is almost immediately attacked by Gravik and his forces. One thing we've been enjoying about this Marvel villain is that he's constantly getting his hands dirty, and here he also gets to show off what the Groot DNA in his body can do. This scene may be the series' biggest so far, and we're hoping for more action on a similar scale towards the big finale. Secret Invasion's consequences are grave, yet the show's more intimate approach to its narrative is undercutting much of its impact on the MCU as a whole. We admit it's a tough balancing act, but it's easy to see too much time has been spent with redundant scenes that barely moved the plot forward, and now the show might have to play catch-up.
The POTUS' security forces are quickly butchered by Gravik's group, but Talos and Nick get to the scene of the crime and slow down their progress. Fury's weapon for this shootout – a trusty shotgun – underlines he's done playing in the shadows where Skrulls thrive. He has to become a more aggressive and blunt version of himself to unmask this menace. The extra time bought by our protagonists gives the President and the surviving protectors enough space to hold back the attackers until a team of special U.K. forces arrives – probably tipped off by Sonya Falsworth – to get them out of there.
Talos and Fury manage to secure the President and get him away from the action, but it appears Gravik is done playing with his greatest Skrull enemy, and murders Talos right in front of Fury, who sadly can't catch a break. This villain is pretty good at killing key characters up close and personal, so that automatically takes him to the upper tier of the MCU's worst individuals in our humble opinion.
As for Talos, we're fairly sure he's dead for good, especially after the fake out with G'iah. We love him, but his sacrifice should have a sizable impact on the entire series and put G'iah in a true collision course with her former superior – a final super Skrull smackdown is now more likely than ever. Regardless, the larger conflict seems rather hard to deactivate, and we have no clue how this entire thing will be wrapped up with only two episodes to go.