Oftentimes, the one with the most secrets is the one with the most scars.
Now available on Disney+, Marvel’s new series, Secret Invasion, reintroduces the world to Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as he uncovers a terrifying reality. As part of their terrifying plot to take over the world, the shapeshifting Skrulls have been settling on Earth for decades. Now, Fury must work with his friends Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) in order to stop the threat of their imminent invasion and save humanity.
Directed by Ali Salem, Secret Invasion feels very different than many of the Disney+ series that Marvel has offered us in recent memory. Whereas most Marvel shows attempt to feel as big as the films visually (usually with limited results), Invasion wants its story to be what’s featured. Reminiscent of Captain America: Civil War, the series depicts the world as one of cold conspiracies and potential terrorism. In order to do so, Salem keeps the visual palette dark with limited bursts of colour. Leaning into its Cold War aesthetic, Invasion taps into the fear of the other, arguing that everyone is a potential threat. This is a world of shadows and darkness hovers ominously in almost every scene.
In this way, Invasions operates on a slow burn. Although it has moments of intensity, the early episodes feel as though they are building towards much grander reveals and intrigue. For that reason, Secret Invasion will require patience from viewers expecting Marvel’s traditionally more frenetic pacing. (Admittedly though, the writing sometimes feels as though it lets down its performers. Featuring a complicated backstory, somehow Invasion often feels rushed, even with the show’s slower narrative style.)
However, the highlight of Invasion is undoubtedly its cast, especially Samuel L. Jackson. From Oscar-worthy fare to goofier titles, Jackson has made a career of bringing a certain level of cool to his performances and here, he keeps the story on course. Even with the show’s serious tone, Jackson’s ability to have fun with the material keeps Invasion fun. (It’s also worth mentioning that the series contains a wonderful performance by Olivia Colman who brings the fire and enthusiasm that the series needs.)
For the first time, Jackson has the spotlight placed solely upon his character and Invasion wants to use this to explore Fury himself. Although he’s appeared in 14 different Marvel projects, his role has always been out of either support or assembling the Avengers. During that time, Fury has taken on the role of both antagonist and coach, mentor and adversary. Now, finally, Invasion takes us into the psychology of a character that is dealing with his own trauma as he attempts to save the world.
Having disappeared during the ‘Blip’ at the hands of Thanos, Fury has been left a broken man. Then, after his reappearance, he immediately disappeared into the night to nurse his emotional scars. Since then, he has remained distant and unavailable to those who needed him most during times of crisis. Fury has always been a man of secrets, but Invasion reveals the toll that his personal suffering has taken upon his soul.
As a result, with his re-emergence, Fury puts the mission entirely upon himself. (“This is my war,” he growls.) Because there’s no one that he can trust, he decides that he will only trust himself. However, in doing so, he also entirely pushes away all those around him. Trusted friends are seen as potential foes and Fury pours himself entirely into the mission as a way to deal with his inner pain.
Incidentally, it’s worth noting though that Secret Invasion never fully alienates its aliens. For the Skrulls, Earth is not merely a place to dominate but instead an opportunity to settle down. With a passion to ‘feel comfortable in their own skin’, the Skrulls are seen as a people who want to feel accepted for who they are. In this way, Invasion often paints the Skrulls as antagonist, but not always as its villain. (In fact, it could be argued that the true villain of Secret Invasion is a lack of tolerance as the Skrulls have been pushed to the fringes by society out of fear of revealing themselves.)
In the end, Secret Invasion shows some solid potential as it unravels its mystery. Although its pacing and some dialogue might initially frustrate fans, this is a story that feels like it could become something special. At the very least, I expect that we’ll have more fun with Fury along the way.
The first episode of Secret Invasion is available on Disney+ on Tuesday, June 20th, 2023 with new episodes rolling out weekly afterwards.