Maria Hill is dead. Killed by the Skrull extremist leader Gravik as a message to Nick Fury, Hill spent her last moments in disbelief as the shapeshifter took the form of Fury before pulling the trigger. Ironically enough, Hill foreshadowed her own death in her final conversation with Fury, held around a chessboard, when she cautioned her one-time boss and long-time friend that his uncertainty was going to get someone hurt. That someone was her and as the camera pulled back from her as she lay dying on the streets of Moscow and the audience was left to reel at the shocking stakes of Nick Fury’s decisions, there was simply no reeling to be done. The impact Kyle Bradstreet, Ali Selim and the rest of the creatives behind Secret Invasion intended her death to have simply wasn’t there because they killed off a character that the audience simply did not know.
Though she’s been around since making her debut in 2012’s The Avengers, Maria Hill hasn’t played a major role in an MCU project since 2014’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Now that the subterfuge of Marvel’s PR blitz–which featured a heavy dose of Cobie Smulders–has been exposed, it’s clear that the studio brought back Smulders to die. It’s also clear that they intended that death to carry some weight given the camera’s extended focus on Hill’s corpse and the timing of the death, coming in the closing moments of Episode 1, “Resurrection.” But even with a decade of MCU service time spread out over 6 films on her resume, Hill’s death felt less impactful than intended and probably less impactful than it should have. However, that’s no fault of the people who worked on Secret Invasion.
Relegated to cameos or minor appearances for the majority of her time in the MCU, Hill stands as one of the best examples of a major character from the pages of Marvel Comics whose transition to the MCU failed her. Created and deployed liberally by Brian Michael Bendis, Hill was a powerhouse who spent the 2000s right at the center of the publisher’s line-wide events such as Civil War, Secret Invasion, Dark Reign and Siege. For some of that time, Hill lead S.H.I.E.LD. following Nick Fury’s disappearance after his Secret War. In the MCU, she’s Fury’s right hand and, apparently, one of the only people he trusts. Other than that, the character has never really been developed in any meaningful way. That last time she was seen in a project, 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home, she wasn’t even her. What went wrong in adapting the character from page to screen?
First and foremost, it seems that the decision to tear down S.H.I.E.L.D. may have cost the character a significant role. While Secret Invasion plays with the idea of Nick Fury having fallen off the radar as he did following Bendis’ Secret War, there’s no S.H.I.E.L.D. for Hill to take over. There’s nothing for Hill to take over. Come to think of it, what has she been doing since the Blip? Your guess is as good as mine because there’s no attempt to make it clear in Secret Invasion. In fact, all we get in Secret Invasion are some vague attempts to let us know Hill has tried to contact Fury for reasons unknown and a nice story about the things Fury used to say to her while they play their favorite strategy game. Did you know Hill and Fury played chess? Nobody did because nobody knows anything about Maria Hill.
Despite having a talented actress attached to the role of Hill in Cobie Smulders, the character was poorly realized over time and outside of her appearance in The Winter Solider, was essentially a one-dimensional character. The writers of Secret Invasion tried to redesign and reshape Hill to some extent by having her tell the audience about her shared past with Fury but given only one episode to do so, the efforts were futile. Her death will certainly be used by fuel as Fury to enter into his “one last fight.” He’ll want vengeance for his friend but, at the end of the day, that’s all the MCU’s Maria Hill ever got to be. There was no Maria Hill, Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. There was only Maria Hill, friend of Fury. And it’s a shame that’s all the folks at Marvel Studios could find to do with one of Marvel Comics biggest badasses.