REVIEW: Jackson’s Star Aside, A Little Less Talk and a Lot More Action Would Have Benefitted the Debut of ‘Secret Invasion’

Billed as a paranoia-laced spy thriller, Marvel Studios latest Disney Plus streaming series, Secret Invasion, has been pretty hotly anticipated by MCU fans who while not at 2020 levels yet, are starting to starve for content following Disney’s decision to slow their roll. It’s been made more than clear that the series was not intended to be a superhero spectacle, like the Marvel Comics event from which it took its name but rather a dive into the world of espionage where Nick Fury has always reigned supreme. That means that Samuel L. Jackson gets to take the lead in an MCU project after 15 years of being part of the supporting cast and for an actor of Jackson’s prodigious talent, that means room to explore all the nooks and crannies that make Fury tick, promising an entertaining character study. On that promise, the first episode of Secret Invasion, “Resurrection”, delivers as Jackson’s endless well of charisma floods every scene. However, bogged down at times by exposition and filled with too few thrilling moments, “Resurrection” feels like a disappointing return to Disney Plus following a nearly year-long wait.

It’s clear Jackson is having the time of his MCU life in the space he’s given to explore Nick Fury in Secret Invasion. It’s also made clear–nearly excruciatingly painfully clear at times–that this isn’t the Fury fans remember from before because, in case you missed it, he’s just never been the same since Thanos. If you missed it the first time, no sweat, the writer’s room had you covered making sure that Ben Mendelsohn, Olivia Colman and Cobie Smulders all let the audience know that this Nick isn’t that Nick. And in case them telling him didn’t catch your ear, Killian Scott‘s Pagon–possibly the most useless character in MCU history (everything he did could have been done offscreen to no detriment to the story)–tell’s the series’ big bad Gravik all about Fury’s downfall. Obviously, this is an incredibly heavy-handed setup for the reveal, somewhere down the road, that Nick Fury is back, mother fuckers, but a little more show and a lot less tell would have been appreciated. That aside, whether he’s sharing a remorseful scene with Mendelsohn‘s Talos, trading barbs with Colman’s absolutely delightful Sonya Falsworth or reconnecting with his closest ally in Smulders‘ Maria Hill, Jackson‘s star is on its full, brilliant display throughout the episode…and he’s only just getting started.

(L-R): Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL.

As for the “paranoia”, it seems to be unfortunately kept at bay for most of the first episode of the series. The opening five minutes or so ahead of the credits tries its level best to get those juices flowing with Agent Prescod’s parody of Charlie Day‘s Pepe Silvia rant but it falls short of hitting those conspiratorial heights because it lacks any true intrigue. Nearly from the moment Martin Freeman‘s Everett Ross enters the room, it seems all too clear he’s been simmed by a Skrull. Lack of intrigue aside, those opening moments do nicely lay out the plan in place by Kingsley Ben-Adir‘s Gravik and make it clear that Fury isn’t just returning to Earth, he’s returning to Earth at the beginning of a war…and war means casualties.

Casualties there were in the episode’s closing moments as hundreds of innocent Russian men, women and children were killed by the bombs detonated by Gravik before he dealt Fury one more blow by killing Maria Hill…and no death has felt flatter than hers. While it’s obviously supposed to help Fury recapture his lost mojo and return him to his pre-Blip form, it has little to no impact with the audience. While Hill is a major player in the comics, she’s hardly been tertiary in the MCU with her last big action coming in Captain America: The Winter Solider and you can bet that a significant chunk of the audience tuning in to watch Secret Invasion has either never seen that 2014 film or hasn’t seen it in quite some time. That’s the increasingly unbearable weight of the massive volume of projects in Marvel’s shared cinematic universe; anyone other than the hardest of hardcore fans just doesn’t really know why Hill is supposed to matter. It’s clear that the audience is supposed to feel bad; it’s just not really clear why because there’s no deep connection to the character.

(L-R): Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury and Ben Mendelsohn as Talos in Marvel Studios’ SECRET INVASION, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Des Willie. © 2023 MARVEL.

As fans will discover in Episode 2, much of Episode 1 could have ended up on the cutting room floor. The pace picks up nicely in the next episode, specifically surrounding the Skrulls’ plans to take over Earth. However, “Resurrection” does make the Skrulls threatening enough and does so in a very modern way. To be sure, there’s plenty of hatred in the real world and the alien Skrulls take full advantage of this in Secret Invasion, posing as members of any number of terrorist cells and setting off enough chaos to bring the world to the brink of World War III. The episode doesn’t reveal the entirety of their plan, which they hatch from the safety of an abandoned nuclear reactor outside of Moscow, but it provides enough of a heads-up that things are headed in a bad direction. As bad guy lairs go, an abandoned nuclear power plant is a new twist that even a Bond villain could be envious of; however, despite their explained immunity to radioactivity, couldn’t the Skrulls just be easily tracked with some sort of modified Geiger counter?

A little light on the paranoia and a lot light on the action, “Resurrection” is a less-than-thrilling Lazarus act for the MCU on Disney Plus. Fortunately, however, its cast, led by Jackson, makes it entertaining enough for one sitting despite the heavy-handedness of the writers’ room. While that feels almost inescapable at this point, especially as they continue to try to rake in new fans, it’s going to continue to be a topic of discussion and debate and a point of frustration for those who have been along for the entire ride.

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