The best thing that can be said about Marvel’s Secret Invasion is that there is an attempt at something new, something different. Samuel L. Jackson was overdue this exact show, a showcase for his immense talent, and for the type of character he’s built in Nick Fury. If we’re being honest, the MCU also needed what Secret Invasion attempts to bring to the table, not just a different way of telling a story – but a different story altogether, with different players.
But it’s hard for a show like Secret Invasion, despite its good intentions, to completely divorce itself from the issues of the larger universe it inhabits. In many respects, the show does break away from stereotypes in a welcome way, but sadly, in the most infuriating respect, it stays very much in line with recent MCU trends. For some, that might be enough to write the show off for good. Having only watched two episodes, it’s impossible to know if the show can deliver a last minute twist to make me (us) forgive and forget, but considering how many times we’ve been here before, and how many times that has happened (never), I’m not exactly holding my breath.
Others, however, might find the character-driven, slow-burn pace of the show quite to their liking. Samuel L. Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn are predictably great and believable – but it’s really the women who manage to stand out in a show that is supposed to be about something other than them. Olivia Colman is, quite possibly, having more fun than anyone has ever had in a Marvel production, and it shows. Cobie Smulders’ Maria Hill has never gotten enough credit for years in the MCU, and Secret Invasion at least attempts to correct that slight.
And then there’s Emilia Clarke – a commanding actress even without a dragon at her side. There’s so much of her performance in Secret Invasion that is purposefully understated, and yet when she’s on screen, it’s hard to look away from what she’s giving, and what she’s holding back for later.
Nick Fury and Talos might tie it all together, but it’s the female characters around them that push the story forward, that make it all mean something.
This all adds up to something the MCU has always been consistently good at – amassing a great cast. The rest is where it all gets a little shaky. The MCU shows have demonstrated an overreliance on the idea of making a long movie and breaking it up into x number of parts, in a way that doesn’t always work. And though, yes, this time the style is different, and the formula has way fewer superheroes, there are still a lot of tricks we recognize in this.
One might even say too many. And even if we might, at some point, have enjoyed some of them, we’re all ready for new ones.
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Marvel’s Secret Invasion premieres Wednesday, June 21st on Disney+.