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Secret Invasion

TELEVISION | Marvel delivers an enjoyable spy thriller that delves into questions surrounding race relations

Des Willie/Marvel

<em>Secret Invasion</em>
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➤ Rated TV-14
➤ Disney+

It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Samuel L. Jackson in the role of Nick Fury—the character went into semi-retirement—but Secret Invasion brings the spymaster back to the Marvel Cinematic Universe for an espionage thriller where things, and people, aren’t what they seem.

Earth faces a threat from shapeshifting aliens called Skrulls. Their home-world was destroyed in a galactic war, and the Skrull remnant became wandering refugees with many finding their way to Earth where they hide among us. After 30 years of waiting to find a new home-world, some of the Skrulls decide they’d rather just take Earth, exterminating its human population.

Nick Fury, along with his loyal Skrull friend Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), must uncover an alien conspiracy that has infiltrated the highest levels of world leadership. Following the time-honored spy-genre trope, Fury can’t even trust his own government, so he’ll have to save the world himself.

This storyline follows the events of 2019’s Captain Marvel, but fear not, you don’t need to go back and watch that awful movie to understand what’s going on. The series doesn’t presume much background knowledge about the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

As a sci-fi spy thriller, Secret Invasion is fairly successful. When the enemy can assume any face it wants, the audience never feels comfortable, suspecting every interaction could be a trap. That tension is essential for the genre. It also helps that much of the series is set in Russia and London, two classic spy-movie locations. Despite having characters who can assume any form they want, the plot itself is pretty straightforward. It’s too bad we don’t actually see much spycraft from the MCU’s legendary spy.

Jackson is in his mid-70s, and his Nick Fury has obviously seen better days. Instead of working out a plan to stay three steps ahead of his adversary, Fury spends most of his time processing his feelings and bickering with his friends.

We also get scenes in which Fury vents frustration over racial injustice. At one point, he recalls having lived through segregation, and at another he says he wrested power from mediocre white men—his interlocutor retorts that that’s no reason to hand power to mediocre black men.

These ruminations on the black experience in America feel more natural than the forced commentary on race relations we got in Marvel’s The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. This time, it’s a little more personal and a little less preachy, and it complements the show’s central premise about an alien race of outsiders arguing about the best way to become insiders in their new home. Do you keep your head down and blend in? Or do you assert your rights through violence? Is there a third way?

Secret Invasion is one of Marvel’s better Disney+ shows, but as with the Star Wars series Andor, the story would be better as a standalone series rather than being shoehorned into a pre-branded universe.

Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD’s arts and culture editor. He is a graduate of the World Journalism Institute, the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University and resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.



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