This review contains spoilers
In the second episode of Marvel’s Secret Invasion, “Promises”, we take a trip down memory lane to the 1990s, where a painstakingly de-aged Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) indoctrinates the refugee Skrulls he helped rescue from the Kree into being helpful little human-presenting foot soldiers. It’s nauseating! We know Nick isn’t perfect and how manipulative he can be, but it seems like this series really wants to expose more of what he’s been capable of over the years to get the job done.
We meet a younger version of Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and see that he is beginning to form a connection with Talos’ daughter, G’iah (Emilia Clarke). Unlike G’iah, Gravik is an orphan, and Nick initially pushes back on recruiting a child soldier to his cause, but it doesn’t take much to convince him. He promises the gathered Skrulls that if they agree to do his dangerous spy stuff, he and Carol Danvers will find them a new home. They’re so grateful, traumatized, and lost that they’ll do just about anything to make him happy. I’ve never hated Nick Fury before, but this episode gives me more than enough reason to.
Back in the present day, Nick is facing the consequences of his actions. Maria is dead, and Gravik’s Skrull faction have blown a lot of people to bits in Russia. Sonya’s men are already there on the ground, and they pick up a Skrull henchman for her to torture some information out of in a later scene that shows just how ruthless she is. It’s not hard to see why she and Nick get along so well! Honestly, I would happily watch Olivia Colman chatter away on screen all day, even if she is being a bit of a James Bond villain to a random alien. One thing I noticed last week was that in the gloomy color palette of Secret Invasion, Colman’s Sonya really stood out visually in her bright red pantsuit. Much like those creatures in nature whose pretty colors warn us of significant danger, so does her wardrobe.
Meanwhile, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) finally gives us some information that makes the plot of the show make a lot more sense: there isn’t just a small group of Skrulls on Earth anymore. He ended up summoning a MILLION of them to our planet to avoid their annihilation, figuring it was safer for them here than out there in a dangerous galaxy. So, we are dealing with a LOT of shapeshifters at this point, and you can bet that most of them would rather start living out in the open than hiding behind a human face. And with Nick angrily shooting down the mere idea of their species peacefully co-existing here, Gravik’s deal has to be looking mighty tempting right about now. Luckily, they seem to have G’iah on the inside, though the show is currently a little reticent to confirm she’s working as a double agent.
The gravity of Gravik’s simmering rage against Nick and the rest of humanity starts to unfold in this episode, with a blistering performance by Ben-Adir underscoring the threat. Gravik is cold, calculating, and now a Skrull general, nominated by a powerful council that includes Skrulls posing as world leaders. He really hates us, and has fair enough reason to feel that way. Gravik also seems to be hugely interested in creating Super Skrulls as part of his nefarious plans, and we get a few surprising MCU easter eggs when it’s revealed that his chief scientist is using Groot, Frost Beast, and Cull Obsidian DNA, along with Maya Hansen and Aldrich Killian’s Extremis tech from Iron Man 3, to make it all happen. As an Iron Man 3 fan (there are tens of us!) I was hyped to see Extremis back in the mix again.
But episode 2’s major twist is that Nick Fury is secretly married to one of Talos’ most trusted Skrulls, Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard)! Imagine hearing the news that you’ll be making out with the legendary Sam Jackson on screen, then realizing that you gotta do it passionately through an extremely fake-ass lookin’ beard! That’s showbusiness, folks. But, in all seriousness, though I love this romance for Nick and Priscilla, I would really like to know how she’s been able to stomach it, given that Nick has completely failed to find her people a new planet in the last 30 years. I’m interested to find out more about their relationship, hopefully during next week’s episode.
Overall, “Promises” was a slight step up from the premiere of Secret Invasion. Much of the show’s themes work better in the context of the past and the looming threat of the future, but as we’re still languishing a little in the series’ slow burn approach, it feels like the episode coasted along somewhat. I appreciated the intimate scenes between Nick and Talos, and Nick and Rhodey (Don Cheadle), but Nick is currently a narrative pawn flitting between bits of exposition-y MCU plot, and if he’s often been here on Earth with his Skrull wife and not festering on SABER for as long as we thought, what are we supposed to make of his ignorance?
It’s difficult to gauge how the jaded and complex relationship between Skrull and man can be salvaged, or what other twists might be in store, as Marvel tends to make the third and fifth episodes of these series the ones with the biggest revelations. The only prediction I have currently is that Rhodey (Don Cheadle) and/or the new President of the United States will be revealed as a Skrull (Rhodey just didn’t seem like himself at he and Nick’s tense meeting), but if you have any thoughts about what other secrets the show might be hiding, let me know in the comments!