This review contains spoilers
As I sit here staring into the middle distance, wondering where to start unpacking the damp squib that was the Secret Invasion finale, it’s hard to ask myself anything but “what the hell happened here?” Secret Invasion should have theoretically been an exciting Marvel event spun from a notoriously flawed comic, much like Civil War, so it feels like there was a lot of scope for invention and inspiration; sketching outside the lines of the intriguing concept that Skrulls have replaced some of the key Avengers and have been planning to take over as the dominant species on Earth.
Instead, what we got was one angry Skrull who wanted to eradicate humanity by making us nuke each other, while he himself became a Super Skrull by getting juiced up on the Avengers’ DNA. The key people replaced? Rhodey (Don Cheadle), who has some political sway but no actual physical power, and Everett K. Ross (Martin Freeman), the MCU’s most divorced man. Our hero? A tired man who has failed his wife and an entire desperate species for reasons still unknown. Nothing about any of that is more creative or interesting than Marvel’s comic book thought-starter, and the central themes of it, both politically and dramatically, were mishandled throughout the show’s run regardless.
In “Home”, Nick (Samuel L. Jackson) takes a vial of the Avengers: Endgame battlefield DNA samples to Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) in Russia. Except it’s not Nick, it’s G’iah (Emilia Clarke), of course. The two have a conversation where “Nick” tells Gravik that he tried to look for a home for the Skrulls but it didn’t work out, and it was easier to just try and protect them from other humans here on Earth. How much truth there is to that explanation – and it’s one we’ve been keen to hear for the last six weeks – remains unclear, because it’s not even Nick offering it us, so it’s rendered to be utter bollocks the second G’iah is revealed as a Nick imposter. We must simply assume that this is what G’iah has to tell herself in order to keep fighting the good fight.
As their confrontation progresses, though, G’iah and Gravik end up get pumped full of various Endgame DNA bits and bobs by the Super Skrull machine, becoming two of the most powerful beings in the galaxy, so it’s time for the inevitable Marvel CGI battle to commence.
The effects are really ropey, and the outcome doesn’t pack a punch because we never really spent that much time getting to know G’iah. We don’t understand why she would quickly become the victor over Gravik, or even whether her winning the fight is a good thing, given that she isn’t particularly interested in taking a peaceful path like Talos. It feels hugely underwhelming, and G’iah’s subsequent uneasy agreement with Sonya (Olivia Colman) to be used as an asset to humanity going forward rings false. Girl, you have Captain Marvel space survival powers now, did you know you can just leave all this nonsense behind?
In the end, CGI Gravik was dispatched without too much trouble. We know that he was just about to start a nuclear war, but all the gravitas in the world from Ben-Adir couldn’t make those high stakes seem believable, or his villain that interesting. It’s a shame that he only got a few scenes to show how tremendous he is in this series. I suspect that his Skrull villain will unfortunately be remembered as a bit of a flop, despite his merciless killing of Maria Hill and Talos. Hopefully, his involvement in Secret Invasion (and Barbie) already got him booked for some decent gigs in the future.
Meanwhile, the show itself deals with the future the only way the MCU knows how: sweeping the issues under the rug with throwaway lines like “we just conveniently learned that the Kree want peace talks now” or whatever. I guess we don’t have to worry about the Skrull invasion anymore, that can be dealt with offscreen. The peace talks between the two races went well and the Skrulls left, they can say. Okay, I guess. Sigh.
There aren’t even any wild finale twists to discuss here. Anyone hoping for some Skrull storage warehouse reveals went hungry. Rhodey and Ross were fine. I’m sure the Super Skrull machine can be chucked in the ocean next to that giant Celestial corpse from Eternals, never to be bothered with again beyond a quick quip or Easter egg. I can’t say I’m looking forward to any future Super Skrull appearances by Clarke, either. She’s a fine actress but if that dodgy CGI punch-up was anything to go by, adding her myriad superpowers to future team-ups will be a confusing eyesore, and we’re already maxed out on those.
I don’t want to spend this finale review moaning the entire time, so I’m trying to pick through the nonsense and find the good in Secret Invasion. Olivia Colman was typically brilliant, always is. Jackson and Cheadle tried their best to make these scripts interesting with committed performances, always do. Visually, excluding the CGI, it was certainly the best-looking of the MCU shows to date, with excellent lighting and some interesting design choices. It did attempt to explore some political and sociological ideas about the plight of refugees and the way we respond to people we consider to be outsiders, with “attempt” being the operative word. A failed attempt is still an attempt.
But those things weren’t enough to elevate this series to the realms of passable, let alone good, and I’m left asking myself just one final question: would I have even continued watching Secret Invasion beyond the premiere if I wasn’t a card-carrying “to the bitter end” Marvel enjoyer? Would you?