In the era of post-truth, where privacy is a commodity up for sale, information is simultaneously valuable and unreliable. Adding to that a mechanism that can bypass the most stringent scrutiny to circulate fabricated narratives, the very real threat of man-made global catastrophe might seem imminent. MCU’s latest entry released on Disney+, Secret Invasion, adapted from the source comic series of the same name, examines this scenario in an almost uncharacteristically grounded manner, which feels like a breath of fresh air after the unnecessary levity introduced throughout the over-the-top nature of previous storytelling phases.
In Marvel Comics, Secret Invasion holds a special place as one of the most important narratives dealing with issues of political unrest, identity crisis, general mistrust, and propaganda—issues that couldn’t be more relevant at this given point in time. To make the live-action adaptation even more intriguing, in the Disney+ series, superheroic shenanigans have taken a backseat as the self-contained story revolves around the espionage theme centered around hard-headed characters like Nick Fury. The pilot episode of the series does a good job of introducing key characters, delving into the situation regarding the shapeshifting aliens known as Skrulls, and presenting very real and tangible stakes, all the while maintaining a grim tone that might remind viewers of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and leaving enough questions to ponder upon for the upcoming ones.
An Air Of Mistrust: What Brings Agent Ross To Russia?
At the beginning of the pilot episode, viewers are taken to present-day Moscow, where former C.I.A. Agent Everett Ross meets with Agent Prescod, who reveals his suspicions about a heinous conspiracy on a global scale taking place under the radar that involves the immigrant alien species Skrull. For context, the shapeshifting aliens, the Skrull, had taken refuge on Earth thirty years ago after Captain Marvel and Nick Fury made an agreement with the Skrull leader Talos about providing them with a habitable planet of their own. However, Prescod believes that the Skrulls have been involved in a recent chain of terrorist attacks across the world by using their shapeshifting abilities for nefarious purposes, and he wants Ross to ask Nick Fury to attend to the matter. Nick Fury is on a deep space mission on the S.A.B.E.R. space station, strengthening Earth’s aerospace defenses, and Ross states he cannot ask him to come back to Earth unless Prescod can present any substantial proof.
Prescod shows Ross certain schematics he has managed to come across, which indicate an upcoming attack so severe that it may plunge the world into global warfare. However, the details about the schematics aren’t revealed as Prescod attacks Ross on the suspicion that he might be a Skrull too, and Ross shoots him to death in self-defense. Taking the schematics with him, Ross contacts former S.H.I.E.L.D. commander and Nick Fury’s associate, Maria Hill, for extraction and notices that he is being followed by a Russian spy. The chase soon intensifies, which results in Ross falling off a building right before Agent Hill intercepts him and his follower. The follower turns out to be Talos, the former Skrull leader in disguise, and as Ross breathes his last, it turns out a Skrull was impersonating him. Answering Agent Hill’s question, Talos says the Skrull is not associated with him but rather is one of ‘them.’ This dichotomy of ‘us’ and ‘them’ will thematically influence the series from this moment on, as highlighted by the opening sequence.
Fury’s Return To Earth: What Is The Skrull Conspiracy?
The gravity of the situation leads former S.H.I.E.L.D. director and founder of the Avengers initiative, Nick Fury, to return to Earth. After meeting with Agent Hill and having an initial meet and greet with Talos, Fury is informed about the situation. Talos brings him up to speed about how he was evicted from the Skrull council, as his and Fury’s inability to find a suitable home for the Skrulls was seen as a failure. Talos’ daughter G’iah has gone on her own, considering her father’s pacifist approach a failure, and his wife Soren has also passed away. After the ‘Blip,’ Fury became increasingly disenchanted and started to spend less time on down-to-earth activities, which resulted in Talos’ noble approach of coexisting with humans being seen as a weakness by the Skrull council. Using the frustrated minds of displaced Skrulls to his advantage, a Skrull general, Gravik, rose through the ranks of the council and gathered his forces in Russia. Unlike humans, Skrulls are immune to radioactive substances, and accordingly, Gravik and his crew have been stationed in abandoned nuclear plants in Russia at off-record sites that are basically untraceable.
This is the point where the schematics that Prescod came across are delineated in detail. Under Gravik’s leadership, the shapeshifting Skrulls have formed a radical terrorist organization that they are using as a front, named ‘Americans Against Russia,’ and are planning a bombing that will initiate a war between the two countries. Their plan is already in effect, as the same day Prescod died, a weapon cache was stolen from a black market site in Kazakhstan, which is speculated to contain the components to create such bombs. At the Oval Office, U.S.A. President Ritson is informed by Colonel James Rhodes about Nick Fury abandoning the S.A.B.E.R. space station, and encrypted communication between him and Agent Hill is uncovered.
Fury gets himself abducted to meet with his old associate Sonya Falsworth, an MI6 agent stationed in Moscow, and inquires about possible leads regarding the location of a stolen weapon cache, to no avail. Fury proposes an alliance, but Sonya is convinced that Fury lost his mettle long ago and considers that he should have stuck with his deep space mission, which would have suited him better in his aging state, instead of taking control of the chaotic situation on the ground. Fury takes his leave but secretly implants a surveillance device in Sonya’s office.
A New World: Does G’iah Come Around?
The next sequence takes place 300 kilometers southwest of Moscow at an abandoned nuclear plant where Gravik has stationed almost 500 Skrulls, naming the colony New Skrullos. A seemingly lost Skrull arrives at the gates of the colony, and G’iah, who is working as one of Gravik’s associates, welcomes him into their new home. Under Gravik’s leadership, the Skrulls are trying to adopt a self-sustaining lifestyle, but the hidden truth is far from benign.
As G’iah goes to one of Gravik’s secretive facilities, it is shown that Skrull warriors are being trained to impersonate the appearance and minds of captive human beings, essentially to infiltrate the bureaucracies across the world to fulfill Gravik’s heinous plans of taking control of Earth for the Skrulls. Later, Gravik assigns G’iah a mission to bring the shipment of bombs from Moscow to a Chechen rebel named Vasily Poprishchin, who has the bombs crafted.
Accessing the intel of Sonya (who has correctly identified the possible bombmaker) through the surveillance device, Fury, Talos, and Hill go to intercept the meeting between Vasily and Gravik’s operatives. However, before Fury and Talos’ arrival, G’iah manages to complete the exchange and gets followed by Agent Hill. Fury and Talos interrogate bombmaker Vasily, and actor Samuel L. Jackson’s mannerisms as Fury during this sequence will totally remind viewers of the iconic interrogation scene of Pulp Fiction. Vasily turns out to be a Skrull as well, leading to Talos engaging in a fight with him. Seeing Talos being beaten, Fury cuts the fight short by shooting the Skrull operative to death.
Talos chases Gravik’s operative by rushing to Hill’s location and gets shocked to see the operative is his daughter, G’iah. Talos tries to reason with his daughter, to no avail and informs her about her mother’s demise. G’iah is shaken after hearing the news but continues with Gravik’s plan anyway and delivers the shipment.
As Agent Hill and Fury discuss the latter’s modus operandi regarding the situation, Hill expresses her concerns about Fury not being up for the task. After the events of Thanos’ Snap, Fury isn’t his old self anymore. Plagued by insecurity, self-doubt, and thoughts of his inability to deal with something so out of his league, the events of Thanos’ Snap pushed Fury into a desperate situation, resulting in his distancing himself from Earthly affairs. Hill states that unless Fury can bring his A-game back, lives are at risk.
Later, G’iah has a change of heart after learning from her father that Gravik and his crew might be associated with Soren’s death and meets with Talos secretively. Talos reveals to her that Gravik is the reason for her mother’s death and tries to appeal to her good senses to learn about the planned attack. G’iah reveals that the bombing is about to take place the next day at Vossoyedineniye Square, which will be populated by masses during the celebration of Unity Day. Three couriers, including her, will carry the bombs, and she will mark the bags with infrared spray to allow easier detection. Before taking her leave, G’iah mentions that Gravik knows that Talos and others will be there as well.
Did Gravik Just Initiate A World War?
As planned, the next day, Fury, Talos, and Hill appear at the location and, using their infrared detection lenses, identify the couriers. However, all three couriers appear to be decoys, and Gravik himself distracts Nick Fury by using his shapeshifting skills to mingle among the crowd. Fury holds Gravik at gunpoint, but the latter detonates three bombs at the same moment, resulting in massive casualties. Fury (Gravik in disguise) regroups with Agent Hill, only to shoot her to death as it is revealed that Gravik is once again using his impersonation skills for brutal means. With his job done, Gravik disappears amidst the chaotic situation. As Maria Hill breathes her last in Fury’s (the real one) arms, she states something about it being him, not her—whether that signals another encrypted message addressed to her former boss or the last-minute confusion during her death remains unknown. As the episode ends, we see someone grabbing Fury off the scene, while an overhead shot shows Agent Hill’s lifeless body lying in the square.
The first episode of Secret Invasion ended with the same strength it began with and raised a number of questions that will ache viewers, until the next one is released. The actions of Gravik and his crew using the front of an American radical group will essentially result in a World War II-scale conflict between two superpowers, and even if it is somehow averted, the Skrull infiltrating ranks among world governments will ensure the course remains unchanged. With the capacity of Skrull infiltration being ever so expansive, we are left to wonder whether the chief protagonist of the series, Fury himself, is still being impersonated by a Skrull or not. With the MCU being so sprawled out, an in-continuity error also crops up, as this situation has already escalated into a global catastrophe, and still, we aren’t going to see the heavy-hitters, the superpowered ones, getting involved solely due to conviction reasons. However, shifting alliances and unpredictable consequences will follow the rest of the episodes, as the series will have a massive effect on the MCU’s political narrative by the end of the season.