REVIEW: Secret Invasion – Season 1, Episode 1, “Resurrection”

Remember when we used to expect Marvel movies to be good? It wasn’t all that long ago, but it feels like a lifetime since we entered a theater or, almost as often these days, started a new TV show without trepidation and with the anticipation of a fun story with characters we either knew we loved or were about to fall in love with. Those days are gone, but that makes something like Secret Invasion special. At least for its first episode, “Resurrection,” it’s great, a fun, tense, intriguing spy thriller set in the Marvel Universe and featuring aliens instead of commies or terrorists. It has some problems – mainly one of the bigger ones plaguing the MCU recently – but to nowhere near the extent of Marvel’s latest productions.

A faction of Skrulls is impersonating high-ranking government officials across the world, hoping to replace humanity and find a permanent home for their species. Nick Fury, who’s been in space helping to set up the space station SABER, returns to Earth and reunites with old allies to stop the evil Skrulls. But is he still up to defending the Earth?

If you’re a comic book fan, the first thing you should know before going into Secret Invasion is that it’s very different from the Marvel Comics story it adapts. The comic involved the Skrulls replacing and impersonating Marvel superheroes in their attempted conquest of Earth, while the TV series leaves out the heroes and focuses on regular humans, both as the main characters and as secret Skrulls. I understand if this turns people off, but I love it. First, at this point in the MCU, the change is necessary because there are almost no good heroes anymore. I would care if T’Challa’s Black Panther was replaced by a Skrull, but I don’t care if Shuri is; ditto Shang-Chi, Star-Spangled Falcon, She-Hulk, and Ironheart, as opposed to Captain America, Iron Man, and Black Widow. This doesn’t work unless the heavyweights are around, and there aren’t enough of them anymore, with the ones that are left being pale imitations of their former heroic selves.

Moreover, I love this because I love spy movies and books, and Secret Invasion is shaping up to be a Marvel spy story even more than Captain America: The Winter Soldier was. That was a Robert Ludlum spy story, with lots of action and a secret group that had infiltrated the government with Nazi origins. (If you read some of his books, you’ll be amazed at how closely that film follows the beats of a typical Ludlum novel.) Secret Invasion has elements of that – you can’t trust anyone, the heroes work outside official channels, and while the action is sparse, it does happen. But it’s got some John le Carré, some Len Deighton, and some Ken Follett as well. I eat that stuff up, and so far, it’s being executed very well. I haven’t read or watched any other reviews yet – I never do till mine is published – but I have noticed headlines and tweets indicating that people don’t like it and think it’s boring. I suspect the spy trappings are why, and I get it; spy stories, especially the more grounded ones (albeit with aliens and some sci-fi tech), aren’t for everybody. But they’re for me, and so is Secret Invasion so far.

With that preamble out of the way, let’s get into specifics.


Secret Invasion

“Resurrection” begins by perfectly setting up the kind of series we’re in for with Secret Invasion. Everett Ross (Martin Freeman), our lovable CIA agent and Wakanda ally, makes his way through back alleys to a station house in Russia, where a seemingly paranoid colleague tells him about a series of terrorist attacks he believes were coordinated. A faction of Skrulls is intent on worldwide conquest, and they’ve begun by infiltrating governments and staging bombings. Ross seems reluctant to believe him but eventually offers to take the man’s evidence to his superiors. Something is fishy – both to the other agent and to us – and a struggle ensues, during which Ross shoots the other man. Immediately, we’re asking questions; is Ross a Skrull, or did he kill his colleague in self-defense? We know Ross is a good guy, but the Skrulls can look like anyone, and Ross is acting strangely.

Of course, Ross is a Skrull, and when Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) sees the dead body of his alien impersonator, she calls in Nick Fury. What follows is the beginning of a spy adventure, with tradecraft, jargon, fights, chases, tails, surveillance, and lots of liquor. Not since The Winter Soldier has the MCU capitalized on Tony Stark’s description of Fury from The Avengers. (“Cap, he’s the spy. His secrets have secrets.”) Secret Invasion allows us to see Nick Fury in action, stripped of his resources and backing, on the street with a couple of friends as they investigate and attempt to identify and stop a threat to humanity. We meet old friends – or frenemies, more accurately – of Fury’s, watch him navigate foreign territory, and see his skills in the field.

Secret Invasion

But character is at the center of the story, and for Nick Fury, that means questioning whether he’s still got the drive and the ability to be the spy the world needs. This isn’t just about him being older, either; it’s tied to the Snap (I’m not calling it the damn Blip, Marvel!) and how he hasn’t been the same since he returned after Thanos vaporized him. Maria Hill accuses him of hiding in space, losing his instincts, and being a liability. And she’s not alone; Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), his Skrull buddy, accuses him of abandoning them after the Snap. Later, he’s lifted off the streets of Moscow by agents working for Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman), a British spymaster right out of le Carré. (Colman played an actual le Carré spymaster in the miniseries The Night Manager, which I wholeheartedly recommend; I do not think this is a coincidence, especially because she refers to British Intelligence as “the Circus.”) Falsworth also wonders if Fury is the same man she once knew, the guy who never would have let some punks kidnap him, and declines to let him join her mission to stop the Skrulls.

But Fury has answers to these questions. While in Falsworth’s office, he plants a listening device so he can hear her intelligence on the Skrulls. (This is a nice nod to Tony Stark doing the same thing to him in The Avengers.) And he’s doing important work with SABER, helping the Skrulls find their way to Earth. But there’s doubt on his face, and Samuel L. Jackson plays this well; outwardly, he’s all charm and smiles, confident that he’s got this in the bag and nobody needs to worry. But glimmers of uncertainty reveal that, deep down, he’s not so sure; maybe he isn’t up to this, and he’s doing more harm than good by leading the charge against the Skrulls. But after the ending (which provides Secret Invasion with something Marvel’s been lacking recently: stakes), he’s the only guy left, so he’s going to have to pull it together and be the man he once was, or we’re all doomed.

Secret Invasion

All around, the performances are excellent, with the best MCU work so far from Cobie Smulders and Ben Mendelsohn. I’ve hated what Marvel had done with the Skrulls in their movies, and Ben Mendelsohn’s Talos has been the epitome of that, a goofy sitcom dad begging the audience to love him. In Secret Invasion, Talos is still a good guy, but he’s got much more of an edge, and you can finally see why he became a leader. He’s smart and resourceful, and he’s capable in a fight. He’s also dedicated to his people and those who helped them, like Earthlings. But more than that, he bleeds, and he’s got a personal stake in this story like a Follett hero, which comes through his daughter G’iah, played by Emilia Clarke. Clarke is excellent as well, and her relationship with Talos is complex, something she conveys through her various reactions to Talos and the evil Skrulls. Much like the rest of Secret Invasion, nothing is what it seems with G’iah. And Maria Hill has a bigger part in this one episode than she did in any of her other Marvel appearances, so she’s allowed to show more of her personality, particularly her friendship with Nick Fury. And even that changes a bit throughout “Resurrection;” she immediately calls him when she sees how bad the Skrull situation has gotten, but she ends up wondering if he should stand down and let her handle things when he shows signs of slipping. (And I won’t pretend it isn’t cool to see Daenerys Targaryen and Robin Scherbatsky throw down.)

As much as I love it, though, Secret Invasion isn’t perfect. While I liked the opening quite a bit and thought it set up the tone of the series well, it was obvious that Everett Ross was a Skrull. It would have been more shocking if Ross had just executed the guy and taken the intel instead of feigning friendliness. Yeah, it would have given away the farm earlier, but it would have been a genuine surprise. And while the tone is much more serious than anything Marvel has done in a long time, there’s still a little too much humor. Some of the one-liners are good, especially the Deightonesque irreverence, but some of it is a little too broad. I get that Fury’s affability is a mask for his doubts, but seeing Fury joke around that much is jarring. It isn’t a big deal yet, but I hope they got it out of their system with “Resurrection.” And the bad guys aren’t anything special as of now; G’iah is easily the best one, and she’s great, but her superiors are dull, with Kingsley Ben-Adir’s Gravik displaying none of the charisma you’d expect from a leader like him. I hope he’s just the front man, and there’s another, more powerful Skrull behind him (and I can take a guess who it might be).

Secret Invasion

“Resurrection” is a great first episode, and I love Secret Invasion so far. This could definitely take a turn into suck town at some point; we’re talking about modern Marvel here. But so far, I’m hooked, and I’m excited to see this miniseries play out.

Secret Invasion "Resurrection"

Plot - 8
Acting - 9
Progression - 9
Production Design - 8
Themes - 8



“Resurrection” introduces the tone and story of Secret Invasion well, and it acts as an exciting and intelligent spy thriller set in the Marvel Universe. The humor is just a bit too much, and the villains need to get better, but the acting is top-notch, and the spy trappings are a joy.

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