Secret Invasion – Episode 4
Secret Invasion tests the loyalties of various characters as Gravik makes a very bold move.
A persistent issue with this show is that it’s inconsistent. It’s full of great actors elevating material that is largely shallow. It’s a show about spies and subterfuge that often lacks subtext in the character interactions and the storytelling. It prioritises delivering shocking developments over coherent writing, making the whole thing difficult to invest in. It has consistently failed to establish the stakes and much of what is offered has little weight. This creates a confusing experience that features a lot of engaging scenes but is overall unsatisfying.
The previous episode ended with the shock development of Gravik discovering that G’iah is the mole within his insurgency and killing her as punishment for his betrayal. It will come as no surprise to most that she isn’t actually dead and has availed herself of the upgrade to Super-Skrull that Gravik has. It’s likely that Gravik believing that she’s dead will be used to her advantage at some point but the reveal of her survival and how she engineered it is underwhelming because of how predictable it is. Another issue is that this episode does very little with G’iah. She has one key scene and then disappears. It’s worth bearing in mind that only two episodes remain so time is rapidly running out to make G’iah a meaningful part of the show.
Her scene with Talos is engaging and packs a lot into very little time. Talos regrets putting her in that position but G’iah takes pride in her independence and insists that she did what she did by choice. This says a lot about the state of their relationship as G’iah has adapted to Talos’ failing as a father by forging her own path and taking responsibility for her own decisions. Providing information to Talos was her choice in service of what she believed to be right rather than something Talos made her down. This strongly suggests that she doesn’t recognise the father/daughter connection as being important in her life which contrasts with Talos’ desire to make things right.
One thing she needs is for Talos to commit to a plan and carry it out because Gravik has one and others are rallying behind him because they believe he can deliver a permanent home for their people. This is where G’iah’s lack of development becomes a problem as there isn’t a concrete sense of what she believes in so her actions aren’t backed up by a strong motivation. There’s a sense that she would prefer a peaceful approach and finds Gravik’s violent one distasteful, which means that allying with Talos is more in keeping with what she stands for. It’s a reasonable idea but the show hasn’t actually explored that because there has been a focus on G’iah being a mysterious player in the middle of the two sides of the conflict. This is the closest we get to meaningful coverage of her as a character but it’s very rushed and exists to service her interaction with Talos rather than organically develop her as a character.
Needing Talos to commit to a plan that offers a meaningful counter to the one Talos has is reasonable as she personifies the frustration felt by all Skrulls caused by the lack of delivery of a promised home. Talos’ plan is far less active than Gravik’s which only heightens her frustration as she is bursting to take action but there’s no clear direction to follow. Talos plans to stop Gravik somehow and make the President aware that he has allies among the Skrulls. He’s confident that the President will look favourably on this and grant all Skrulls asylum after seeing that they are a peaceful people. It’s in line with his previously established optimism and the faith he has in everyone to be their best selves. Talos believes that the Skrulls being their best selves will eventually lead to acceptance.
G’iah is understandably unconvinced and sees Talos as delusional for believing that Humans will come to accept people who are so different from them. It’s another example of the conflict between Talos’ optimism and the reality of the world surrounding him. Fury previously pointed out that Humans can’t even get along with each other so there’s very little hope of wide acceptance of a million alien refugees. G’iah’s point is that living on Earth will always mean hiding their true selves in order to blend in with people who aren’t willing to accept them. She asks him if he wants to live in his own skin and Talos states that he believes that will come in time if they continue to present their best selves but G’iah doesn’t see the world the way he does and grows more impatient with what she believes to be naivety on his part.
This is an interesting exchange because it acts as another challenge to Talos’ outlook. Evidence is mounting that there’s nothing to support his optimistic and idealistic stance on the situation as it currently is, though the counter to that argument is that nobody has even tried to do things his way. His friendship with Fury acts as a template for how things can be as he has been fully accepted by Fury for who he is so sees it as possible for the rest of Humanity to do the same, particularly when considering that Fury is one of the least trusting people on the planet. Even at that, it’s perhaps too optimistic on his part and there is mounting evidence that peaceful coexistence is a long way off if it’s even possible at all. The reality as it stands at present is that the Skrulls in their true form will be feared because Humanity isn’t ready for the kind of coexistence Talos wants so his idealism is currently misplaced because there’s nothing practical about it.
Fury’s marriage to Priscilla/Varra continues to be compelling. The previous episode played up the mystery of where her loyalties lie and this episode delivers a definitive answer on that. Her conversation with Skrull-Rhodey starts to clarify where she currently stands when he asks her to kill Fury. This shows that Gravik’s faction considers Fury to be a credible threat and thinks that his wife is the best person to take that threat off the table as he may not be expecting her to turn on him. Fury is still sharp enough to suspect that they will try to get to her through him as shown by him listening to the conversation. Priscilla/Varra reiterates her perception that Fury is a broken man since the blip and represents no threat to Gravik because he has lost everything that once made him formidable. She is saying this in an effort to protect him but it’s clear she believes what she says because she confronted Fury about the choices made since returning from the Blip and his lack of effectiveness. Skrull-Rhodey is merciless when delivering Priscilla/Varra the ultimatum of either killing Fury or being killed for refusing to carry out the instruction. It’s clear that Gravik doesn’t want to risk Fury getting in the way of his plan.
The resulting conversation between Fury and Priscilla/Varra is one of those scenes where excellent actors elevate the material they’re given. It’s also another example of delivering greater insight into Fury as a character and stripping away some of the mystery that has defined him through the entirety of the MCU. He admits to Priscilla/Varra that he considers their marriage to be the biggest mistake he ever made because it runs counter to every instinct he has. Fury has built his life on being enigmatic and operating from the shadows while leaving no footprints. Falling for someone and getting married is very much the opposite of that and he sees his marriage as a weakness that can be exploited. The point is proven by her being tasked with killing him because of their connection.
It says everything about the strength of his feelings for her that he ignored every instinct he has to pursue this relationship. He accepted that weakness because she is so important to him and now that the stakes have increased to the current degree he recognises that as a mistake but also admits that it’s a mistake he would make again even if he knew what the outcome would be. Their relationship is summarised by both being unwilling to kill the other before parting ways for now because being together is impossible as things currently stand.
This scene is strong because both actors convey a deep and complicated history that makes their relationship feel as lived in as it needs to in order for the emotional stakes of their exchange to land. Priscilla/Varra’s story about meeting a dying woman and assuming her form as well as her life is excellent. It’s a fascinating situation that makes great use of her shapeshifting ability. Skrulls have been shown to assume the lives of those they impersonate as a tactic to further Gravik’s plan. That’s a nefarious use of shapeshifting but Priscilla/Varra’s is a kindness as she is sparing parents the pain of losing their child by continuing a relationship with them. The morality is cleared up to some degree by Priscilla/Varra having consent to take the identity forward so it’s an identity she can call her own even if it’s a shared one.
The repetition of the poem introduced in the flashback brought into the present day nicely punctuates the weight of this relationship. Fury uses the poem to ask Priscilla/Varra if she got what she wanted and she replies that she did. Her desire was to “feel beloved on this Earth” and that was accomplished. There is an uncertainty that threatens to spoil this tender exchange when Priscilla/Varra asks Fury if he would have loved her had she been her true self rather than posing as Human and he answers with “guess we’ll never know”. It’s devastating but it’s also honest and is a grounded emotional example of the question of acceptance that is found elsewhere. Fury doesn’t know if he would fall for the Skrull not posing as Human just as Humanity are unlikely to accept the Skrulls co-existing as they are. It’s a strong note and feeds into the higher-level conflict.
Fury’s conversation with Skrull-Rhodey is strong and one of the few examples of subtext that can be found in this show. The subtext comes from Fury knowing about Skrull-Rhodey going in and baiting him to see how he’ll react. He talks about knowing there’s a mole close to the president and highlights how much he knows by stating that the mole is as close if not closer than they currently are. The expensive whiskey acts as an olive branch sending the message that Fury is willing to work with the Skrulls rather than against them but there has to be willingness on both sides. Skrull-Rhodey is understandably reluctant to take Fury at face value as evidenced by him mentioning the drink may be poisoned. Another offer Fury makes is to stop pursuing the Skrull angle if he gets his job back but it’s likely he knows that Skrull-Rhodey will never agree to that so he’s playing a very particular game when confronting him.
It has to do with Fury sizing up what he’s up against and figuring out what challenges may come his way. Skrull-Rhodey shows Fury the leverage he has over him. He shows him the video of Gravik posing as Fury shooting Maria Hill and promises not to release it as long as Fury backs off. This reinforces to Fury that the Skrulls have near-infinite resources and he is fighting an uphill battle to solve this problem. His plan is to plant a tracker on him; something that he freely admits as a joke in order to sell the idea that he is coming from a position of having no resources to speak of. It runs counter to Skrull-Rhodey considering him enough of a threat to have him killed as he fails to anticipate that Fury would have something up his sleeve. Of course, it’s also possible that he engineered Fury and Talos being involved in the climactic action sequence.
The climactic action sequence was very well executed. It’s in keeping with Gravik’s intention to turn different nations against one another by copying the tactics of a potential aggressor and leaving enough clues to point in that direction. His plan is to blame the Russians for the attack on the President with a very loud and obvious display of aggression. Fury and Talos are ready to intervene and Talos ends up revealing himself to all present which potentially feeds into his desire for his people to be seen as allies to Humanity. A Skrull saving the life of the president is in theory a powerful message to send but it’s still more than possible for Gravik to manipulate the messaging to support his campaign and have a War break out as a result of his manipulation. This is another episode where Gravik doesn’t receive much in the way of characterisation. His actions are unambiguous and what he wants is clear but the lack of development of Gravik as a person makes it difficult to understand his position. The debates are mostly had by other characters and the potential that does exist in Gravik’s background remains untapped.
Talos appears to give his life in pursuit of the goal of a peaceful resolution. It’s another attempt to shock the viewer with a death occurring in the closing moments of the episode. If he is actually dead then it leaves so much unresolved between him and G’iah which could be the basis for interesting content surrounding her. It’s nothing new but losing a parent without resolving the tension in the relationship is often fertile ground for compelling characterisation. The result of this could be Fury and G’iah motivated to fight on in Talos’ honour and attempt to achieve the peaceful resolution he wanted.
Two episodes remain but the show still lacks the necessary cohesion to be fully engaging. The scenes and moments analysed in this review were strong in their own way but the overall storytelling remains sloppy and unfocused. More should be made of the two conflicting ideologies within the Skrull population. Things happen without much supporting them and any engaging character works feels at odds with the story being told. It’s as if those making the show have two goals that don’t link to one another and have combined them despite that. There’s no sense of where the show is going and the manipulative shock deaths are beyond tiresome at this point.
An uneven episode that still fails to make the show feel cohesive but boasts some strong character interactions elevated by excellent performances.
- Talos and G’iah’s engaging interaction
- highlighting the pride G’iah takes in her independence
- challenging Talos’ blindly optimistic and idealistic outlook as well as the lack of a plan
- the complexity found in Fury’s relationship with Priscilla/Varra
- greater insight into Fury as a character with his admission that getting married was a mistake
- showing the depth of his feelings when he says he would do it all over again
- the actors conveying a deep and complicated history in their performances
- the repetition of the poem to punctuate their relationship
- Fury’s conversation with Skrull-Rhodey containing actual subtext
- the well-executed action sequence
- still failing to meaningfully characterise Gravik
- no sense of where the show is going
- the engaging character work being at odds with the story being told
- another manipulative shock ending
What did you think? Select your rating in the “User Review” box below
User Review( vote)
We’d love to know your thoughts on this and anything else you want to discuss. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter or just leave a comment in the comment section below. You’ll need an account for Disqus but it’s easy to set up. Don’t forget to share your rating in the “User Review” box.
If you want to chat with me directly, I’m also on Twitter