Secret Invasion – Episode 5

Jul 19, 2023 | Posted by in TV
Secret Invasion

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labour of the writers and actors currently on strike, the series being covered here wouldn’t exist.


Secret Invasion gears up for the finale by moving the pieces into place for a final confrontation and dealing with the emotional fallout of recent developments.

The only consistent thing about this show is that it’s frustrating. It contains all the elements to achieve greatness but never does. Individual scenes where great actors get to bounce off one another are engaging by themselves but the overall story is poorly told. Five episodes into a six-episode series there is no clear indication as to what the story actually is and there is a lack of meaningful stakes to latch onto. Things simply happen and characters talk as if they’re important but that importance never truly comes across. It’s far less than the sum of its parts and a waste of the talent involved.

Secret Invasion

Face off!

This episode is primarily a transitional one designed to set things up so that the finale can take place. Characters move around, demands are made, plans start to form and closure is achieved on past events. The aim is to push everything and everyone in a particular direction so that it all comes together for the final episode. Some of this is handled very well and some of it is very questionable in execution.

Gravik has been one of the biggest sources of frustration in this show as it has consistently failed to characterise him properly. He started off as being enraged with Fury’s failure to deliver on his promise to find the Skrulls a new home and has taken matters into his own hands in the absence of any action on Fury’s part. Other Skrulls follow him because they would like a home where they can be themselves rather than wearing the faces of others to blend into a planet full of people who would hate and fear them. All of this makes sense and forms the basis of a strong motivation for Gravik, particularly when considering his background as a spy recruited from childhood. His formative years were spent witnessing the worst of Humanity so it’s reasonable to assume that his perception of the entire species was coloured by what he experienced. This naturally flows to concluding that Humans don’t deserve the planet that they fail to take care of and working to render them extinct so the Skrulls can take over.

Secret Invasion

Is Gravik an approachable manager?

All the ingredients are there for a nuanced antagonist entirely justified in what he believes but the show never does anything with the character. He appears in various scenes and Kingsley Ben-Adir performs brilliantly in all of them but the character is never properly explored. Nothing is done with his connection to Fury and the resentment that has been cultivated over the years because of the unfulfilled promise and various other factors that would contribute to an antagonistic relationship. There is such a relationship because the show periodically tells us it exists but it only receives exploration on the most basic level.

Most concerning is that Gravik’s objective has now changed or, perhaps more accurately, been revealed. His main focus is on getting a hold of Avengers DNA so that he can add more powers to his arsenal. The suggestion is that his desire to claim Earth as a home for the Skrulls was a smokescreen that allowed him to gain followers that would do the necessary grunt work he couldn’t do alone.

This isn’t by itself a bad thing as leaders who don’t live up to their own ideals can be interesting but this sudden narrative shift is unearned. In a way, it clears up why the progression of the Human extinction/World domination plan has been inconsistently handled and there are prior hints that becoming super is a priority for Gravik but the shift lacks impact because Gravik is so ill-defined that practically anything he does is possible because there is very little character there.

Secret Invasion

The venue is important

Another thing that is unearned is his followers turning on him because they no longer trust that he’s fighting for the cause they followed him to achieve. This is set up by Gravik killing one follower who questions him and later being confronted about it. He justifies the act by stating that the person he killed failed them. It’s delivered calmly and purposefully as if Gravik is in full control of the situation and believes he has the loyalty of his followers. It’s another example of a great actor elevating the material. Kingsley Ben-Adir commands attention with his quietly confident performance as a contrast to the fear and uncertainty of his follower looking for an explanation.

It works as a scene because these elements are present in the acting but it also brings to mind that no baseline exists for Gravik’s relationship to his followers. In prior episodes, he managed to convince a council made up of other Skrulls in positions of influence to appoint him general and has given orders that have been followed without question but there’s no sense of how those he commands actually feel about him as a leader. Is he respected? Is he feared? Is there doubt that he can achieve what he has promised to achieve? There’s definitely something in there to be explored as he leads people who may rightfully be disillusioned after decades of not having a promise fulfilled. He is promising decisive action and if he is seen to not be delivering then loyalty could reasonably waver. For any of that to be possible, work would have to be put into characterising Gravik beyond the surface and establishing how his relationship with his followers functions. The show has done none of those things so his followers turning on him fails to be the shocking development it’s clearly supposed to be.

There are questions yet to be answered such as why Gravik is encouraging Raava/Rhodey to push the President into destroying new Skrullos. Fury talks about it being leverage and President Ritson is reluctant to give that order because it would almost certainly prompt the Russians to retaliate and start World War III. Raava/Rhodey states that a War is preferable to what the Skrulls have planned. One of the most glaring questions is why Gravik would be so willing to sacrifice so many of his people. Another is what destroying New Skrullos has to do with his plan. Raava/Rhodey has yet to be defined as a character so it’s also unclear why she is so loyal to Gravik and why she’s willing to help him wipe out so many of their own people. It seems like she fears him but the lack of objection to being an accessory to genocide committed against her own people stands out as needing more exploration than is being delivered. The lack of fleshed-out motivations in this show cripples so much of its storytelling. Raava exists as a shock reveal and the show is attempting to do something with her using the influence Rhodey enjoys to destabilise the world but as with lots of other things, there is nothing beneath the surface.

Secret Invasion

Nobody knows what the plan is any more

The episode isn’t without merit. G’iah is given considerable attention and it proves that the character should have been more of a fixture in previous episodes. The focus is on her reaction to Talos’ death and making sure he gets a respectful sendoff. She has three key scenes that are all excellent and give Emilia Clarke the freedom to show how capable she is as an actor. It’s essentially a three-act story that begins with her setting out to bury her father, continues with her achieving that and concludes with deciding her next steps.

Her first scene is shared with Fury and it’s very strong. It establishes that she’s angry because she feels that he father’s death will come to nothing. She laments that he died on a foreign planet on an anonymous road somewhere and won’t be remembered but Fury encourages her to allow herself to be paralysed by grief and find a way to make sure that Talos’ death matters rather than fading into the obscurity G’iah is convinced it will. Fury insists that she has the power to do something about that and needs to take action rather than wallow. He is almost paternal in this scene which makes sense considering his friendship with Talos but it’s one of those things that the actors bring in the moment that would have been better if supported by actual groundwork.

One interesting detail is the significance of the location as a haven for immigrants in the past and somewhere that Fury feels personally connected to for that reason. It brings in the immigration angle that has been largely forgotten about since early in the series and possibly serves as a promise to revisit that in the final episode. The messaging has been muddled at best and offensive at worst so it’s unlikely that any further exploration of the idea will make it any better but it’s undeniably part of the setup and should be more of a fixture than it has been. Fury’s line “The path of struggle is steep” is poignant because he understands what it means on a very primal level and feels stronger when in the location because of what it represents

Secret Invasion

Saying goodbye

G’iah’s second scene is Talos’ funeral. It’s a moving and tender moment that adds depth to the Skrulls as a species by displaying an example of their culture. They are a race of people with their own customs, traditions and identity that deserves to be preserved. G’iah wants to honour her father but it also epitomises what she’s fighting for. One thing that has been made clear about her is that she doesn’t want to hide and wants to be her authentic self in a place she can call home. It’s what most Skrulls want and the funeral custom is an example of one of the many cultural intricacies that shouldn’t be lost.

Her third scene fleshes out her feelings about the loss of her father. She talks about their final conversation and how she regrets the final words she said; words that can now no longer be taken back. This adds to her grief because there is tension that will forever be unresolved and that’s a difficult thing to process. Priscilla/Varra tells her that those words were never intended to be the last words spoken between them as a prompt not to obsess over things that can’t be changed and to concentrate on the future. She tells G’iah the last thing she said to Fury before the Blip in order to highlight that she understands where G’iah is coming from even if the circumstances differ because she got Fury back and was able to have more conversations with him.

The conversation shifts to Priscilla/Varra’s feelings about her house and her relationship with Fury. She talks about choosing a place to live that provides the three things that Fury needs. According to her, he needs privacy, security and light. The latter may be beyond the literal as Fury’s life is so full of darkness because of the job he does that he needs light in his life to remind him of why he does what he does. Fury may be morally questionable but he has a genuine desire to make the world a better place and there’s no line he won’t cross in order to achieve that. Having light to counter that darkness is likely essential to remind him that it’s all worth it, at least by his standards.

Secret Invasion

Advice from one who knows

Her mention of light leads to an anecdote about getting lost watching him read and G’iah countering it by questioning whether Fury ever got lost watching her in her own skin. This causes offence and Priscilla/Varra calls G’iah out on it with the suggestion that she absolutely set out to offend because she’s young and thinks she knows everything. There’s a naive simplicity to G’iah’s question founded on her lack of life experience. She believes that her people should be fully accepted for who and what they really are rather than having to conform to the expectations of others. This is the root of her question to Priscilla/Varra and condemns Fury for failing to accept his wife for who she really is but Priscilla/Varra tells her that she has no idea what it takes to build and maintain a life for someone else so she has no right to pass comment in the way that she did.

Priscilla/Varra has clearly decided that she’s willing to compromise in order to have a relationship with Fury and is comfortable with that decision. His compromise was ignoring his instincts and pursuing a relationship with her. It was mentioned in the previous episode that it remains unknown whether Fury could accept her as she really is but Priscilla/Varra clearly doesn’t regret passing as Human in their marriage and won’t let G’iah dismiss that decision as being wrong. This shows she has given it considerable thought over the years and has wrestled with it herself. G’iah has a lot to learn about the grey areas in life which could be an interesting starting point for her character if the show weren’t nearly over and likely has no time to do anything meaningful with that idea. Regardless, it’s an interesting conflict in perspective created by the difference in age and levels of life experience.

The end of the episode has Fury ready for War after losing the anonymity that has always been his greatest asset.. He dons the eyepatch and long coat as a sign that he has gotten his groove back and has a plan that he intends to carry out. The details are kept from the audience but he’s unquestionably confident and determined. This comes after an engaging conversation with Sonia about protecting the world. He mentions that they can’t keep depending on superheroes to save the day and that none of them are equipped to defend the Earth like he can because none of them have lived his life. It’s a powerful point that is left to sit there as if it’s fact which is fine when considering that Fury is going into the final episode fully determined to use his skills and experience to resolve the situation.

Secret Invasion

I’m the best…says Fury

His statement falls apart because it doesn’t actually mean much. The second episode featured a personal anecdote about Fury’s childhood that was compelling by itself and the third episode featured a conversation with Talos about him rising through the ranks in S.H.I.E.L.D. but there’s very little actual texture to Nick Fury as a character beyond the enigmatic spy with small insights into the man beneath the intricately cultivated persona. When he says that superheroes can’t protect the world like he can, what does he actually mean by that? It’s something that demands additional exploration as this show should be about why Nick Fury is the one best place to deal with this problem when no other character can. This comes across as a blanket unchallenged statement because nobody else is claiming that they can stop the Skrulls.

Even Sonia is pursuing information that will presumably be used by others as she doesn’t seem to be taking ownership of resolving the situation herself. The first episode set up that she believed Fury to be out of touch which would naturally place her in the position of believing she is the more capable. This exchange should have been the culmination of Fury proving her wrong and Sonia accepting that she has to step aside to let him resolve this. That’s what she’s doing but as with so many things in this show, it’s completely unearned. The episode ends with Fury putting on the eyepatch and the coat and talking to an as-yet-undisclosed ally before steadfastly pledging to end this.

Secret Invasion

It just got real!


A frustrating episode that is let down by the weaknesses that have existed since the show began but contains some merit mainly through the handling of G’iah.

  • 6.5/10
    Harvest - 6.5/10


Kneel Before…

  • Kingsley Ben-Adir elevating the scenes he appears in
  • G’iah’s three-act story following the death of her father
  • her conversation with Fury setting up how helpless she feels and the encouragement she receives to make sure Talos’ death isn’t meaningless
  • the personal significance of the location to Fury
  • the moving and tender funeral
  • adding depth to the Skrulls by displaying an example of their culture
  • epitomising what G’iah is fighting for with the display of Skrull culture
  • G’iah reflecting on the final words she said to her father
  • Priscilla/Varra helping her contextualise that feeling
  • the anecdote about choosing the house
  • focusing on Fury’s need for light beyond the literal
  • the difference in perspective based on age and levels of experience when G’iah naively condemns Priscilla/Varra’s decision to pass as human
  • Fury getting his groove back shown by donning the eyepatch and long coat


Rise Against…

  • the unearned shift in Gravik’s objective
  • Gravik’s followers turning on him also being unearned
  • Gravik’s characterisation remaining surface level
  • Raava failing to be characterised meaning there is no baseline to her motivation
  • Fury’s statement falling apart because the show has failed to build to it
  • nothing to back up Fury’s claim that nobody can protect the world like he can


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