Why Secret Invasion Was So Poorly Received By Critics And Audiences

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Secret Invasion is the newest Disney+ series set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While served to audiences as a spiritual successor to The Winter Soldier, (even I made that comparison in my review of the premiere), the show disappointed fans and critics. Touted as a spy thriller, Secret Invasion took a comic book storyline, watered it down, threw in a lot of existing MCU baggage, and gave fans a show that didn’t go anywhere, until it inexplicably did. Keep reading this Secret Invasion season 1 review, to see where it all went wrong.

Please note: this Secret Invasion season 1 review will be full of spoilers for the entire season of the show.

Secret Invasion Season 1 Relied Too Heavily On Exposition And Flashbacks

Secret Invasion season 1 review flashback
Image via Disney+.

First of all, Secret Invasion directly continues the story and plot beats set up in Captain Marvel, from 4 years ago and seemingly multiple MCU phases ago. But the series doesn’t appropriately give audiences much of a recap or set the stage for the decades that have passed since the events of that movie and the current MCU timeline. Instead, we get heavy-handed exposition.

In episode 1, when Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) supposedly meet years later, it doesn’t feel that way to audiences. The two, apparently decades-long friends and allies resort to trading expository lines between one another, meant for audiences to catch up in the story. It’s hard to believe that such important messages weren’t relayed to Fury, despite having such technological advances at his command, like living on a spaceship for years.

They even tell the story of the main villain, Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) through flashbacks showing how his hatred for Fury developed. The family dynamics between G’iah (Emilia Clarke) and her father Talos, and her leader now in Gravik, felt very superficial. The characters didn’t feel like they knew each other prior to the events of Secret Invasion season 1. And speaking of the characters—

The Characters Failed To Resonate With Anyone

Hero
Image via Disney+.

Despite the alien invasion story and all the internal politics, Secret Invasion’s storyline comes down to Fury’s betrayal of the Skrulls, due to his failure to find them a home. G’iah is supposed to be to represent the good Skrulls who felt disappointed by Fury and are trying to fight for their future. However, the show spends no time with the character herself. What does she want? Why did she leave her home and parents to follow Gravik?

Talos sadly mentions to Fury in episode 1 that G’iah left her family behind to follow Gravik. But then just as suddenly she betrays Gravik for Fury and friends. And the only explanation we get is Talos announcing that ‘Gi’iah is back’? Okay. She barely flinches at the news of her mother’s death. And while she seems remorseful of her father’s death, it still felt meaningless to the character. Then, all of a sudden in the finale, she’s the hero of the show who takes Gravik down.

And on the flip side, Gravik is meant to represent the Skrulls who are angry at Fury’s betrayal and want to take it out on all humans. But it all feels so superficial and forced. Gravik’s speech at the end in front of Fury in the climactic episode just feels like a petulant child throwing a tantrum. Not the revolutionary Skull General that they make him out as. And even worse how easily he’s defeated in the finale.

What Even Was The Villain’s Plan??

Secret Invasion season 1 review Gravik.
Image via Disney+.

One of the biggest problems facing the current MCU, at least in my opinion, is creating stakes that at all feel important in the grand scheme of the universe. While stories dealing with insular concepts like grief, death, national crisis, or cultural identities are exceptionally well done. The larger stories about world-ending consequences pale in comparison to half the universe dying, as showcased in Avengers: Endgame.

So when Secret Invasion features a storyline where the villain wants to go to extreme lengths to wage a war against humans with the goal to eradicate them, what he wants should be clear. Throughout Secret Invasion season 1, Gravik talks of the extermination humans, destroying the government and so on. But nowhere does it seem like that’s a coherent plan. He’s setting off dirty bombs, absorbing the powers of the Avengers, for what reason, exactly? To single-handedly rampage through towns and cities killing humans one by one? It feels silly and undermines any sort of intimidation that he may bring to the table as a serious villain.

Secret Invasion Season 1 Review Is Full Of Spoilers

Secret Invasion season 1 review Fury
Image via Disney+.

Another MCU issue is the scale of these Disney+ series. WandaVision and Hawkeye featured insular looks at the journeys of those particular characters. But Secret Invasion puts forth a premise that’s about the destruction of humanity by an alien invasion. That’s the main conflict. But when asked to convene the Avengers for such a huge threat, Fury dismisses it early claiming that it’s his ‘mess’. An entirely flimsy if not kind of arrogant reasoning for putting all of humanity at risk.

And despite this large threat to humanity itself, the show feels very small in terms of its scale. Fury has no allies to help him, not even any of the minor supporting characters littered throughout the MCU. Not even a street-level familiar face from former SHIELD or current SWORD? The president of the USA only has an Airforce Colonel slash part-time superhero advising him on matters of alien security and potential human genocide? Where is his cabinet? The National Security Council?

And the U.S. President is in a corner of the local hospital with a hand full of secret service Agents that Fury and Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman) are able to dispense with ease? And yet Skrulls are supposedly a threat? Not to mention the final showdown is 3 characters in the presence of the US president, helpless on a hospital bed, freaking out. It all felt like a low-budget TV movie with the constraint of minimal sets and actors.

Season 1 Of Secret Invasion Was Disappointing

Secret Invasion season 1 review Hill.
Image via Disney+.

I usually don’t tend to poo-poo things I don’t like, but the entirety of Secret Invasion was just more baffling than anything else. How does the threat of an alien invasion, in secret, not warrant the inclusion of any familiar face from the MCU? And all the ones who appear, either die or disappear in a few episodes, as if they could only pay the actors for a minimal number of episodes. If Daredevil can show up crossing brands into the MCU to help She-Hulk dispose of a few low-level thugs, it’s astounding that the man who assembled the Avengers can’t or won’t call anyone for help in saving humanity against Skrulls.

And this is going to get even more disappointing when Fury appears in The Marvels later this year, on board a space station palling around with three of the MCU’s strongest superheroes.

All episodes of Secret Invasion are now streaming on Disney+.

Were you as disappointed with Secret Invasion season 1 as I was in my review? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter at @theshahshahid.

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Why Secret Invasion Was So Poorly Received By Critics And Audiences
  • Acting - 7/10
    7/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 6/10
    6/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 4.5/10
    4.5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 5.5/10
    5.5/10
  • Watchability - 3/10
    3/10
  • Rewatchability - 2.5/10
    2.5/10
Overall
4.8/10
4.8/10
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About Shah

Entertainment Writer | Film & TV Critic | Bollywood Blogger | Host of Split Screen Podcast | Proud Geek Girl Dad