The latest Marvel Cinematic Universe series feels almost rooted in reality.
No multiverse travelers.
No galaxy-hopping adventures.
No wildly powerful superheroes.
OK, OK, there ARE pointy-eared, shape-shifting aliens at the heart of the conflict in Secret Invasion – an hour-long show that debut last Wednesday on Disney+ with the first of six weekly episodes – but we did say "almost."
And hey, the presence of those beings, the Skrulls, who can look just like us, lends something to this espionage drama boasting a gritty cinematic feel and built around a longtime MCU player, Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury.
Formerly the director of the government agency S.H.I.E.L.D., the typically one-step-ahead-of-everyone Fury has been working for decades to find a new world for the Skrulls – introduced in 2019's Captain Marvel – after they lost theirs in their war with another race, the Kree.
However, an increasingly large rebel group of Skrulls, led by the radical Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir of The OA), has grown impatient with Fury – especially as he's spent recent years aboard a space station overseeing the creation of a planetary defense system.
Fury is called home by a longtime Skrull ally, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story), who believes the problem has grown large enough to demand his human friend's attention. After all, Skrulls who believe Earth should become their permanent home have stolen the identity of politically powerful people around the globe.
One human already concerned with this secret invasion: Olivia Colman's Sonya Falsworth, a high-ranking MI6 operative who isn't afraid to play dirty. (As the talented The Crown alum has a habit of doing, Colman classes up the joint whenever she's on the screen.)
Count Falsworth among those who believe the now-heavily bearded Fury has lost a step. (After she has goons toss him into a van and bring him to her, the two argue about whether her men should have so easily been able to get to him or if, as he insists, he let them bring him to her.)
This is an area where Secret Invasion shines – putting Jackson in a dialogue-heavy scene with another experienced actor and letting the two of them flex their acting muscles. In the series' second episode, dropping June 28, Jackson shares the frame first with Mendelsohn and later with Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda), reprising the role of James "Rhodey" Rhodes. Both exchanges are heated and reasonably delicious.
All the episodes are directed by Ali Selim (61st Street), working with a writing team led by Kyle Bradstreet (Mr. Robot).
Based on the first two installments, which Disney made available for review, the series is engaging but short of enthralling, a combination of elements we've seen in spy movies and science-fiction series. It is familiar, but, more importantly, it is well-executed.
The first hour is set largely in Russia, with Fury and longtime associate Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders, "How I Met Your Mother") attempting to stop Gravik from setting off bombs during a public celebration in Moscow, an act that will be blamed on an American group, the nefarious Skrulls hoping to gin up a conflict between the superpowers.
Also key to the mix is Talos' estranged daughter, G'iah (Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones), who appears to have conflicted feelings about which side she should be fighting for.
Each of the first two chapters concludes with something significant, so expect to wish you could dive right into the next serving.
Who knows? Maybe future episodes will bring a superpowered being or two. Fury is, after all, the man who led the effort to create the Avengers, and his close, very powerful friend Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, has been helping him try to find a new world for the Skrulls.
A more safe bet is more scenes built around the screen presence of Jackson. While perhaps not quite at his fiery best here, we're also not about to accuse him of having lost a step. Jackson can still bring some heat.
Episode 2 leaves Fury in a not-so-great spot, but it would be unwise to underestimate him as he reminds someone in one of the aforementioned scenes.
"I'm Nick Fury. Even when I'm out, I'm in." – Mark Meszoros/The News-Herald/Tribune News Service
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