Episode 2 of Secret Invasion features sharp writing and excellent performances, firmly establishing the show as one of the MCU’s best.
Episode 2 of Secret Invasion continues to prove that this is very much a show of two halves. Everything to do with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is handled excellently, whether it’s a small conversation or an astonishing plot twist. Marvel’s writing is rarely this good, and Jackson’s portrayal in this show may just end up being the best performance to come out of this cinematic universe. Unfortunately, though, Secret Invasion isn’t just Nick Fury, as it has to keep cutting away from the more interesting stuff to focus on the story of the Skrulls, and this is the side of the show that it just hasn’t managed to figure out. Characters sitting around tables talking about politics and their big plans are generally only interesting when we’re actually invested in the characters themselves, and here the Skrulls simply aren’t entertaining or engaging enough to pull that off.
Admittedly, “Promises” manages to do a much better job than the show’s premiere when it comes to actually establishing the Skrulls as interesting villains, and I think a large part of that is due to the show pushing Emilia Clarke’s G’iah to the side and instead focusing their attention on Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Clarke’s performance in the first episode was easily one of the weakest elements of that first instalment, lacking the screen presence to be entertaining or engaging, and lacking the interesting backstory or emotionally-driven performance to be interesting. Gravik very much makes up for that, by simply being one of the most threatening villains the MCU has ever given us, thanks to Ben-Adir’s chilling performance. The scenes involving the Skrulls are still the show at its worst, but it at least seems like they’re trying to rectify that fact, which is promising.
In terms of what actually happens in the episode, it’s a very different beast from its predecessor. There are no chases to be found here, no gunfights, instead most of it is just various scenes of characters sitting in rooms, discussing their current situation. It’s a slow-paced affair, setting up and expanding on plenty of plot points, setting the stage for an intriguing and exciting next four episodes. We properly meet the show’s big bad, Gravik, and get to understand his past and motivations, we see the effects of the premiere’s devastating conclusion on Fury and other characters, and we learn just how real and gargantuan the Skrull threat actually is.
Episode 2 may threaten to bore viewers who just want constant action, but I do think that the writing and acting are what really manage to keep the show alive, and I can’t quite believe I’m saying that about a Marvel show. There’s one scene in particular between Fury and James Rhodes (Don Cheadle) which was just honestly very well done on all fronts. Both Jackson and Cheadle were fantastic in their roles, the writing was great, and the suspense and drama built up throughout their conversation were brilliant to watch. Despite the show seemingly wanting to come across as a “mature spy thriller” in its first episode, its lingering commitments to conforming to the MCU house style had me rolling my eyes, excepting it to further slip back into old habits as it progressed, but if this episode is anything to go by, that might not be the case.
The closest we get to an action scene is an interrogation between Falsworth (Olivia Colman) and a Skrull, which is admittedly quite intense and brutal. Though, for the most part, instead of wielding a massive hammer or a suit of armour, her main weapon of choice is her words, which Colman delivers authoritatively and terrifyingly. We’re only two episodes in, but she’s already honestly one of my favourite MCU characters of all time, and I cannot wait to see where they take her, and just what she’ll do to achieve her goals, it’s one of the biggest things keeping me wanting to come back and see more.
I think it’s fair to say that Secret Invasion is currently doing a lot of things right. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but for those who enjoy a slower-paced show with a bigger emphasis on talking rather than punching, this is definitely worth a watch. I still desperately wish that the actual “Secret Invasion” part of Secret Invasion was as interesting as the Nick Fury stuff, but hopefully, Gravik will be the catalyst that the show needs to truly start delivering on all fronts. At the very least, I cannot wait to find out more about that final reveal.
Episode 2 of Secret Invasion is now available to watch on Disney Plus.