Secret Invasion Has Already Failed Marvel's Most Underrated Character
No one is safe in the new Marvel series.
Secret Invasion is all about the clandestine conflict between spymaster Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and the Skrull, a group of shapeshifting aliens that want to take over the world, Invasion of the Body Snatchers-style. With a premise like that, no one can be trusted, not even leading man Nick Fury. As the Skrull rebellion, led by General Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), work to tear the world apart from the inside, Fury and his allies will find themselves caught in the crosshairs.
Fury faces a reckoning from the moment he returns to Earth at the beginning of the Secret Invasion premiere. Gravik has been hard at work trying to orchestrate the next world war, and he’s especially interested in reigniting the once-dormant Cold War between America and Russia. As a result, a huge chunk of the conflict takes place in Russia — and Secret Invasion’s first episode culminates in an explosive attack that may just tip the scales in Gravik’s favor.
Major spoilers ahead for the first episode of Secret Invasion.
When we first catch up to Fury, he’s back on Earth for the first time in what could be several years. He’s been building a new counterterrorist network in space, but the threat of a global coup at the hands of the Skrulls is more than enough to lure him from his new fortress.
Fury links up with his right-hand woman, Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), and the former Skrull General Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), who quickly bring him up to speed about the state of affairs on Earth. While Fury is more or less simpatico with Talos after promising to find a new home planet for the Skrulls, Gravik and his crew have grown tired of waiting on Fury’s help.
Making Earth their home has become the new objective for the more radical Skrull allied with Gravik — but this goes beyond the simple assimilation at play in Captain Marvel or Spider-Man: Far From Home. Gravik and his followers are stealing faces and memories from their human captives and taking their place in society. In their new roles, the Skrull have been quietly nudging world powers closer and closer to conflict — and by the time Fury steps in, Gravik is poised to launch a massive attack in Russia, one that will inevitably be pinned on American terrorists.
What happens at the end of Secret Invasion episode 1?
Fury, Hill, and Talos do all they can to thwart Gravik’s strike. Shockingly though, Gravik is three steps ahead of Fury at all times. Not only does his attack go off without a hitch; he manages to weaken Fury on two crucial fronts.
Despite his good intentions, Fury’s presence in Russia at the time of the attack implicates the U.S. in the crime, at least indirectly. There’s also the matter of a little terrorist organization called Americans Against Russia, later revealed to be one of Gravik’s many puppet regimes. From the outside looking in, it seems like Fury’s gone rogue and is working against America’s best interests.
As if that wasn’t enough, Gravik also takes one of Fury’s most trusted allies off the board: Maria Hill. Her blood is on Fury’s hands — not only because she followed him into the fray with 100% conviction, but because Gravik was wearing Fury’s face when he killed her. It’s a harrowing moment for Fury, one that will undoubtedly force him to choose his next moves more carefully to protect the people he cares about.
...So why does it feel so hollow?
Justice for Maria Hill
It makes sense that the Marvel Studios braintrust would look to hit Fury where it hurts — and given Hill’s longterm role by his side all these years, it certainly makes sense on paper. Apart from Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), few have worked with Fury as consistently as Maria Hill. She’s been an on-and-off ally to Fury ever since her introduction in The Avengers; unfortunately, she’s rarely gotten her due in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe. It’s kind of baffling to watch the charismatic Smulders reduced to such a nothing role over the years, especially given Hill’s significance in Marvel Comics.
Secret Invasion felt like a unique opportunity to take a long-sidelined character and explore her emotional world. With Fury himself stepping out of his role in the shadows to lead his very own solo adventure, it’d make sense for Hill’s own role in the MCU to deepen as well. For all the series’ efforts to explore Hill and Fury’s relationship, especially in the aftermath of the Blip, it just feels like too little, too late.
Hill dies in Fury’s arms before the end of the first episode — and it doesn’t seem like she was a Skrull in disguise — which means this character is gone for good. Marvel has failed to explore character with potential before, but considering all that Maria Hill had to offer, it’s never felt more frustrating.