The results are in: Secret Invasion is the lowest-rated MCU show on Rotten Tomatoes, and it’s easy to see why. Though initial press reviews (including Inverse’s) had a hopeful view of the series’ future, those were only based on the first two episodes. In the other four, what was supposed to be an exciting conspiracy thriller became a series that couldn’t stop getting in its own way.
So what went wrong? The culprit is an incredibly narrow scope that not only ignored where the MCU can go from here, but even overlooked what it’s already said.
The main issue was Secret Invasion’s story. The comic run that loosely inspired it packed a wallop with huge reveals, as heroes we’d known for years were unmasked as Skrulls. The Disney+ series had just one such hero: James Rhodes, aka War Machine, a secondary Avenger now working in government.
It wasn’t exactly a game-changing twist, and it was made worse when everyone guessed Rhodes was a Skrull the moment he suddenly turned against his friend Nick Fury in Episode 2. There was no paranoia, no sense of tense loyalties shifting. It just happened for the sake of happening.
Then there’s the villain problem. Kingsley Ben-Adir was fine as Gravik, but he never had a proper confrontation with Nick Fury. Despite Gravik being responsible for the death of Fury’s close colleagues Maria Hill and Talos, G’iah is the one who took him down while disguised as Fury, cheapening the entire scene (and the emotional monologue “Fury” gave).
What follows is one of the worst fights in MCU history. Gravik and G’iah were both imbued with Super-Skrull powers, making them both overpowered. It was supposed to be a cool mirror fight akin to Taskmaster’s Avengers-copying skills, but instead it was a flashy mess with a foregone conclusion.
But even worse than the visual effects was Gravik’s desire to steal the DNA of superheroes so he can give himself superpowers. Sound familiar? In She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, the finale saw Jennifer Walters climb out of her own show to confront her writers about where her plot is going. “The bad guy steals my blood in order to give himself superpowers,” she says. “Where did you come up with that original idea? Was that from every other superhero story ever?” Apparently, Secret Invasion’s writers didn’t bother to watch She-Hulk, because the scheme She-Hulk derides as hokey is Gravik’s exact plan.
Secret Invasion’s final moments confuse things further. After Nick Fury is forced to shoot Rhodey to prove he’s a Skrull, President Riston delivers a statement to the American people:
“We all witnessed the terror attack that was carried out on my motorcade earlier this week in England. The terrorists responsible were a shape-shifting alien-born species known as Skrulls. That is why tonight I'm presenting to Congress, for immediate emergency authorization, a bill that designates all off-world born species enemy combatants. We know who you are. We know how to find you. And we will kill every last one of you.”
That might sound like an intriguing premise for a future storyline, but it doesn’t actually fit what’s happening in the MCU right now. If everyone born off-world is suddenly humanity’s mortal enemy, then what about all the Asgardian refugees Earth accepted? If the Guardians visited, would they be hunted down too? Maybe Secret Invasion was trying to make Riston sound like an extremist, but it just made it seem like neither the character nor the writers know what’s happening in the Marvel world.
Between this new bill and the fact that G’iah is easily the most powerful being in the entire MCU, it seems like Secret Invasion has written itself into a corner. Upcoming projects like The Marvels and Loki Season 2 need to somehow escape the mess Secret Invasion put them in... or just pretend that it never happened at all.