Secret Invasion Can't Avoid Marvel TV's Biggest Mistake

Try as they might, Marvel Studios still can’t conquer television.

Originally Published: 
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel's Secret Invasion
Marvel Studios
Secret Invasion

For 15 years, the Marvel Cinematic Universe was undefeated on the big screen. Marvel Studios have event filmmaking down to a science, and after a decade of cinematic feats, television felt like the final frontier. It’s a medium that the franchise attacked with gusto: since bowing on Disney+ in 2021, Marvel has produced nine series. Four premiered in 2021, three in 2022, and at least three more are slated for 2023. Quantity, however, is no substitute for quality; to everyone’s surprise, Marvel’s had a tough time translating its foolproof formula to the small screen.

Many of the MCU’s efforts on streaming have been touted as “television events” or “must-see TV,” but so many fail to live up to that hype in any substantial way. Only Marvel’s first effort, WandaVision, felt like the true example of a watercooler series. The rest that followed have, for one reason or another, failed to justify their existence as TV shows. Most feel like films stretched across six hour-long episodes, but the franchise can’t seem to let go of that formula as the MCU chugs along.

With Marvel’s latest series, Secret Invasion, many hoped that the franchise had finally mastered the medium. A taut spy thriller premise seemed to nudge Secret Invasion into the realm of prestige TV, not unlike what Andor did for Star Wars last year. And with six hour-long episodes, there was a chance for more focused, mature storytelling. For all its efforts, though, Marvel’s no closer to cracking the code — and Secret Invasion definitely suffers for it.

Not even Secret Invasion can escape Marvel’s worst TV habits.

Marvel Studios

Secret Invasion entered the world with a tremendous amount of goodwill. While the first two episodes left a lot to be desired, the series had the weight of a killer cast and a serious marketing campaign behind it. But as the weeks go on and the adventure continues, once-minor pacing issues have crystallized into glaring flaws within the series.

This week, Secret Invasion hit the halfway mark with Episode 3. While it’s already considered one of the best of the series so far — and has even resolved a few nagging issues from the first two episodes — Secret Invasion is still far from finding its groove. Marvel teased a massive conflict with global ramifications, but the series’ simmering tensions remain undeveloped. The eponymous Skrull invasion on Earth feels similarly stilted and small: rather than pack each episode with subtext, shifting allegiances, and paranoia, Secret Invasion seems content to depict everything at face value — and at far too languid a pace for a six-episode event.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with a slowly-paced show. Slow-burns absolutely have their place on television, and especially with spy thrillers — but you’ve gotta keep the fire alive the keep the audience interested. So much of the intrigue that Secret Invasion teases feels lackluster, and it’s a colossal waste of the talent in front of and behind the camera. Knowing Marvel and its penchant for an action-heavy third act, things will undoubtedly pick up in the coming weeks. But the studio is putting a lot of pressure on the back half of this series as a result, and that will inevitably doom Secret Invasion to the same fate as Marvel’s other small-screen efforts.

Secret Invasion is now streaming on Disney+.

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