In the months leading up to Secret Invasion, the Disney+ series was repeatedly sold as the Nick Fury-led Marvel Cinematic Universe adventure that Samuel L. Jackson, one of the franchise’s stalwart stars, has long deserved. Five episodes in, there’s no doubt that Secret Invasion has featured Nick Fury more prominently than any other MCU title to date. Whether or not it’s honored him is another matter altogether.
With only one installment left in its six-episode run, Secret Invasion has tried to craft an emotional arc for Jackson’s former S.H.I.E.L.D. leader that has required multiple ill-fitting retcons, flashbacks, and exposition dumps. Even worse, Secret Invasion has failed to discern the difference between making Nick Fury flawed and making him downright incompetent. Nowhere is that more clear than in Secret Invasion Episode 5.
In one of the most baffling moments of the entire series, Secret Invasion’s penultimate episode features a brief scene where Nick Fury finally faces off against Raava, the Skrull version of James Rhodes (Don Cheadle). After pinning Raava to the hospital wall and putting a gun to her head, Fury makes his knowledge of her Skrull identity clear and insists that he won’t let her anywhere near President Ritson (Dermot Mulroney), whom she almost helped assassinate hours earlier. Raava, in response, tells Fury that he can’t out her as a Skrull without killing her.
Raava’s comments scare Fury off — clearing the way for her to continue manipulating Mulroney’s U.S. president into initiating World War III. To call this a frustrating twist of fate would be an understatement, and it’s made even moreso by how Raava’s assertion that Fury can’t reveal her Skrull identity without killing her is immediately proven false when Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman) subsequently reveals that her boss is secretly a Skrull by shooting him in the hand. Why couldn’t Fury have done the same with Raava? Nothing the undercover Skrull says warrants Fury letting her go or leaving her alone with the show’s injured President of the United States.
In case all of this wasn’t irritating enough, Fury’s decision to let Raava go paves the way for her and Gravik (Kinglsey Ben-Adir) to bring the planet to the brink of global war. That, in turn, forces Fury to go and retrieve the vial of Avengers DNA that he apparently collected and hid after the events of Avengers: Endgame. In doing so, he knowingly plays right into Gravik’s hands, much to the dismay of Colman’s Sonya.
To be fair, it seems more likely than not that Fury has a trick or two hidden up his sleeve heading into his now-inevitable finale confrontation with Gravik. Unfortunately, the show has already had to make Fury look so shortsighted in order to get to this point that whatever strategic surprises he pulls off in Secret Invasion Episode 6 are destined to feel anti-climactic and unearned. The same can be said for his transformation at the end of Secret Invasion’s penultimate installment, which is meant to feel triumphant but just comes across as empty fan service.
Nothing that Secret Invasion has done with Nick Fury has lined up with the version of the character fans have known since 2008. He’s a hero who has long been defined by his practicality and strategic mind, which is why it’s been so strange to see the Disney+ series go out of its way to downplay those elements of his character with little-to-no setup.
Ultimately, the biggest problem with Secret Invasion’s treatment of Nick Fury is how it squanders Samuel L. Jackson’s commitment to the character. The actor clearly showed up eager to put his best foot forward, but Secret Invasion hasn’t met the standards set by its performers. The result is a series that is a lot of things, but certainly not a cathartic swan song for one of the MCU’s oldest heroes.