Secret Invasion Episode 2 presents what’s likely going to be an ongoing issue for the remaining four installments of the series. This is a show that lives and dies by whoever is on screen, and if that person isn’t Samuel L. Jackson, there’s a likelihood that the scene will be a bust. This isn’t a hard rule and there are a few moments — namely, one — that manage to engage despite the absence of our protagonist. However, despite the show’s assertion in being an espionage thriller and the pride in which it wears its grittier, bloodier attire, without Jackson it would be yet another run-of-the-mill series with a penchant for a gray color palette better suited for CBS.
At the very least, Secret Invasion Episode 2 chips away at the plot as some of the bigger storylines are set into motion. Fury is officially on his own, having been stripped of his titles due to his involvement in the terrorist attack in Russia — and the belief that he might’ve had something to do with it. We learn that there are at least a million Skrull currently living on Earth, all of whom appeared in Fury’s absence. The Skrulls, at least a portion of them, are angered by Fury not being able to keep up his end of the bargain, as he’d promised them a new home in repayment for them acting as spies. And, now that Gravick has been nominated Skrull General by other Skrull who are wearing the faces of world leaders, he’s been given his final go-ahead to set to motion his ultimate goal which is to take over the planet for the sake of making it the new home for the Skrull.
Also, Fury has a wife, and she’s a Skrull too. What isn’t clear yet is if he knows the truth or not.
Despite the amount of plot that’s burned through and the space that’s tracked — we go from Russia to London, from 1985 to the present day — there are still only two scenes that stick the landing in an hour-long episode.
As evidenced in Episode 1, Talos and Fury might have the most interesting dynamic of the series so far, due in part to their obvious familiarity as well as the natural cadence between Ben Mendelsohn and Jackson. They share a compartment on a train as they flee the scene in Moscow, and we’re given both further insight into Fury’s past as well as a reminder that despite his overall fatigue, his perceptiveness remains razor sharp. The two men argue over Talos’s decision to allow his people to occupy Earth, with Fury exclaiming that humans have never learned to coexist with one another so how could Talos ever believe there would be enough room or tolerance for two species to live together?
Talos, meanwhile, defends himself and Mendelsohn is superb in these moments as he channels a roguish righteousness as he reminds Fury that he hasn’t helped up his part of the bargain. The sequence, despite being contained to a single space, contains the greatest fluidity of motion, the camera movement allowing these two actors to play off one another. They’re so good together that Fury’s dismissal of Talos is all the more frustrating — if in keeping with the character — because the show would be much more exciting if we had more of them and less of whatever is going on with Emilia Clarke’s storyline.
Don Cheadle is given perhaps the actual standout sequence, however, as he’s the one who takes it upon himself to, essentially, fire Fury following the mess in Moscow. Jackson and Cheadle, despite being in the MCU for essentially the same amount of time, haven’t gotten the chance to be scene partners often. “Promises” argues they should be given more, especially as their brief argument dissects their shared past and struggles of being Black men who have gained space at the table after having to watch as mediocre white men rise to power with less experience.
It’s a powerful moment between two characters who have stood the test of time in the MCU as integral pieces yet to have received their dues. Putting aside the requisite cynism that sees Marvel patting itself, the scene could be taken from another show in its entirety aside from the many mentions of alien invasions and “special friends” (The Avengers) who could come and help them by the sheer force of Cheadle and Jackson’s star charisma. The MCU, frankly, should be ashamed that it took so long to allow these two a spotlight scene for their strong work, two human characters whose humanity has left them tired yet ever-vigilant in their want to serve and protect.
It’s a shame, then, that the dialogue ultimately leaves the scene on a whimper. Because not even Jackson can save the line “I’m Nick Fury, even when I’m out, I’m in.” It’s the type of line that is tailor-made for the “press here” tagline for the eventual action figure.
Secret Invasion Episode 2 is bolstered by the tremendous performances of Jackson, Mendelsohn, and Cheadle, all of whom bring their all in order to build real tension and stakes that create fissures in the respective dynamics. Beyond that, the episode falters in momentum, resulting in an often tedious watch despite the considerable amount of plot and exposition that is explored.
Secret Invasion Episode 2 is available now on Disney+
Secret Invasion Episode 2
Secret Invasion Episode 2 is bolstered by the tremendous performances of Jackson, Mendelsohn, and Cheadle, all of whom bring their all in order to build real tension and stakes that create fissures in the respective dynamics.