Secret Invasion Episode 4 review: A damp squib

Cameron Frew
Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion Episode 4

Secret Invasion Episode 4 powers up heavy blows, but it doesn’t have the dramatic tact to actually pull them off; this is easily the weakest chapter so far.

Bitterness over its AI credits aside, Secret Invasion had a strong opening stretch of episodes. Its weak-sauce politicking doesn’t carry much weight, but it managed to convey the seriousness of the show’s threat: an invisible infiltration that sees chaos and division as fertile ground for an uprising.

The last episode, for our money, was its strongest yet; it tightened the suspense, planted exciting seeds, and took considerable swings, whether it’s the harsher violence or that final moment with Rhodey.

This felt like the closest thing we’ve had to a grown-up MCU show, until Episode 4, which buries its more impactful moments under mucky action and trite twists and turns; has the show already run out of steam? Spoilers to follow…

Secret Invasion Episode 4 begins with a resurrection

Remember when Maria Hill, one of the longest-standing, most reliable MCU characters, was killed by Gravik in the premiere? Not only was the death shocking, but it affirmed the show’s stakes: anyone can be anyone, and everyone can die – unless you’re G’iah, who conveniently turned herself into a Super-Skrull with the Extremis virus before she was shot in Episode 3.

Superpowers, frustratingly, already feel like a get-out-of-jail-free card; if there’s a chance that every Skrull we meet already has those sorts of abilities, why should we care about anything that happens to them? Even if they actually die, the impact of that moment will already have been diluted by the uncertainty – a point we’ll come back to later.

Priscilla and Nick Fury in Secret Invasion Episode 4

We cut to Paris in 2012, shortly after “Les Avengers” saved New York from Loki and the Chitauri fleet. Fury is rocking his classic eye patch and black trench coat, and he meets Priscilla in a quiet restaurant. She figured he had a role in assembling Earth’s mightiest heroes, because he understands that “home is worth fighting for and the weak are worth protecting” – a line with about as much subtlety as… the rest of the series.

Fury asks her to read her favorite poem from Raymond Carver, and she chooses ‘Late Fragment’, but asks him to say it aloud with her like it’s a conversation. “And did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?” he says. “I did,” she replies. “And what did you want?” he asks. “To call myself beloved, to feel myself beloved on the Earth,” she says.

Rhodey orders Priscilla to kill Fury

Back in the present, Priscilla meets Rhodey at a church while a choir sings ‘Deep River.’ He reveals it was he who fired Fury (an “Undertaker-level” sacking, apparently), and now he wants her to kill him. His relationship with Gravik isn’t entirely clear, but as the Skrull mole in the US government, one has to assume he holds a considerable amount of sway on the rebel side. Priscilla is hesitant, but Rhodey warns her that one of the occupants in her house will “catch a bullet”, so she can “flip a coin” or pull the trigger. “If you keep telling me what you’re not gonna do, I’m gonna show you what I’m gonna do,” he tells her.

Rhodey and Priscilla in Secret Invasion Episode 4

Meanwhile, Fury is listening to every beat of their conversation at home after bugging Priscilla. What’s frustrating is how this is a particularly compelling arc; how long as Rhodey been a Skrull, is his real body locked in a fracking pod, how much influence does he have on the president, and how has Priscilla managed her relationship with her husband while betraying him all the time? Alas, the show is too busy juggling other, duller plot points.

For example, Gravik is planning his latest terrorist attack, which is worthy of a mere shrug at this point, and Talos is still trying to reconnect with G’iah. She wants to be with him, but she needs him to have a plan to secure a home for their people. He wants to take down the insurgency and use that as a bargaining chip with the president, who’ll then see their worth and heart – but G’iah thinks he’s delusional.

Fury and Priscilla exchange bullets

Priscilla returns home to find Fury making tea. There’s a cutesy, tense atmosphere between them; he knows everything, and she’s smart enough to know how crafty he is. As they sit down, he tells her: “Of all the dumbass, wrongheaded, reckless things I’ve done in my life, you are by far and away the greatest mistake.”

This is the strongest scene in the episode, mainly because it doesn’t feel like it was written in all of five minutes. Priscilla reveals the story of how she chose her human form: she met a woman who was dying but didn’t want her family to worry, so she kept her company in the hospital. She eventually asked if she could assume her life when she died; more specifically, if she wanted to fall in love. She gave her three conditions: she had to be buried at sea, Priscilla would be a daughter to her parents, and that Fury would never be hurt.

Fury then asks her: “Did you get what you wanted from this life, even so?” As Priscilla finishes the poem, they both fire their guns at each other, and the camera cuts to the silence of their home. The suspense is jaw-dropping, but don’t worry: both of them aimed for the sides of one another’s heads. “I’m not sure if this means we should get divorced or renew our vows,” Fury jokes. Priscilla asks if he would have loved her as her true self. “I guess we’ll never know,” he says.

Fury and fake Rhodey face off again

We get a brief glimpse of the Skrull who’s assumed Rhodey’s identity. Whoever they are, they’re female, and the toll of being the mole is starting to weigh down on her. As Rhodey comes into his hotel room, he notices Fury sitting at the table with a bottle of 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle. “If memory serves I sh*tcanned you into oblivion,” he says, but Fury wants to settle their beef like gentlemen over some extraordinarily expensive bourbon.

They have a bit of banter, but Rhodey wants to cut to the chase. Fury tells him there’s a Skrull mole “very close” to the US president. “That’s a wild story,” Rhodey says, and Fury says he’ll keep his mouth shut if he gives him his job back. Rhodey reveals his counter: footage of Fury killing Maria. We know it’s Gravik, as does Rhodey, but it doesn’t matter. The alien defence won’t play in court and Fury will be imprisoned for murder, so Rhodey tells him to rein in the conspiracy theories and “hobble his ancient ass out of here” before’s “defenestrated.”

Fury knew this would happen, which is why he put liquid trackers in the bourbon. They follow him to the landing strip, where Rhodey greets Ritson as he steps off the plane, but the president quickly smells the bourbon on his breath and the cockiness of his tone. The convoy sets off, but it’s quickly attacked by Gravik and his crew; rockets strike the president’s car and topple it while the two sides duke it out with gunfire.

Gravik and his Super-skrull power in Secret Invasion Episode 4

Talos and Nick Fury rush to save Ritson as Gravik’s team tears through the Secret Service, including an ugly showcase of his Groot powers. As Talos tries to break into the president’s car to save him, he’s shot by Kagon. His wound doesn’t stop him, but it does cause him to slowly return to Skrull form.

“He’s a bloody alien,” a nearby soldier says as they notice Talos’ green face, but Fury insists he’s with him. Once the president is secured, that same soldier helps Talos up, but Fury notices something off. “Put him down now,” he tells him, and after he shoots him, he’s revealed to be Gravik in disguise. Gravik then stabs Talos in the chest, killing him, and when Fury tries to shoot Gravik again, his Extremis powers allow him to instantly heal. The episode ends with Fury driving away with the president, leaving Talos’ body among the dead as reinforcements arrive.

Is he actually dead, or is he another Super-Skrull? The answer isn’t important, but this is the main takeaway: by undoing G’iah’s death, they’ve buckled the show’s stakes and made huge moments like this feel emotionally feeble.

Secret Invasion review score: 2/5

Nearly everything in Secret Invasion Episode 5 leaves little to be desired; scrappy dialogue, pulse-slowing action, and it’s all over so quickly. Either they’re asleep at the wheel or there’s nowhere else to go.

Secret Invasion Episode 5 hits Disney+ on July 19. Check out our other coverage below: