Marvel’s Secret Invasion — 7 things you need to know before you watch

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Marvel Studios' Secret Invasion
(Image credit: Gareth Gatrell / Marvel)

We're now days away from Marvel's Secret Invasion, the latest MCU Disney Plus series, and possibly the most important one, outside of say Loki or WandaVision. That said, Secret Invasion is at the center of a weird phenomenon.

People don't exactly know it's coming. Even the most die-hard Marvel movie and comics fans I talk to on a regular basis only learned about it last week when I brought it up. So, I thought this was a perfect time to explain what's going on with the series once billed as a 'crossover event,' (Marvel's since changed its language on that page). 

From its stellar cast to thriller story, which may remind you of The Winter Solider in more ways than one, Secret Invasion arrives with a ton of potential. Here's to know before you watch Secret Invasion online.

1. There's only one Marvel movie you need to watch first

Brie Larson as captain marvel, standing in her costume in a field, in captain marvel

(Image credit:

You know who Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is, right? You know about the 'blip' event where Thanos (Josh Brolin) snapped out half of humanity, only for them to 'blip' back when the Avengers defeated Thanos in Endgame? Well, as long as you know those basics, you only need to have seen one movie.

Yes, unlike with many other Marvel movies or shows, there is only one piece of the MCU you should watch prior to Secret Invasion. That's 2019's Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson and Samuel L. Jackson, the first MCU appearance of the shape-shifting Skrulls. This alien race has a complicated past, and one that Captain Marvel helps explain.

Admittedly, Captain Marvel has a unique and divisive structure to it that sometimes feels like a snaking ouroboros, but you won't find the MCU's story of Skrull history elsewhere in the movies or shows. Skip that movie, and as Daniel D'Addario at Variety said, you'll be "on Wikipedia playing catch-up." Secret Invasion will try and contextualize the series, but I certainly plan on rewatching Captain Marvel beforehand for a refresher.

2. Expect a grandiose (yet familiar) plot

These alien Skrulls, though, have become a thorn in the side of good guys, good gals and good non-binary pals everywhere — we just don't know it yet. That's because this shape-shifting species used its powers to infiltrate positions in the highest levels of power around the world. 

Sound familiar? Well, join us as we flash back to Captain America: The Winter Solider right now, as the memories of top SHIELD brass whispering "hail Hydra" to each other is still pretty fresh in our heads. 

It's only been nine years since Winter Soldier, though, so we feel comfortable thinking that it's a little too soon to have a story about how the folks who control the world are evil. No matter how much that conspiracy theory is evergreen to some.

3. This Secret Invasion won't last long

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

So far, there have only been two kinds of Marvel Netflix shows, and Secret Invasion is one of its shorter adventures, running only six episodes. All other Marvel shows lasted 9 weeks.

Since Secret Invasion debuts on June 21st, that means the whole series will be out by July 26th. So, for everyone who is able to dodge (or doesn't care about) spoilers, and are comfortable waiting until then? You don't exactly need Disney Plus for the time being, you can just re-subscribe at the end of July.

4. Critics aren't exactly impressed

Kingsley Ben-Adir as Gravik in Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

As I'm writing this, Secret Invasion has a so-so 69% Rotten Tomatoes score, made up of some positive reviews that have plenty of criticism, and some completely negative slams. 

The biggest down note comes from the great TV critic Daniel Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter, who called Secret Invasion "middling" and "a disappointment." While all critics only saw the first third of the series, he notes that so far "Secret Invasion is less Cold War and more Generally Tepid Kerfuffle."

Meghan O'Keefe, at Decider damned the series by declaring "The scripts are flabby, the visuals uninspired. Five years ago, Secret Invasion would have been top-tier genre entertainment. Now it feels, like Fury, a few important steps behind the competition."

5. But expect a fantastic cast

Olivia Colman as Special Agent Sonya Falsworth in Marvel Studios' Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

All that said, I'm still definitely planning on watching. That's partially because its cast is excellent — beyond the folks who are reprising their existing MCU roles, of which there are quite a few. 

Yes, Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury is joined by Cobie Smulders' Agent Maria Hill, Martin Freeman's Everett K. Ross (the 'colonizer' as Shuri called him), Don Cheadle's James "Rhodey" Rhodes (aka War Machine) and Ben Mendelsohn's Talos. Don't remember him? Again, watch Captain Marvel. He also had a small role in Spider-Man: Far From Home

But that's not the big news: the inimitable Olivia Colman (The Favourite), Khaleesi herself Emilia Clarke and rising star Kingsley Ben-Adir (Vera) are all here. Oh, and Secret Invasion boasts Dermot freakin' Mulroney (My Best Friend's Wedding) as the President.

6. We've already met Emilia Clarke's character

Emilia Clarke as G'iah in Marvel Studios' SECRET INVASION

(Image credit: Gareth Gatrell / Marvel)

And while the MCU's never met Colman, Mulroney and Ben-Adir's characters before, we actually have met G'iah, the character played by Emilia Clarke. G'iah is the daughter of Talos (Ben Mendelsohn); the two were reunited in the Captain Marvel movie. 

In that movie, a young G'iah became friends with a young Monica Rambeau (now played by Teyonah Parris). One big question is the status of G'iah's mother, Soren (Sharon Blynn), who once impersonated Maria Hill. If G'iah has been radicalized, which seems possible, it could be because her mother met a bad fate.

7. Skip the Secret Invasion comics 

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury entering a mausoleum in Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Yes, there was a Secret Invasion in the Marvel comics. No, it doesn't matter here.

Director Ali Selim told Inverse that the MCU's Secret Invasion is not the same thing as the cross-over event of the same name in the comics, saying “I was told on the first day, don't even bother reading them. It has nothing to do with this series.”

This is not an adaptation. This is a product of "the energy that Marvel witnessed when they saw Sam Jackson and Ben Mendelsohn on screen in Captain Marvel." Marvel Studio execs apparently declared something to the tune of "We have to continue this. It's just too electric."

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Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.