I forced myself to watch Secret Invasion but had to quit — this Marvel show stinks

Cobie Smulders as Maria Hill and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion
(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Secret Invasion opens with a sleek intro sequence washed with a sinister green hue. It initially appears rather artistically impressive, but look a little closer and you might grasp that it’s actually AI-generated. It is machine-created art. It is soulless. And it’s arguably the perfect metaphor for the show itself.  

As the latest Disney Plus TV show set within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Secret Invasion packs a cast of recognizable names and a budget larger than many blockbuster movies — rumored to be $212 million for six episodes — and yet it feels creatively bankrupt. While watching it, I couldn't shake the feeling it was a show made primarily to fill a gap in Disney’s streaming content schedule. It’s quite possibly the least engaging show about a supposedly global threat I’ve ever tried to watch. 

I used to love Marvel movies, but I’ve had my issues with previous Marvel TV shows. I struggled with even some of the better-received efforts like Moon Knight and She-Hulk, but Secret Invasion goes a step further. It didn’t just underwhelm me due to its weak characters or frustrate me with an off-kilter tone, it downright bored me from the very start. And that’s just about the worst crime any piece of media can commit.

Think about it: how is a flagship Disney Plus show generating next to no online buzz? Based on the wider reaction, I think Secret Invasion could be a watershed moment for the MCU, and I’m very much hoping that it will force a big MCU rethink. 

Secret Invasion is a Marvel misfire 

Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury in Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

The key word that I keep coming back to when thinking about Secret Invasion is 'tension,' or more specifically the complete lack thereof. The show is about a clandestine group of shape-shifting aliens (known as Skrulls) attempting to infiltrate the most powerful positions on Earth in order to conquer the planet for themselves. That’s a setup ripe for dramatic tension, and yet Secret Invasion is utterly lacking in this area. 

Every character should be grappling with an inescapable feeling of paranoia, as their closest ally could be revealed to be a Skrull at any moment. And yet protagonist Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) seems almost disinterested in what’s happening around him, which only serves to make me as a viewer feel the same.

Yes, we are told the Skrulls are not to be taken lightly, but Secret Invasion all too often feels like somebody trying to convince you of something with no real evidence to prove their own point.

Perhaps the reason that Secret Invasion badly lacks drama, tension or any sense of momentum from episode to episode, is that it’s a TV show that is all tell and very little show. A train ride shared by Fury and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), where the two argue about Skrulls on Earth, did not provide the emotional impact that it truly needed.

Characters frequently stress that if the Skrulls aren’t stopped then society as we know it will cease to exist, and yet we rarely see examples of why they are such a credible threat (outside of the attack on Russia that closed out episode 1). Yes, we are told the Skrulls are not to be taken lightly, but Secret Invasion all too often feels like somebody trying to convince you of something with no real evidence to prove their own point. 

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

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Furthermore, on a fundamental level, the show is simply drab. The early episodes are dominated by scenes of unengaging characters sitting around talking about events that we never actually see on screen. And there’s no reason for a show with a cast including Jackson, Emilia Clarke, Olivia Coleman, Mendelsohn and Don Cheadle to be this dull. 

The whole case is deserving of material that better utilizes their immense talent. That said, I couldn’t even catch up to where we are now. Zoning out, I turned Secret Invasion off around two-thirds of the way through episode three.

The lack of connections between Secret Invasion and other parts of the MCU is also a problem. While I don’t believe every single Marvel TV show has to be deeply connected to the Marvel movies/shows that came before, in the case of Secret Invasion it feels illogical that events are taking place in a bubble. The Skrulls are threatening the very fabric of society, wouldn’t the rest of the heroes living on Earth want to be informed about what’s going on? 

Of course, the MCU has always had to stretch believability when it comes to this aspect of its interconnected universe — every hero can’t be in every project after all — but in Secret Invasion it's stretched beyond breaking point, and makes the events of the show feel inconsequential.  The MCU has rarely felt smaller than it does here.  

I wanted to love Secret Invasion

Kingsley Ben-Adir as Gravik in Secret Invasion

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

Perhaps what I find most frustrating about Secret Invasion is that on paper, it’s the Marvel show I’ve been wanting for more than two years. 

The MCU has rarely felt smaller than it does here.

Since the first slate of Disney Plus Marvel shows was revealed, I've dreamed about a more grounded, smaller-scale series that wasn’t focused on powerful superheroes, but was instead a deeper character study. And Nick Fury seemed the ideal candidate to lead such a project. There was a time when I was genuinely excited about Secret Invasion, and hoped it could be the first Marvel TV show since Loki to truly capture my attention. 

And yet, in reality, very little about the series worked for me based on what I've watched to date. It’s a spy thriller that is devoid of any thrills, and most episodes quickly devolve into scenes between characters I have little fondness for or interest in telling me how everything that is currently happening is very important but without giving me any reason to come to that conclusion myself. It's a big old nothing-burger of a TV show. 

Outlook: Secret Invasion could still change the MCU 

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

(Image credit: Disney Plus)

As noted, I’ve expressed disappointment with several Marvel shows in the past including Falcon and Winter Solider, Moon Knight and She-Hulk, but in those cases, I felt like a bit of an outliner. However, with Secret Invasion, I've definitely noticed a visible change in the overall reaction from my fellow viewers

When I told some of my TG colleagues I was planning to give the show a chance this week, their reactions certainly didn’t fill me with confidence that the show would win me over. And I’ve also seen far more negative sentiment on social media towards Secret Invasion than I did with any previous Marvel TV show. Even the animated non-canonical spin-off show What If…? enjoyed a warmer reception it seems to me. 

Painting an even more bleak picture is the fact that Secret Invasion reportedly pulled the second-lowest viewing figures of any Marvel show on Disney Plus to date, only Ms. Marvel fared worse. And the concern may go up to the highest level. Last week, Disney CEO, Bob Iger, suggested that Marvel streaming shows have “diluted focus and attention” in an interview with CNBC. Perhaps the House of Mouse isn't pleased with Secret Invasion's apparent underperformance. 

I’m morbidly curious to see if the lukewarm interest in Secret Invasion could be Disney’s breaking point and force them to reevaluate their plans for Marvel screen small output in the future. Personally, I think that would be a wise move as the streamer's upcoming small-screen slate has me far from excited. The likes of Echo and Ironheart seem seriously unnecessary, and likely to further dilute the MCU.

If Secret Invasion's muted reaction and lower viewership figures do play even a small part in the Marvel bigwigs rethinking the strategy for the MCU, then at the very least it wouldn't feel like quite such a waste. Secret Invasion could well change the Marvel Universe forever, maybe just not in the way we initially expected.

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Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.