Three episodes in, Secret Invasion’s Skrulls, for all their vague talk of planetary domination, finally have a plan – start a war, lure the Avengers to Earth and then become them. The shapeshifting alien race wants to not only borrow faces, but powers. It’s an intriguing setup. So far, despite its branding as a spy thriller, Secret Invasion has felt distinctly devoid of tension. The Skrulls have the ability to impersonate anyone, and yet it’s only minor characters whose identities have been borrowed so far. The first two episodes also made it obvious when someone was not who they appeared to be, deflating the element of surprise. But to impersonate the Avengers? That’s a high-stakes plot swerve. Is the sluggish series finally about to get exciting? Not just yet.
First, the third episode, titled Betrayal, runs through a full accounting of what the characters owe each other, and what the cost through the years have been. Fury’s failure to find Skrull refugees a home while using them as an intelligence network is what’s led to their rebellion and plot to invade the Earth, but his broken promises are lent a much more personal flavour in Betrayal. The previous episode revealed that not only was he married, but that his wife is a Skrull. When he left Earth to hide out in space over the past few years, he abandoned her too. Scenes between the two of them offer a moment of quiet domesticity not often depicted in the lasers-and-punching-focused MCU, but all this talk is getting tiring. With three episodes left, when will Secret Invasion finally pick up the pace?
Not just yet. Fury’s (Samuel L. Jackson) debts run so much deeper than previously thought. The episode reveals that since 1995, he’s come a long way from being a “benchwarming nobody” at SHIELD, having built his career of the backs of Skrulls who hid in plain sight, feeding him information his colleagues had no access to. Former Skrull general Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) asks for acknowledgement. Fury, focused on a mission, is barely listening. Around and around they go, having the same unresolved argument. Later, Fury asks Talos why he doesn’t side with war-mongering Skrull leader Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) – their shared history and Talos’s characterization renders this question moot, but he asks it anyway.
Still no sign of the episode picking up pace. Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Talos meet to parley. Gravik wants to go to war. Talos warns him his the Skrulls will face near-extinction in the ensuing fight with humans. Gravik is non-plussed. Round and round they go, regurgitating points we’ve heard before.
Themes introduced earlier in the series are also rehashed – Fury, broken and bowed, Talos, a shell of the general he used to be. Neither can promise to protect anyone after being incapable of looking out for himself. The body count rises this episode, but stays inconsequential. These are characters introduced too fleetingly to get attached to, in a show too slight to exert any kind of pull. At its midway point, Secret Invasion is still just spinning in circles.