Broken Promises – “Secret Invasion” Episode Two

The central theme of Marvel Studio’s Secret Invasion second episode is the failure to live up to one’s promises. Behind Gravik’s attempts to overthrow the human population of Earth and make it into a new home for the Skrulls is his disillusionment with Nick Fury’s promise to find them a new homeworld. The question being posed, though, is does that justify Gravik’s actions (which I would resoundingly say it doesn’t). Episode Two of Secret Invasion, titled “Promises”, drops a number of big reveals on the audience, some of which will have big ramifications as the series progresses.

Spoilers ahead, so don’t read this if you haven’t watched the second episode of Marvel Studio’s Secret Invasion.

The episode begins with a flashback to shortly after the events of Captain Marvel. It turns out that a contingent of Skrulls did not leave with Carol Danvers into deep space. Instead, they stayed behind on Earth and agreed to serve as spies for Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D., including Talos and his wife Soren. Among those who stayed on Earth was a young Gravik, who we discover has lost all of his family to the Kree (the villains of Captain Marvel). Fury promises the Skrulls that he and Carol will help them find a new homeworld in exchange for their assistance on Earth.

It’s a tempting promise, one that Fury fails to follow through on. Cutting to the present, we soon learn that not only have a million Skrulls taken up residence on Earth, many of them are impersonating important world leaders. The Skrull Council, which had been mentioned in the first episode, are made up of these leaders, which include the UK Prime Minister and the UN Secretary-General. Gravik manages to convince all but one of the council to name him the new General of their forces, setting the stage for Gravik to begin his push to eliminate humanity. But even in this scene, we see that Gravik has some capacity for compassion. When one of the councilors does not bend to his will, he lets her go (which is a pretty big mistake since that councilor immediately contacts Talos to inform him of the new regime change). I found it interesting that Gravik made this call, especially considering what happens later in the episode with one of his followers.

Gravik, as portrayed by Kingsley Ben-Adir, is both a showman and a manipulator. He effortlessly walks through the corridors of power among his fellow Skrulls as if he is on his way to a posh dinner date. He does not let his emotions come to the forefront often, preferring a quiet intensity that simply radiates off of him. In many ways, Gravik reminds me of Nick Fury as we were first introduced to the character early in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Confident in the extreme and secretive by nature, Gravik is shaping up to be a worthy addition to the list of villains produced in the MCU.

With that being said, Gravik is also a pragmatist and is willing to eliminate potential threats to his plans. In the previous episode, one of his Skrulls was captured by Russian security operatives, which allowed him to be “interrogated” by Sonya Falsworth. I use quotation marks because what she does is clearly torture and we are meant to feel uncomfortable with her methods, especially given how nonchalant Olivia Colman plays the scene. I’m reminded of similar scenes in shows like 24, which is not a good comparison in my estimation. As Gravik rescues his operative, Falsworth makes her escape (after getting what she could from the Skrull in custody). During the rescue, G’iah makes a quick phone call while waiting on Gravik, revealing the location of the Skrulls safehouse in town. When the rescue party see their safehouse is compromised, Gravik assumes the captured Skrull revealed the location and has that Skrull executed. The message is clear: now that Gravik is the General of the Skrulls, he is no longer above removing his own people if they prove an impediment to his goals.

Emilia Clarke’s G’iah didn’t have a whole lot to do this episode. What her scenes did show us as the audience is a glimpse into the breadth of Gravik’s plan. We’ve learned that the Skrulls are keeping a large repository of people they can assume the identities of. Furthermore, the Skrulls have managed to create technology that lets them absorb the full extent of a person’s mind, giving them access to the copied individual’s memories and experiences. As G’iah learns, though, there’s something else going on. Gravik has captured samples of several individuals, such as Groot, Cull Obsidian, and a sample of Extremis. As a comic fan, this leads me to believe that Gravik is intending to create a Super Skrull, someone with the unique abilities of Earth’s heroes and villains to fight for their cause. If that is the direction the show is going in, Gravik is setting up a dangerous endgame.

The biggest shock of the episode, though, has to be the ending. Fury is on his backfoot the majority of the episode. Reeling from both Maria Hill’s death and the reveal that there are a million Skrulls on Earth, Fury cannot seem to find any safe harbor. Even James Rhodes (a returning Don Cheadle) refuses to provide Fury with any kind of assistance to go after Gravik. Fury is quite literally on his own (save for Talos and G’iah), forcing Fury to find within himself the fire that made him one of the more formidable characters in the MCU. And then we see where Fury calls home at the end, with his wife (who it turns out is a Skrull). After nearly fifteen years of MCU surprises, this is one that I was not expecting. Fury’s loyalty to the Skrulls isn’t just based on his friendship with Talos but also on his relationship with his wife. It does beg the question of whether or not his spouse can be trusted.

Overall, I’ve been enjoying the direction Secret Invasion has been taking with one exception. The idea that refugees should be feared rather than integrated into society is not one I feel works, both morally and as a storytelling trope. My hope is that the writers of Secret Invasion avoid going down that road as the series progresses. With that being said, the clandestine nature of the series is something I’ve been enjoying so far. Here’s hoping the next episode in the series doesn’t veer off in the wrong direction.

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