Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) walks warily into a building. (Photo credit: Marvel Studios)
Secret Invasion episode 1 premiered last Wednesday. I had a lot of time to process what happened last week on the show. I should start by asking: why did Disney/Marvel Studios have to use AI for the opening intro? Even though I have to admit it is one of their best intros yet, despite the fact it was partially made by an AI. Regardless, that’s bad timing considering the writers’ strike is still ongoing.
Director Ali Saliem came out defending the decision in a Polygon article saying “When we reached out to the AI vendor, that was part of it—it just came right out of the shapeshifting, Skrull world identity, you know? Who did this? Who is this?” and further commenting, “We would want to talk about ideas and themes and words, and then the computer would go off and do something. And then we could change it a little bit by using words, and it would change.” It sounds like he doesn’t understand AI but is intrigued about how to utilize it.
A Hollywood Reporter article reporting on Method Studios, the company who made the intro amongst many other visuals for last year’s Ms. Marvel, Loki, Moon Knight, and Top Gun: Maverick, came out with a statement saying, “AI is just one tool among the array of toolsets our artists used. No artists’ jobs were replaced by incorporating these new tools; instead, they complemented and assisted our creative teams.” This feels like cold PR speak in the equivalent of an interview for the production of a new car saying “Remote driving is just one tool among the array of functions for the driver to use. No human driver’s ability will be replaced by incorporating these new tools: instead, they complement and assist our drivers to be safe on the road.” So…I don’t think this is helping the director or Marvel’s case in that matter.
Nothing says you don’t value a product more than putting an Ai generated image or animation in front of it. The look will be dated soon (animated jitter), but the moral lapse will last well beyond. #secretinvasion pic.twitter.com/ewMRZPcjQ6
— Tim O’Brien (@TonkaOBrien) June 21, 2023
Starting in the opening prologue, former CIA agent Everett Ross (Martin Freeman) is in Moscow meeting with Agent Prescod (Richard Dormer) and discussing how the Skrulls have been causing global chaos within the past year. We never saw those terrorist strikes in any of the previous Marvel shows besides the attacks directed toward the Global Reclamation Council by the Flag-Smashers in The Falcon and The Winter Soldier. If the screenwriters show us that the Skrulls may have had a hand in those events as well, it could at least strengthen Phase 4 from mediocre to a better start to the Multiverse Saga. Prescod, paranoid of the alien shapeshifters, attacks Ross and ends up killed with Ross being pursued by a random Russian agent and calling for Maria Hill (Cobie Smolders) for extraction. That random agent turns out to be good guy Skrull Talos (Ben Mendelson) who was chasing after…GASP! a rogue Skrull agent who was posing as Ross. This begs the question, “Where’s the real Ross after the Wakandans broke him out in Black Panther: Wakanda Forever?”
Nick Fury (Samuel L.Jackson) arrives back down on Earth from the S.A.B.E.R space station and reunites with Talos. The latter reminds him he had changed after Thanos dusted him and half of all life in the universe, Carol Danvers disappeared, and that Talos’s daughter G’iah (Emilia Clarke) also joined ranks with the rogue Skrull faction. The leader of the rogue faction, Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir), preys on the young’s anger and resentment toward Fury and Talos after losing any hope of securing a new home for the Skrulls. As a result, the group has decided to take over Earth through infiltration and manipulation of global governments and events. Informed by Hill, their latest attempt is to manipulate a faction of a radical American extremist group called Americans Against Russians (that’s a stupid name by the way) into starting a nuclear war; destroying humanity while the Skrulls, immune to radiation, will claim the planet for themselves.
In Washington D.C., Colonel James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle),now a presidential advisor, walks and talks with President Ritson (Dermont Mulroney) about Fury and Hill going AWOL. Ritson quietly orders Rhodes to deal with it, which makes me wonder if the President himself is a Skrull. I mean, why else would they have a sinister green overcast hanging in the backdrop of the White House, New York, London, and Moscow in the intro?
Fury then reunites with his MI6 pal Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Coleman) who also tells him that he’s not the same Nick Fury since the events of Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Unknowingly to Falsworth, Fury planted a camera in the eye of an owl statue to keep a close eye on his former partner.
Fury and the gang go on the hunt for bombs that were going to be used, and Talos and G’iah had a reunion where she was informed that her mother passed away with her last words being, “Find G’iah.” She ends up revealing that Gravik’s Skrulls are going to bomb Russia’s Unity Day celebration, giving the good guys a chance to stop them. However, things go south as Gravik himself shows up and detonated the bombs and poses as Fury to kill Maria Hill while the real Nick Fury was stunned and shocked at the loss of his right-hand woman with the camera lingering on Hill’s dead body and cut to black with no post-credit scene.
That ending is going to have a lot of implications going forward into episode two this week. I’m honestly kind of bummed and sad that Maria Hill, after living through so many Earth-ending events, dies at the hands of a shapeshifter posing as her boss. I thought we would see more of her in this series since we barely saw her at all in Phase 3. However, it does prove the fact that the stakes are really high. Earth does not have the Avengers anymore and The Blip and many other terrorist attacks caused by the Flag-Smashers and other groups created a lot of social unrest, prompting the Skrulls to use it to their advantage. Maybe Hill’s death will be the ultimate incentive to get Fury back to what he used to be, which feels like the end goal by the time the series is done. And this series is supposed to lead into The Marvels coming November with Fury returning.
It feels like this series is going to shake up the MCU like its older brother, Captain America: The Winter Soldier in ways that might lead Earth into a state of anarchy by the time Kang the Conqueror and the multiversal Incursions start rearing their heads. With all that said, we’ll just wait to see what happens in Episode 2 coming Wednesday.