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Secret Invasion First Reviews: Samuel L. Jackson's 'Best MCU Work,' Critics Say

Critics say Marvel's latest TV series breaks out of its typical mold in a mature espionage thriller with big reveals, even if it doesn't always hit its mark.

by | June 14, 2023 | Comments

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Secret Invasion stars Samuel L. Jackson, who is reprising his role as Avengers mastermind Nick Fury for television. Created by Kyle Bradstreet (Mr. Robot, Berlin Station), the six-episode series (which premieres on Wednesday, June 21 to Disney+) brings an espionage spy flavor to the MCU and will find Fury facing off against a faction of the Skrull alien race who pose a growing threat to humanity.

Alongside Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn is reprising his MCU role as Skrull ally Talos, Cobie Smulders is back as Maria Hill, Martin Freeman returns as Everett K. Ross, and Don Cheadle is once again playing Rhodey. Joining them are Kingsley Ben-Adir as Skrull villain Gravik, Emilia Clarke as G’iah, Olivia Colman as MI6 agent Sonya Falsworth, and Dermot Mulroney as President Ritson, America’s Commander in Chief.

Giving Fury his own standalone series is an exciting notion and having Jackson lead the charge has generated plenty of interest in the program. With major buzz and expectations running high, here’s what the critics are saying about season 1 of Secret Invasion:


SECRET INVASION key art

(Photo by Marvel Studios)

Click image to open full-sized poster in a new tab.

How does it compare to Disney+’s other Marvel series?

It’s fun enough. This is a Marvel show, after all, which means it’s a slick and polished affair that speeds along, throwing in Easter eggs and zingers with abandon for the fans to savour.
Vicky Jessup, London Evening Standard

As one of the MCU’s most mature projects to date, Secret Invasion is a riveting, tense drama that gifts its actors with weighty material and encourages its audience to look beyond the sheen of superheroism.
Richard Newby, Empire Magazine

I miss pre-blip Nick Fury. It’s cold. It’s humorless. It’s almost super hero-less. Secret Invasion is not the Marvel television series powerhouse I was hoping to kick off Phase V.
Christie Cronan, Raising Whasians

Secret Invasion is proof that the MCU can tell more mature stories, but it does underscore why it’s important for the franchise to find a more balanced, happy medium between the stories playing out on the silver screen and on Disney+.
Maggie Lovitt, Millennial Falcon Reviews


How is Samuel L. Jackson?

Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson  in Secret Invasion

Cobie Smulders and Samuel L. Jackson in Secret Invasion (Photo by Marvel Studios)

In what can only be described as Jackson’s best turn as Fury yet, the actor brings a new level of pathos and solemnity to this comic book role that should see him emerge as a rightful frontrunner in every “Best Actor” awards category months from now.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

Jackson used to bring a raffish pizzaz to even his darker parts. Here, he seems as fed up with the Marvel formula as a growing segment of the audience.
Ed Power, Daily Telegraph (UK)

Samuel L. Jackson, always talented, but really giving it his all this go round. Jackson is allowed to play with Fury in a way we haven’t seen him before.
Aprillé Morris, OffColour.org

the show allows for Samuel L. Jackson to shine bright as Fury, a character who has long been the glue that kept other Marvel teams together.
Allyson Johnson, But Why Tho? A Geek Community

As Secret Invasion digs into Fury’s psyche, Jackson easily delivers his best MCU work ever.
Matt Webb Mitovich, TV Line


What about the rest of the cast?

Olivia Colman in Secret Invasion

Olivia Colman in Secret Invasion (Photo by Marvel Studios)

Ben Mendelsohn is also on top form as Talos, while Emilia Clarke and Olivia Colman each make a significant impact in a series where it would be all too easy to be overshadowed by Jackson.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

Oscar-winner Olivia Colman is a devilish delight as British spy director Sonya Falsworth. Every time she’s on screen, Secret Invasion gets a much-needed spark of mischief as Colman seems honestly excited to be naughty in a Marvel show.
Meghan O’Keefe, Decider

The casting of Emilia Clarke as a dangerously intense figure with conflicting impulses toward her own rise to power — the sort of role she played on “Game of Thrones” and was being set up to play by the end of vexed would-be franchise starter “Solo” — is hardly imaginative, but Clarke is good at her job and the kind of actor Marvel is lucky to get.
Daniel D’Addario, Variety

Ben-Adir so far makes for an unnerving villain as Gravik, and it seems likely his character could reveal additional layers in future episodes that will make him a standout antagonist in the franchise. –Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant


How is the writing and directing?

Ben Mendelsohn in Secret Invasion

Ben Mendelsohn in Secret Invasion (Photo by Marvel Studios)

Secret Invasion has a fascinating concept and some truly incredible performances for an MCU joint, but its writing and direction both fall a little flat. It’s the kind of serious show that Marvel fans were thirsting for five years ago, but now might cause some viewers to nod off.
Meghan O’Keefe, Decider

Helping matters is the fact this cast is given such incredible dialogue to play with, and whether it’s Fury recalling a childhood conversation with his mother or a heated back-and-forth between Fury and Don Cheadle’s Rhodey you’ll be unable to pull your eyes from, writers Kyle Bradstreet and Brian Tucker bring their A-game and deliver a sharply written thriller that never lets up.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

But like with most Marvel entries, these dynamic talents are conscripted to spout blunt exposition, rote dialogue, and forced quips. (Stay tuned for a mid-life crisis joke that only exists so someone can mention The Avengers again.)
Ben Travers, IndieWire

Director Ali Selim excels at bringing an old-fashioned sensibility to the series, stylizing Secret Invasion like a classic conspiracy thriller, albeit one with aliens.
Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant


How is the tone and visual effects?

Kingsley Ben-Adir in Secret Invasion

Kingsley Ben-Adir in Secret Invasion (Photo by Marvel Studios)

Once the Skrulls can be anybody and you’ve played the “Is that the character I recognize or is it a Skrull in disguise?” game four or five times, it’s impossible to build tension around what ought to be provocative ideas of identity.
Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

The only place it really stumbles is with the visual effects; the transformation process for the Skrulls didn’t look amazing in Captain Marvel and it’s still an odd design choice where, if you like it, it’s fine, but if not, it tends to be a distraction (and, with a slightly smaller budget than a $1 billion blockbuster, it doesn’t always look perfect).
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

There are twists, but only die-hard fans will feel anything, and for a story without superheroes, there’s little done visually to make up for their absence.
Ben Travers, IndieWire

Secret Invasion is absolutely fine. Action is few and far between as the set pieces remain some of Marvel’s smallest yet. Unfortunately, the first two episodes are unable to stand out from any other action-adventure streaming today.
Adam Barnhardt, ComicBook.com

So far Secret Invasion is a dark and gritty, neo noir thriller, that delivers some fantastic action and great humor.
Tessa Smith, Mama’s Geeky


Any final thoughts?

Secret Invasion s1

Emilia Clarke and Ben Mendelsohn in Secret Invasion (Photo by Marvel Studios)

A watered-down, made-for-TV espionage thriller lacking both espionage and thrills. A real bummer.
Evan Dossey, Midwest Film Journal

With surprises every bit as big as the comics and a tone that makes this feel like Nick Fury’s Logan, not only does Secret Invasion exceed expectations, it will rock your world.
Josh Wilding, ComicBookMovie.com

For the most part, Secret Invasion is more dour and even dull than one might expect from its John le Carré/Graham Greene trappings.
Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

“Secret Invasion” proves as tepid as it is inert.
Ben Travers, IndieWire

Prepare for big shocks from the very start, alluring villains and jaw-dropping secrets to be unravelled. As for anything else that’s left to say…our lips are sealed.
Sabrina Barr, metro.co.uk

The setup is solid. But the setup is almost always solid in the MCU; sticking the landing is the hard part — and something we can’t get a sense of for a few more weeks.
Josh Spiegel, Slashfilm

After the MCU’s customary comfort watches of the past year, Secret Invasion is quite a sharp turn.
Richard Newby, Empire Magazine

In some ways, Secret Invasion gets off to a slow start. Luckily, it also sets up enough mysteries and character arcs to fuel audience interest and suggest this could be one of Marvel’s strongest Disney+ shows to date.
Rachel LaBonte, Screen Rant

Even under the weight of increasing Marvel fatigue, the surprises included in this, as well as the grounded storytelling, create a solid start to what could be a truly smart and relevant MCU installment, one that doesn’t seem afraid to shake up the status quo.
Liz Shannon Miller, Consequence

52% Secret Invasion: Season 1 (2023) premieres on Wednesday, June 21 on Disney+.


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