Secret Invasion is based on the beloved Marvel Comics run of the same name, and fans have been itching to see if Marvel Studios could faithfully bring the same level of political intrigue and deception that was present on the page.
Because of the comic run's reputation, Secret Invasion quickly became one of the most anticipated series on the MCU slate, feeling set to be a gripping political thriller set within the super-powered universe.
However, here is why - up to this point - that potential has been squandered.
Secret Invasion Dresses Up as a Political Thriller
One key pillar of the Secret Invasion comic run is its allegory for modern concerns about not being able to trust anyone, both in and out of government.
It is a political thriller in which the enemy can be anyone.
However, to put it bluntly, Secret Invasion feels like it is trying to do its best impression of a political espionage thriller (akin to The Americans or Mission: Impossible), without successfully accomplishing it.
Watching the series can feel like a whiteboard checklist of what some executive deemed makes a 'cool' espionage-based drama.
This makes the series feel less like an edge-of-one's-seat paranoid adventure and more like a spy-thriller to-do list.
Talking Like a Spy
The biggest problem many have had with the Secret Invasion series has been its writing.
On many fronts, one can see the Disney+ title trying its absolute best to be cool, but that is no more prevalent than in its dialogue.
Much of the writing comes off as merely a vessel to have the cool character say the cool thing at the end of it.
As an example, in Episode 4 a conversation takes place between Nick Fury and his newly-introduced wife Varra. After Varra does the screenwriting sin of telling and not showing when it comes to her past, Nick dives into a poem the audience had been introduced to prior in the episode.
This blatant metaphor for the situation the two characters are in feels unnatural, lacks any sort of subtlety, and is something that was simply there to be quote-on-quote cool.
This is not the only MCU project to have dialogue like this, but without a gripping story or stunning set pieces of some of those other titles, audiences will be much less forgiving.
This issue with the writing may have been a symptom of the series' production, however.
One early indication the script was possibly in trouble came in July 2022, when a new writer was brought onto the project amid reshoots, but it is hard to know what was there both before and after the studio decided to go back and refilm some of the series.
Way Too Many Twists
For fans of the Breaking Bad-style end-of-the-season twist, Secret Invasion has got plenty.
The mouth-agape, 'I didn't see that coming' moment has become a staple of modern television, and Secret Invasion uses it every single episode.
All of the first four installments to the series have ended with one of these, with three of them having to do with a main character being killed.
Maria Hill in Episode 1 felt way too premature as it seemed like she was going to have a bigger part of the show, yet was killed for little to no reason. And Gi'ah in Episode 3 came with no real shock as Marvel Studios does not hire an actor of Emilia Clarke's caliber to keep her around for three episodes.
Talos in Episode 4 stings a bit, but it did feel like his death came with the ceremony or emotional punch that losing a longtime character like that should have.
These sorts of twists are great when they are used sparingly. But when the viewer can seemingly expect each and every episode to end with one, it dulls the impact quite a bit.
What 'Crossover Event?'
And probably the biggest complaint one can levy at Secret Invasion comes from one simple quote.
Leading into it, the Disney+ series was dubbed by actress Cobie Smulders as the first MCU "crossover event" to hit the streamer.
This elevated expectations quite a bit, and made sense given the world-altering scale of the source material.
Instead of the smaller origin stories of character-focused spin-offs, Secret Invasion was seemingly set to be that Avengers-level must-watch show that fans have been craving.
However, four episodes in, and any meaningful "crossover" has yet to happen. Sure, Don Cheadle's Rhodey joined in on the fun, but one character hopping aboard is not a "crossover event," in the same cinematic universe that Avengers: Endgame happened.
While expectations of an Endgame-style coming together of characters may be a little outlandish, the Secret Invasion comic storyline features a whole swatch of Marvel's best and brightest (i.e. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Captain America, and more). None of them are present in the Disney+ series.
Secret Invasion Could Have Been Great
The most disappointing part of all this is Secret Invasion could have been something special.
There are elements of greatness here. The cast is stellar with the likes of Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelson, Kinsgley Ben-Adir, and Emilia Clarke all being fantastic talents in their own right.
The production value is the best it has ever looked in an MCU Disney+ series, feeling - at least from that standpoint - much more cinematic than any of Marvel Studios' streaming properties that have come before.
And the comic run felt primed for a thrilling TV or film adaptation whenever Marvel Studios got to it. Now that it is here, this is no way to put the genie in the bottle.
Marvel has simply squandered one of its best comic stories in what will turn out to be simply an okay show. Good even. But not great like so many people thought it would be.
Secret Invasion is now streaming on Disney+.