Secret Invasion episode 5 review: "Lurches from uninspired scene to uninspired scene"

Secret Invasion episode 5
(Image: © Marvel Studios)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Secret Invasion fails to shine again, instead offering up flashes of Olivia Colman brilliance among a turgid plot that’s heading towards an inevitable conclusion.

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Spoilers for Secret Invasion episode 5 follow. If you haven't seen the episode, look away now.

"Talos wasn’t much for pageantry," Priscilla tells G’iah as Ben Mendelsohn’s Skrull general is laid to rest. A good thing too. Secret Invasion episode 5 is less concerned with the aftershock of that surprise death and more concerned with straightforwardly putting all the pieces into place for the impending finale. As such, ‘The Harvest’ is a low-energy entry redeemed only by the presence of Olivia Colman and the reveal of Fury’s big secret.

Much of the fifth episode deals with various shows of strength. Gravik, having been attacked and philosophically cornered by his own Skrull unit, deals a fatal blow to naysayers at New Skrullos who are starting to doubt the cause. So if you were hoping against hope that Secret Invasion would explore motivations beyond ‘Gravik = bad’ then you’ll be left sorely disappointed.

Maybe it’s too much to ask the MCU to dive deep into the intricacies of Skrull politics or factor in more of the effect the diaspora has on its people, but surely these six-episode series are the perfect arena for them? Instead, Secret Invasion – much like the majority of the MCU’s Disney Plus output – feels like a Marvel movie stretched into six hours.

Gravik then changes plans, instructing Rhodey – who we now know is Raava – to trick the incapacitated President into thinking that Russians are working with Skrulls. That is, obviously, bad news: Any retaliation, especially in New Skrullos on Russian soil, would instigate World War 3. So far, so ordinary as world-ending threats go. 

At least Olivia Colman’s Sonya peppers the episode with the perfect amount of levity, floating through ‘The Harvest’ as its undoubted highlight. No matter how many times it happens, Sonya making veiled threats through her sunny disposition is hilarious. Colman, much like a seemingly bored Emilia Clarke, has been pretty underutilized throughout Secret Invasion, so it’s been refreshing to see the Oscar-winning actor take the bit between her teeth and really sink her comedic chops into what has been pretty po-faced material up until now.

A poor Harvest

Secret Invasion episode 4

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Not to keep kicking Secret Invasion when it’s down, but this really was an episode that lurched from uninspired scene to uninspired scene. So much so, that it’s a struggle to pinpoint where exactly the reported $200m+ budget has gone. Its one standout set-piece, G’iah and Priscilla channeling Mr. and Mrs. Smith during an assault on the latter’s home, is one of the few moments that didn’t feel cold and gray. Not to say Secret Invasion should be painting on a warm, rich canvas – but it’s certainly proved to be no looker.

The final scene, with Sonya and Fury in Finland, does at least offer some promise for what’s to come.

"This is personal," Fury tells the new head of the SIS on why he hasn’t called in any of The Avengers. "You can’t keep depending on superheroes to swoop in and save our asses."

As a piece of meta commentary, it’s clear that this is Secret Invasion’s (failed) mission statement. This show was meant to sink or swim without Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, after all. But it’s also a crushing line from Fury that, for the first time in Secret Invasion, really tries to interrogate the guilt the ex-director of SHIELD has for all of his many, many secrets – and all the people he’s hurt trying to keep them covered up.

It's The Harvest, the concoction of all the Avengers’ DNA after the Battle of Earth, that might be his biggest. In truth, Secret Invasion doesn’t quite give the reveal the gravitas it deserves – this feels like a massive betrayal of trust, even if it doesn't seem that way – but it’s heavy enough of a story beat to make the series seem fairly worthwhile and not completely skippable.

But then, like most of Secret Invasion, it all falls apart when you think about it too hard: if we’re on the verge of World War 3, then surely the Avengers are required? The finale might answer that lingering question but, on this evidence, it’s likely going to be handwaved away and fizzle out into a mano-a-mano showdown between Fury and Gravik. Marvel could have done so much more with Secret Invasion, but with just one hour left, time is running out for this to be more than bottom-tier MCU fare. 

Secret Invasion is currently streaming on Disney Plus. For more from the MCU, check out our guides on Marvel Phase 5, Marvel Phase 6, and how to watch the Marvel movies in order.

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Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.