Secret Invasion Episode 3 Review: Rhodes to Redemption

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This review contains spoilers

Not much happens in the third episode of Secret Invasion, but “Betrayed” is easily the best instalment of the Marvel show yet. The show got off to a messy, uneven start, but after a much-improved second episode it seems to have hit its stride here, as the relationships between the main players gel together and the fraught nature of their history deepens. This episode also has some of the best lighting and composition I’ve seen in the MCU to date.

In “Betrayed”, little time has passed since the “Nick Fury has a wife!” twist at the end of last week’s episode. To be clear, we’ve known Nick had a wife since Captain America: The Winter Soldier, but we didn’t know she was a Skrull. Their marriage is naturally a mess, with Nick having been thought dead for five years during The Blip, and Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard) grieving the loss. Instead of trying to get back on track with his wife after his resurrection, Nick struggled to cope with everything, and he disappeared up to SABER to just flat out ignore the Earth and its problems. Not only has he broken his promise and failed to find a solution to the refugee Skrull problem, it looks like he largely abandoned the ones who were on his side, too. Oh, Nick.

Though Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) remains loyal, Nick’s wife Priscilla has had enough of his bullshit, and has apparently drifted to Gravik’s (Kingsley Ben-Adir) rebellion. As Nick concedes to Talos in a quiet and truly engaging scene between the pair, it must be hard for the Skrulls to keep fighting Gravik’s central ideology when they at least partially agree with it. Priscilla is clearly still unsure about whether she should side with the faction or not, but time will tell whose side she’ll end up on.

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After becoming suspicious of G’iah (Emilia Clarke) last week, Gravik sets events in motion to prove she’s the mole in their midst by forcing Nick and Talos to prevent an attack on a UN airplane from a navy submarine. You can see the set up coming a mile away, but it’s still a tense series of scenes as Talos blows Giah’s cover to save the humans at risk. G’iah looks to be dead at Gravik’s hand by the end of the episode, but I don’t think they would get rid of Clarke that quickly. We can probably expect to see her miraculously survive the shooting. Maybe when she saw the Extremis tech that Gravik had already absorbed, she managed to use the Super Skrull machine to protect herself in the future?

The physical appearance of the Extremis effect isn’t the only intriguing MCU callback in the episode. A Black Widow connection is forged in the 90s flashback scene when Priscilla mentions scuppering Dreykov’s plans. I’ve heard the rumors that Secret Invasion intends to put Black Widow back into the MCU somehow, and I’m not quite willing to invest in them yet – I’m going to need more than a Dreykov name drop! But if the show is teasing more of Ray Winstone’s Russian accent in the MCU, we should prepare ourselves accordingly.

Elsewhere, Olivia Colman’s Sonya continues to be a delight. I loved the little eyepatch she gave her owl after quickly finding Nick’s bug. And, of course, Rhodey is a Skrull, as revealed at the end of the episode when he calls Priscilla (yes, that’s Don Cheadle’s voice). Was there ever any doubt? That means the Skrulls probably have the bodies of Rhodey and Everett Ross at their base. Who else might they have squirrelled away there? Don’t say Natasha! Don’t give me hope.

Honestly, the slow burn of this episode works entirely because the characters are given the breathing room to just sit around and talk for much of it, a key part of the storytelling craft that has been sorely lacking from other Marvel shows grasping at the “six-hour movie” approach. You’d expect action, easter eggs, and special effects from a Marvel show, but in their rush to stuff them into a weekly watercooler moment, they have more than occasionally sacrificed the parts of the story that help us understand why we should actually care about these characters and their fates. The intimate scenes between Talos and Nick might be explosion-free, but they really matter. Their long friendship is the heart of the story, and it’s the reason we ended up here in the first place. It’s also weirdly romantic? I love it. They’re as much of an old married couple as Nick and Priscilla.

The MCU is at its best when its denizens have the space to bounce off each other, skewer each other, and help each other make sense of the past, present, and future. It’s good to see Secret Invasion taking the time to dish up a nice big helping of that in this episode. The back half of the season should hopefully be all the better for it.

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