This review contains spoilers
RIP to a real one. Talos, one of the best characters Marvel has introduced to the MCU since they began wrapping up the Infinity Saga, is dead. Ben Mendelsohn will certainly not be short of work and never really is; he’s a terrific actor who always gives 100% to any role, and though his time as the gentle Skrull Talos was pretty fleeting, it always seemed to pack a punch. If you’re already missing Mendelsohn’s Australian lilt and disheveled demeanor (I know I am) he’s the lead of a new TV series coming out soon on Apple TV+ called The New Look, where he plays fashion designer Christian Dior opposite Juliette Binoche as Coco Chanel. I will be watching!
But for now, we shall draw our attention back to episode four of Secret Invasion, “Beloved”, named after a section of the poem “Late Fragment” by Raymond Carver. Nick Fury’s wife Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard) is a fan of Carver’s writing, but the “beloved” of the text doesn’t just apply to the role she’s settled for in her turbulent marriage to Nick here on Earth. The loss of Nick’s beloved friend Talos, killed by Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) during the episode’s final moments, is as upsetting as it gets. The pair have been working together for decades, and last week Talos made it clear that Nick wouldn’t have had half the success he’s had to date without the help of his Skrull friend helping behind the scenes.
Talos is beloved not just by Nick, but also by his daughter G’iah (Emilia Clarke) who is of course not dead after last week’s shooting, having used the Super Skrull machine on herself to get some of that hot Extremis juice in a brief flashback that prompted a bit of an eyeroll. If even I, someone who is as regularly shocked by twists as a newborn baby who thinks you really have got their nose, am seeing these twists coming, they’re not great twists!
In a final conversation with her father that she will no doubt dwell on for the rest of her life, G’iah calls him “delusional” for thinking the humans will embrace the Skrulls as friends and eventually allow them to live here in harmony. Gravik’s approach works, she argues, and the time she’s spent with Gravik’s faction has changed her viewpoint. She is no longer able to cling on to Talos’ optimism, but stays by his side out of familial obligation. When she finds out Gravik has killed Talos, I think there will probably be a bit of a reassessment of values, there.
Meanwhile, Skrull Rhodey (Don Cheadle), it turns out, is not very smart, considering he’s a Bad Skrull who has been assigned to move the US President around like a pawn on a chessboard for Gravik. After a visit from Nick, who straight up tells him he’s feeding him a tracer, Skrull Rhodey assumes Nick’s joking, and glugs it right down housed in an expensive tipple. He then turns up to the really important Skrull mission to attack the President’s motorcade half-cut. Real Rhodey would never, he’s way too much of a stick in the mud.
The short but slow episode eventually leads to a scene that Marvel clearly spent time and money on, where Nick and Talos try to rescue the President from Gravik’s attack. The effects and action in the sequence are solid, which is a relief frankly after some of the dodgy shit Marvel Studios has shoved off their production line over the last few years, although due to the nature of this being Skrulls dressed in dark colors vs. humans dressed in dark colors fighting around a lot of dark-colored cars, it isn’t always entirely clear what’s going on or who’s winning, which leads to enough confusion that we can say “maybe Gravik did manage to get in there and replace this dude and kill Talos that quickly while Nick was busy” and not think about it too hard. There’s a lot of “please do not think about this too hard” in Secret Invasion, and you’re either willing to go along with it or you’re not.
It’s hard to know where the series is going from here. There are two episodes left of Secret Invasion, and Nick still has to do something to stop Gravik’s faction, get the President to safety, maybe tell him what the hell is going on, and potentially make good on his promise to find one million Skrulls a new home. Since it’s currently unclear whether this year’s The Marvels, in which Samuel L. Jackson will reprise his role as Fury, is a prequel to Secret Invasion or not, we don’t know if this marks the true end of Fury’s time in the MCU, but it feels unlikely. Jackson always seems to be having so much fun making these things, and it would be a shame if Marvel killed off yet another great character here. Three quarters of these episodes have ended in a shocking death, and though I was sad to see Talos die, I did kind of sit there afterwards thinking “was there no other way to make us care what happens next?”
For a series sold as a big deal for the MCU, Secret Invasion hasn’t exactly been must-see TV thus far, and its twists have been signposted with a heavy hand. Here’s hoping the final two episodes take all that slow burn energy and finally make a real fire.