Image: Marvel Studios

Image: Marvel Studios

Episode two of Secret Invasion, Marvel’s new Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) series, continues the trend started in episode one by further cutting him off from the people he trusts. Fury’s biggest power isn’t flying around, super strength, or how good his gadgets are; his secret weapon has always been in how big his Rolodex is. And Secret Invasionslowly but surely, is culling his contact list down to nothing.

All episodes of Secret Invasion are directed by Ali Selim; episode two, “Promises,” was written by Brian Tucker, from a story by Tucker and Brant Englestein. After the bombshell murder of Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) at the end of episode one, we get a throwback to 1995—the year that the events of Captain Marvel afterward. We get a quick recap of the alien war that led to the shape-shifting Skrulls seeking refuge on Earth. We get another look at the Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and Nick Fury meet-cute. It’s a pretty decent recap that totally excludes Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, and the Kree, which is… kind of funny, actually.

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Image: Marvel Studios |  Gareth Gatrell

Image: Marvel Studios | Gareth Gatrell

Talos and Fury play the game “tell me something I don’t know.” It’s during this back and forth that Talos reveals there aren’t a couple dozen, or even a hundred Skrulls on Earth. There are a million. This is a massive, huge reveal, and the number of Skrulls is much greater than Fury ever expected. Fury is obviously unhappy about Talos lying to him, and the conversation devolves into an argument. Talos accuses Fury of using the Skrulls and then abandoning them, which… he did. Talos is right. Talos emphasizes that if Fury can’t find a home for them (which is looking more and more likely) he wants the Skrulls to coexist alongside humans. Fury says that will never be an option; humans can barely stop themselves from killing each other, much less keeping the peace with aliens. Fury tells Talos to get off the train, and Talos leaves.

In London, Fury meets up with Elizabeth Hill (Juliet Stevenson), the newly introduced mother of Maria Hill, but I immediately like her. Elizabeth is mourning her daughter, and Fury explains that Hill died because someone wanted to hurt Fury by hurting her. It’s not really comforting to hear that your daughter is a narrative element meant to provide emotional pain to someone else. Elizabeth tells Fury that he better make sure her death wasn’t in vain. As more and more people abandon Fury, it’s clear that he’s not doing anything to win new friends.

Newscasts pop up, stating that the Kremlin is likely to declare war on America because of the bombing, which killed over 2,000 people. G’iah and Gravik are diving through Moscow. They head to a very fancy looking building, and G’iah is left out of the important conversations, much to her displeasure. It turns out that Gravik is meeting with a council made up of various important political leaders, including the NATO Secretary General and the UK Prime Minister, all of whom are revealed to be Skrulls who were once loyal to Fury. They remind Gravik that the council was established to preserve peace while Fury found them a new home, and Gravik is putting that in danger. They say that they consolidated this tribunal to punish Gravik for murdering people in Moscow and threatening world peace.

Here’s where Secret Invasion‘s subtext gets problematic—and even if it’s unintentional, it’s worth taking a moment to point out. Earlier in the episode when Fury and Talos were bickering, Fury said something to the effect of “get that through your lizard brain.” The idea of ​​“lizard people” appears in some bonkers conspiracy theories, including anti-Semitic accusations of globalized political shadow cabals. And then it’s revealed… we have a literal shadow government of Skrulls controlling everything. These two things taken at face value might not mean much—and obviously Secret Invasion still has much more story to tell across another four episodes—but to people who are familiar with seeing these dogwhistles throughout contemporary political discourse, seeing all of these tropes together does not read well at all, even construed through the lens of the Skrulls as literal aliens.

But, back to the council. Gravik says that Fury abandoned them, and they’re never leaving Earth. So, he has another proposal: Earth is their home, and he will take it for the Skrulls. He wants war! Humans are doomed to self-destruction, so why not help them along? Besides, Gravik mentions that the Avengers are not considered a threat, as they are… off doing their own thing, I guess. No explanations, but I don’t mind ignoring the Avengers for now.

The UK Prime Minister suggests putting Gravik in charge of all the Skrulls so that he can lead them in a war against humans. She nominates Gravik for Skrull General. The majority of the members of the Council agree to go to war and submit to Gravik. The one dissenter immediately contacts Talos and lets him know what’s happened. Talos asks her to set up a meeting between him and Gravik so they can talk.

Back at New Skrullos, Gravik is greeted by cheers and applause from the refugees. G’iah seems less excited by this. She follows Pagon (Killian Scott), Gravik’s right-hand man, as he sneaks off to a science lab. She watches as they run some kind of glowy experiments on blood, but it’s not clear what is happening.

Then, James “Rhodey” Rhodes (Don Cheadle), the War Marchine himself, shows up in Moscow. He is there to account for American involvement in the bombing, and Fury and Hill are accused of being a part of the bombing. Rhodey says that he is here as a courtesy, and he absolutely refuses to take responsibility for the bombing in any capacity. Typical American diplomacy at play. He gets a call from Fury, and they set up a meeting.

At the meeting, Rhodey tells Fury that regardless of whether or not Fury is being framed, being in Moscow during the bombing has “flipped” all American allies to Team Russia. Fury informs Rhodey about the Skrulls and Rhodey is simply too composed to care. The colonel informs Fury that he’s known about the Skrulls acting as Fury’s secret agents for 15 years. Fury repeats that this is an invasion, and it’s happening right now. When Rhodey suggests that they should call their friends—implying the Avengers—Fury refuses because he doesn’t want to have them imitated by Skrulls and call their identities into question.

Fury once again tries to assert that he’s the only one who can solve this problem, and this is a problem not of firepower, but just plain old power. “A seat at the table” as he calls it. He mentions that it’s hard for Black men to make it into powerful positions, and attempts to leverage his shared experiences as a Black man with Rhodey to gain him some sympathy. Rhodey not only shuts him down, but then kicks Nick Fury while he’s down, firing him. He is no longer an agent, he is no longer in charge of SABER, he’s just Nick Fury, ally to no nation.

Fury stands up, disarms the security guard to prove he’s still got a little bit of fight left in him, and says to Rhodey, “I’m Nick Fury—even when I’m out, I’m in.” Bold words for a man with absolutely no friends. Once he gets outside, Fury immediately collapses on a bench, overcome with emotion. This is one of the few times he shows real vulnerability, because he doesn’t have an audience. He’s not trying to be manipulative, he’s trying to recover from the biggest cut-off of his life.

Sonya Falsworth (Olivia Colman), a high-ranking MI6 operative we met in the first episode, heads to a butcher shop where the Skrull who imitated the AAR agent is being tortured for information. Falsworth grabs a pair of shears and declares to the gang of Russian men that she’s taking over the torture. Colman, it must be said, is having a delightful time, really making an unhinged murdery lady very fun to watch. Dangerously prim and heartless, Falsworth immediately cuts off a finger. The finger turns green—confirming the man is a Skrull. She smiles, says “Let’s party, shall we?”

Image: Marvel Studios

Image: Marvel Studios

G’iah sneaks into a computer lab, where she’s accommodated by Gravik. Before she’s interrupted, she sees that the Skrulls are collecting DNA on some Marvel notables; Groot, the Frost Beast from Thor: The Dark World, and Cull Obsidian are all listed. While the Avengers may be out of reach, it appears as if the Skrulls are going to take on some C-list heroes and villains and wreak havoc. Gravik then takes G’iah, Pagon, and new recruit Beto (Samuel Adewunmi) for a rescue mission to retrieve the AAR-imitating Skrull before he can reveal any of their secrets.

They’d better hurry, since Falsworth is seen injecting his Skrull prisoner with a poison that immediately takes painful effect. She wants the location of Gravik’s compound and his other hideouts. While he doesn’t tell her, he reveals that Gravik is building a machine to make the Skrulls stronger. He reveals a Council of Skrulls are leading the world. He gives her a name, Dalton. We saw the name Rosa Dalton on the computer that G’iah was looking over–is this the name of the woman G’iah is impersonating?

Gravik and Pagon enter the butcher’s shop and quickly take out the Russian thugs. Falsworth escapes through a hatch, and G’iah slips away from the escaped vehicle into an alleyway, talking on the phone. Gravik recovers his agent, but before they leave, Gravik asks him what he told Falsworth. Gravik believes him, or chooses to believe him, when the agent says that he only told her lies.

The five Skrulls make it out of Moscow when Gravik tells G’iah to pull over. Pagon takes the Skrull who has been tortured for information and drags him out into the woods, executing him. It’s unclear why Beto was here, but it seems apparent that both G’iah and Pagon aren’t really excited about the cold-blooded murder. Regardless, they continue on, heading back to New Skrullos.

The final scenes of the episode follow Nick Fury as he drives through the English countryside. There’s a cut to a Skrull woman in the kitchen. We see Fury enter a very nice house, approaching an unknown woman in the kitchen, who definitely doesn’t look like a Skrull anymore. She looks totally unsurprised to see him, and says, very calmly, “aren’t you forgetting something?” He goes back to the foyer, grabs a wedding ring and, in front of her, puts it on, “Better?” before he kisses her, with no small amount of enthusiasm.

I know that the writers are expecting this to be a huge moment, but I’m just so deeply unimpressed that I’m bordering on annoyed. We already had a super secret wifey in the MCU (Clint Barton) and springing this at the end of the episode doesn’t feel like a cliffhanger, it feels like a weirdly opportunistic hook to get us to care about Nick Fury now that he doesn’t ‘t have Maria Hill around. It’s another attempt to humanize a man who, for decades, has never made one mention of his wife. Like why should we care about this if he clearly has never cared about her before these last two minutes? Put this at the start of your episode, not at the end!

Add to this, the fact that we don’t know whether or not Fury knows his secret wife is a Skrull? Is she just another plant or is she into aliens? So many of these questions are deeply frustrating to put at the end of an episode, because we aren’t really introducing a new character—we don’t even know her name—we’re introduced to another problem that Fury has to navigate, rather than building on the problems he already had. For me, at least, this is a disappointing ending to the episode—but in fairness, it’s not a bad ending. With Fury on the down and out, will he have to be convinced that the Skrulls aren’t his problem anymore, or will he and his wife team up to take down the enemy from the inside? Will he ever make up with Talos? Who knows, but the flat-footed pacing of this six-episode limited series has caught up eventually.

Secret Invasion episodes 1-2 are now streaming; new episodes are released every Wednesday on Disney+.

Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TVand everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.

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