It’s something of an understatement to say that Secret Invasion didn’t go out on a high. The season finale is currently the single worst-reviewed thing that Marvel Studios has ever released, fans are calling for it to be retconned into the garbage can of history, and there’s a list of glaring plotholes a mile long.
So, what went wrong here? It’s very easy to pin this on simple laziness or lack of talent, but we think a peek into what was going on behind the scenes at Marvel Studios while Secret Invasion was being made offers a lot of answers and hints that the showrunners were put in an impossible position.
MCU release date musical chairs
The COVID-19 pandemic threw a grenade into Kevin Feige’s carefully laid out release schedule. Practically every Multiverse Saga movie suffered some kind of release date reshuffle, though The Marvels had it worse than most.
The original release date was July 8, 2022. It then slipped to Nov. 11, 2022, Feb. 17, 2023, July 28, 2023 before finally settling (we hope…) on Nov. 10, 2023.
Secret Invasion was planned and written between mid-2020 and early 2021 (as per this interview with Kevin Feige) and the shoot began in London in September 2021 with a rough release window of early 2023.
You may see where we’re going with this. We suspect that when Secret Invasion was being written and shot it was intended to be a sequel to The Marvels. But while Secret Invasion was in full production The Marvels got pushed back too far for that to work. Suddenly, a sequel had become a prequel, and four months of reshoots with Samuel L. Jackson and Emilia Clarke took place in August and September 2022.
How could this have affected the show?
We can only speculate on how this affected Secret Invasion‘s story, though the plot holes in the finale give us some indication of how things were changed.
One of the notable narrative oddities is that the show begins with Nick Fury returning to Earth after a long absence and ends with him returning to the S.A.B.E.R. station, having left the Skrulls in a worse situation than when the show began. It makes a lot more sense for Fury to return to Earth after the interstellar story of The Marvels wraps up and we suspect the original ending either saw Fury vowing to remain on Earth or even killed him off altogether.
The switcheroo would also explain a lot about the sequence in which G’iah disguised as Fury infiltrates Gravik’s base. We think this was originally shot as Fury himself making the journey: which is why Fury and Sonya make a trip to Finland en route to Gravik in episode five, why the radiation-proof G’iah anxiously checks a Geiger counter she doesn’t need, why Gravik delivers the emotional climax of his arc to the wrong person, and why Fury’s plan just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
It’s notable that Gravik actor Kingsley Ben-Adir doesn’t seem to have been able to return for the September 2022 reshoots and that all the scenes after the ‘Fury is G’iah’ reveal have Gravik in full green Super-Skrull monster mode. We strongly suspect the entire Super-Skrull fight was put together in reshoots without Ben-Adir, which is why we don’t see his face from that point on.
We can only speculate on what the original Secret Invasion ending might have been, but if this story had come after The Marvels, there would have been some genuine tension as, without any future MCU appearances scheduled, the door would have been left open for Fury to make a heroic sacrifice and fully atone for exploiting the Skrulls.
Can we really blame the ‘Secret Invasion’ team?
If all of the above is true, then we suddenly feel a lot of sympathy for the Secret Invasion writers as they appear to have been dealt an extraordinarily bad hand by Marvel Studios. They wrote a story designed to take place after the events of The Marvels, and turning it into a prequel to that film undercuts Nick Fury’s character arc, ruins the climax, and destroys any suspense about these characters’ fates throughout the show.
Here’s hoping the real story of what went down behind the scenes on Secret Invasion comes out and we learn how this was originally supposed to end. Right now, all we can do is try to fit this jigsaw together with the information we know.
But, though there are a lot of missing pieces, the overall picture looks pretty clear to us.