Television Man | Aidan Morgan
“When you come to a television in the road, watch it” —Someone who hasn’t thought very hard on the circumstances that would leave a television in the road.
Mild spoilers for programs being discussed below.
On July 26, the finale of Secret Invasion (Disney+) aired, allowing the world to release its collective breath. Secret Invasion was touted as a more mature instalment of the MCU, a spy thriller with sophisticated themes and an adult edge to its storytelling. After the first two episodes of the six-part series aired, some viewers wondered whether this was the Andor (Disney+) of the MCU, a work capable of disassembling its component comic book parts and putting them back together into something that surpassed its origins.
Nick Sleepy, Agent Of Naps
Secret Invasion is not the MCU’s answer to Star Wars’ Andor. It’s more like… the answer to The Book of Boba Fett? It’s a confused muddle that promised to give a starring role to a very cool actor and character (Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury), who had, up until now, only been given a supporting role. Here, sadly, he finds nothing particularly cool to do with that character. Jackson squanders his Marvel star turn by looking tired and out of his depth much of the time, occasionally waking up enough to deliver a zinger.
Even worse, the series charts the exact same realpolitik geography already explored in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and nearly every other Marvel program. The villain has a justified grievance over A Pretty Bad Thing, but they always take their grievances too far — and that is The Really Bad Thing. It then falls to the good guys to wring their hands, do some soul-searching, then dose themselves with magical juice to punch the villain very hard. In Secret Invasion, the Pretty Bad Thing involves the neglect of marginalized alien refugees. The Really Bad Thing is a dumb plan that’s supposed to lean into the cold war-era spy games the show wants to indulge in, but it’s handled so poorly that most of the tension leaks away in the first episode, never to reinflate.
The events of Secret Invasion are supposed to lead into November’s The Marvels and the upcoming series Armor Wars. Best of luck to them.
LD To The SNW
Did I say best of luck? Well, best of luck to Star Trek: Strange New Worlds (Paramount/Crave) topping “Those Old Scientists,” the recent Lower Decks–Strange New Worlds crossover episode that fuses two startlingly different shows into a thoroughly silly but very entertaining hour of television.
On the surface, Strange New Worlds and Lower Decks have very little in common beyond being set in the universe of Star Trek. SNW is set just before the original series, when Captain Christopher Pike (Anson Mount) commanded the Enterprise. It’s playful but never campy, coming off as a serious attempt to bridge the tone and style of ’60s era Trek with the sensibilities of the 2020s. Lower Decks, on the other hand, owes as much to Rick and Morty as it does to Star Trek, featuring villains that range from a homicidal virtual assistant named Badgey to a loathsome robot named Peanut Hamper. It’s a madcap parody set more than a century after the events of SNW. Also, it’s animated.
The crossover is pulled off with relative ease: two of the Lower Decks characters are pulled into the world of Strange New Worlds, letting the voice actors play their characters in live action. It helps that Jack Quaid (The Boys) and Tawny Newsome (Brockmire) look so much like their animated counterparts, but the real reason for the episode’s success is that the two shows reveal themselves to be much more compatible than they appear. Both series are animated (hee!) by an obsessive love of the original Star Trek and its utopian vision, letting different groups come together and find common ground in the unlikeliest of places.
Also, the next episode of Strange New Worlds is supposed to be a musical. That sounds like fun. ■