I didn’t expect to find a love story or poetry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest miniseries, however Secret Invasion has both.
“Beloved,” the fourth episode, includes a poem by Raymond Carver, “Late Fragment”:
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
Underneath this espionage, alien-invasion series—in which former S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) works with Talos (Ben Mendelsohn), a shape-shifting Skrull, to thwart a plot by rebel Skrulls to overtake Earth—is a search for love and home. Each character is fueled by this in their own way, but it’s the relationship between Nick Fury and his wife, Priscilla (Charlayne Woodard), that reveals this underlying search the most, especially because Priscilla is a Skrull taking human form.
In a flashback scene in “Beloved,” we find Fury in 2012, heading into a Parisian restaurant where he meets with Priscilla. It’s an intimate scene, as they sit across from one another at a small round table. She has a glass of red wine, a recent newspaper with headlines about the Avengers saving New York, and a book of poetry.
We learn that Fury is married and has been for some time now. For MCU fans, it’s a gift to see who Fury is beneath the dark-clothed, eye-patched, tough-skinned man who brought the Avengers together. Fury takes his signature long black coat off and hangs it up to sit down with Priscilla. His tough skin comes off. His guard comes down. Instead of sitting upright, he hunches toward her with his hands on the table. Priscilla shares “Late Fragment” in this moody setting, the darkness softened by a white strip of light emitting from beneath the bartop behind them. Fury begins reading the poem, then Priscilla joins him in a sort of call-and-response. In this moment, the flinty Fury is human and in love, letting a softer side come to light. He’s human and he’s in love with a Skrull who has to hide her own skin.
The darkness and light and the hiding and uncovering in Secret Invasion forces us to ask a number of questions. Who can be trusted? Who is worthy of feeling beloved in their real skin? Is it fear of the dark that motivates us or is it hope in the light? Is the hope that Skrulls and humans can coexist on Earth, which Fury and Talos share, possible?
The darkness and light and the hiding and uncovering in Secret Invasion forces us to ask a number of questions.
Later in the series, Talos’ daughter, G’iah (Emilia Clarke), asks Priscilla if Fury loves her in her real skin. It’s a striking moment between the two Skrull women, one that reminds me of Jesus’ parables, many of which intended to stretch our understanding of and capacity for love. In Luke 2, in response to a question from an expert in the law about the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your strength and with all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan.
After a man was attacked, robbed, and left for dead, three passersby see him in need, but only one stops to help him: a Samaritan. This would have surprised the expert in the law and others listening to Jesus, as Samaritans were despised by most people in the Jewish community. Yet the one least expected to do good, be needed, or live out God’s love is the one Jesus picks as the hero of his story. It’s the one whose skin they are likely least familiar with, up close. Jesus intentionally stretches the minds, hearts, and familiar definition of neighbor that his questioner and listeners were used to.
What if our neighbors are not the kind of people we want to love in the same way we love those who we are familiar with? What fears about trust do we still harbor deep in our hearts and minds? What would it take for those of a different skin and story to not only be beloved in name, but feel beloved on earth, as it is in heaven?
In some ways I was more comfortable seeing Nick and Priscilla as two humans in love. It felt right because it was familiar. Finding out that Priscilla is a Skrull refugee, whose real name is Varra, and who’s real skin is green, is jolting. Is it her assimilated human form that Fury loves, or can she be beloved on Earth as her whole and true self?
As it unfolds—with its poetry, romance, and exploration of the dark and the light—Secret Invasion reminds us that it is fear that drives us away and leads us deeper into hate, hiding, and division. What can diminish that fear? Being beloved by God and others. As we’re told in 1 John 4, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”
This is what I see in this tale of dark and light, humans and aliens, shifting shadows and changing skin: those who are afraid, and those who long to be made perfect in love.