(WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Marvel’s Secret invasionepisode 1, “Resurrection.”
It’s perhaps poetic—and shocking—that an episode titled “Resurrection” would end with the death of a major character.
At the end Secret invasionpremiere of Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders), a mainstay in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2012. the avengers, is caught up in the crowd’s panic as Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) enacts the first step in his explosive plan for Skrull domination. Maria gives up helping a survivor find her longtime friend and ally, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), through the fog of smoky chaos. “Hill!” Fury shouted—and then shot her in the stomach.
That wasn’t actually Fury. It was the villainous Gravik, who used his Skrull abilities to take Fury’s appearance. Unfortunately, the distinction doesn’t mean much to poor Maria. It drains in a surprisingly graphic way for the typically sterile MCU; the final image of the episode is her body lying in the rubble of the decimated Russian square. As if inviting viewers to cry, the first credit after the cut to black reads “Special guest star Cobie Smulders.” And so, Maria Hill takes her final bow. Probable. Disappointingly.
Of course, Maria isn’t the only character to die tragically in the ever-expanding Marvel universe. That’s the problem with conflicts in these larger-than-life programs. They’re only as real as their stakes for the characters in them, and they take such an important player off the board Secret invasion dramatically raises the stakes for Fury, Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) and the rest of the good guys…just as the “death” of Coulson (Clark Gregg) did in the avengers. Disappointment enters the picture when considering the circumstances of Hill’s final moments and how they fit into a larger, more troubling pattern in the MCU.
If we were to write a eulogy for Maria, we’re not entirely sure what we’d say—not because she wasn’t a significant character, but because, for all her appearances and wandering into a fight, she was never given a chance to overcome the role of “Nick Fury’s most trusted partner”. Secret invasion it seemed as though some of her interlocking layers of duty and dedication might finally be peeled away to let viewers glimpse the person beneath. After more than a decade with the character, it was time. Instead, he brought her into her usual role – Fury’s best friend, Fury’s right-hand man, Fury’s capable confidante. And then he died, as he lived: in Fury’s shadow.
Given her tenure in the MCU, it’s hard not to see her death as a waste. For an “original Avengers” character to go out in such a quick and unemotional way is astounding. This is not, in itself, a bad thing. Death doesn’t always come as an honorable last-minute sacrifice or take place nobly with a set of poignant final words. But Maria’s death feels like another entry on a list that includes, among others, Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johnasson) and the original Gamora (Zoe Saldana). What do all these women have in common? Obviously, they died…and most of all, they died to motivate the men around them.
It’s difficult to look at the circumstances of Mary’s death and not consider that she may have been “chilled,” a term that here refers to the killing of a female character to inspire transformative emotional anguish in her male counterparts. In short, it looks like Maria died to get Fury to “check his legs” — because, as she so prophetically predicted during their chess game earlier in the episode, someone was he will be hurt. And so, it is difficult to rope Secret invasion he forced himself to walk; Fury needed motivation, sure, and a wake-up call about his own complacency. But was it worth it for Marvel to fall back into a tired trope, especially with a relatively unexplored character left over from the formation of the original Avengers?
Yes, this is comic book television. Yes, Phil Coulson is back. So yes, in theory, Maria could too. She didn’t appear to be a Skrull, but any number of scientific and scientific explanations could bring her out of the grave. There are always decoys of life, parallel universes and a magical place called TAHITI. But something about the gravitas with which Maria’s death was filmed feels definitive. There is a cold solemnity in showing his body bleeding on the stone, which does not seem like an installation for a carpet. If she turns out to be alive, Marvel will give her another chance to turn her into a multi-dimensional human being and explore the heart beneath her uniform. As it is, we and many fans mourn Maria Hill – for who she was and who she never got to be.
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