The following story contains spoilers for Secret Invasion Episode 1.

A common critique for some of the recent projects to take place within the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the inconsistency of stakes. On a grand scale, things seem to almost always veer toward extinction level, world-threatening event—think from Thanos' snap in Avengers: Infinity War all the way down to Arthur Harrow's sinister plot in Moon Knight. With a few exceptions, the MCU loves a story that threatens the fate of the human race.

Secret Invasion falls into that as well, with an exposition monologue in Episode 1 explaining that if a Skrull plot to essentially start World War 3 is successful, it could mean the very end of humanity. OK, that's fine, we're used to it at this point. That's what heroes are for. But another critique for the MCU, especially in the years after Avengers: Endgame, has been the lack of sakes on a personal level. If every character is always going to live, and always going to come out on top at the end of the day, where are we as audiences going to get our concern from? When are we going to start to care?

That's where Secret Invasion is aiming to change things. While the Disney+ series won't be as expansive in its scope as the Brian Michael Bendis-penned comic of the same name—which included heroes from Spider-Woman, Hawkeye, and Captain America to villains like Norman Osborn and Venom in the battle against the ambitious shape-shifting Skrulls—it will presumably undermine a previous understanding of the Marvel universe by revealing that some of our heroes haven't been who they've claimed to be.

Within its own political thriller/espionage plot, it also stands to put some of the actual heroes' very lives at stake. And in Secret Invasion, there already seem to be some real stakes.

Did Maria Hill really die in Secret Invasion Episode 1?

secret invasion maria hill dead marvel
Marvel Studios

Did Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) really die in Secret Invasion Episode 1? Did Marvel really kill off a character fans have gotten to know and love over the course of 11 years—her first appearance was back in 2012's The Avengers—in the first episode of a Disney+ series?

For the time being, at the very least, it sure seems like they did. At the end of the very first episode, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), Hill, and Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) were monitoring a planned bombing from a Skrull group led by rebellion leader Gravik (Kingsley Ben-Adir) that they knew was incoming thanks to a tip from Talos' daughter, G'iah (Emilia Clarke). And their operation was a total failure. Not only did they not prevent the bombs from going off and lives from being lost, but Gravik used his Skrull power to impersonate Fury, confusing Maria Hill and shooting her, presumably dead, in the process.

While it's shocking to see Hill bow out so early into a grounded superhero series where her espionage skills would presumably come in handy, it's also a fairly smart storytelling move for the Marvel powers that be as a way to really build up stakes. If a longtime fan-favorite hero can die, so can anyone.

There's also the fact that Smulders has been playing the role for 11 years, and is probably ready to free her schedule up to work on other things. She's listed in Secret Invasion as a "Special Guest Star," rather than the main credits where her co-stars Jackson, Mendelsohn, Clarke, Ben-Adir, and Olivia Colman, among others, are; this means that you can't particularly bank on seeing her again, and definitely not in every episode.

That being said: this is also a story about shape-shifting Skrulls, so we can't rule out the possibility that Hill was being impersonated in some kind of long-con. After all, we already saw a Skrull in Hill's place—alongside Talos in Nick Fury's place during the credits scene of Spider-Man: Far From Home. So it's certainly a possibility.

We also saw the episode open with a Skrull impersonating another Marvel espionage agency figure, Everett Ross (Martin Freeman). But when that Ross imposter was killed, he quickly transformed back into Skrull form—and that didn't happen for Maria.

Unfortunately, it really may be curtains for Nick Fury's right-hand woman.

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Evan Romano

Evan is the culture editor for Men’s Health, with bylines in The New York Times, MTV News, Brooklyn Magazine, and VICE. He loves weird movies, watches too much TV, and listens to music more often than he doesn’t.