On the face of it, Netflix’s latest Harlan Coben thriller series, Fool Me Once, has little in common with the MCU. Other than the fact that actor Richard Armitage once played a Nazi spy who accidentally helped Captain America. And that the show’s storyline gets so far-fetched it might as well be set in the same universe as a talking tree.
And yet Fool Me Once actually falls prey to a problem that Marvel has repeated time and again on Disney Plus, a problem that particularly plagued the MCU’s most disastrous series ever. Yes, although they may seem to have as little in common as Fool Me Once does with a plausible plot, the Netflix show shares a quality-killing trait with none other than Marvel’s Secret Invasion.
Fool Me Once and Secret Invasion both have fatally short finales
A screaming Skrull from Marvel’s Secret Invasion superimposed over the funeral scene from Netflix’s Fool Me Once.
The benefit of streaming services is that production crews can make episodes as long as they like without having to be confined by traditional television scheduling, so that’s why it’s so frustrating when streaming shows decide to hand in tiny-teeny season finales, thereby reducing the impact of a series’ most important episode and therefore the series as a whole.
Both Fool Me Once and Secret Invasion are shows whose premieres were exactly 55 minutes in length but they ended with final episodes that were barely longer than half an hour — the Netflix show’s eighth installment was 34 minutes while the Marvel effort was 38 minutes. Both series were thriller series that required an action-packed but also informative finale to clear up many questions fans had over the course of the run. As a result of their brief lengths, however, both failed in this regard in many ways.
Secret Invasion‘s crimes are legendary at this point, but as a reminder, it left the plight of the Skrulls in an even worse state than at the show’s beginning, with questions regarding Nick Fury’s motivations and actions being left unanswered. Similarly, Fool Me Once drops a massive — and genuinely shocking — twist at the tail-end of its penultimate episode and then crowbars in a rushed conclusion in its 30-minute finale. In a mystery series this is particularly egregious, as various red herrings and the shifty behavior of would-be suspects are left unexplained (Shane, I still wouldn’t let you around my kid, buddy).
Thanks to the bewildering brevity of Fool Me Once‘s end, Maya’s motivations for the self-sacrificial stunt she plays on the Burketts are as mystifying as Fury’s own for being a grumpy sourpuss all season. Likewise, the way the Burketts are brought down is dealt with so swiftly and tied up in such a hurried bow that it makes as much sense as Emilia Clarke suddenly becoming the MCU’s strongest hero to defeat.
Of course, neither Netflix nor Disney Plus will learn any kind of lesson from these Ant-Man-sized endings, for very different reasons. Netflix won’t care because Fool Me Once is a ratings smash, whether audiences felt let down by the finale or not, while viewers never clicked on Secret Invasion in the first place so few stuck around long enough to be miffed about the conclusion being on the short side.
Fool me once, streaming, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on the MCU.