Previously on Ms. Marvel: It’s 1942 in British-occupied India, and Aisha is still on the run and in hiding after finding the bangle and being separated from her fellow Clandestines. She meets and falls in love with a farmer/political activist named Hasan and the two of them soon become parents to Sana, Kamala’s grandmother. It’s not long before Najma finds Aisha and her family, and demands that she bring the bangle to her so that they can go back home. It’s this unexpected encounter that results in Kamala finding herself in the same time period as her great-grandmother, and right when Partition is taking place.
THE STORY SO FAR: Kamala returns home with Muneeba to Jersey City and faces her greatest test as a superhero when she goes up against Agent Deever and the Department of Damage Control in order to protect Bruno and Kamran.
WHAT’S GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: Deever’s conversation with a fellow agent, which causes him to raise an eyebrow. “This is what happens when the wrong people get powers.” “What do you mean, the wrong people?” “Kids.” (insert “Sure, Jan” GIF here) Kamala revealing to her family that she has superpowers, only to realize that the secret is out and they already know (which they blame on Yusuf’s frequent usage of speaker phone), right before letting her know how proud they are, and their hope that she will be careful while helping others. (Muneeba: “And we trust her, right?,” which is a major difference from the pilot when she stated how she didn’t trust her, hence why she wouldn’t let her go to AvengerCon). Muneeba presenting Kamala with her homemade costume, which looks amazing, and comes with the logo inspired by her broken necklace and the fabrics she received from Waheed and Kareem.
Kamala running and jumping through the city on her light platforms but making sure to stop at a red light and not move until it turns green. Everyone in the mosque immediately ready with IDs in hand to identify themselves when Deever and her colleagues in Damage Control show up (and without removing their shoes, despite Sheikh Abdullah’s friendly reminder from their last encounter). Rasheed attempting to make nice with Deever by offering his famous yummy-yummy chocolate chip cookies. (“The secret ingredient is nutmeg.”) Deever scoffing at Sheikh quoting the Quran until Sheikh points out that the quote he used was actually said by Abraham Lincoln. The “Haram” and “Halal” baseball caps given to Bruno and Kamran to wear as a disguise. (“Haram” means to be forbidden or proscribed by Islamic law, in case you didn’t know.) Kamala reaching out to Kareem for help in getting Kamran away from Damage Control and out of the country.
Kamala: “Superheroes don’t need chaperones!” Kamala, Bruno, Nakia, Kamran, Zoe, and Aamir all working together to devise a plan to stall Damage Control so they can escape. (When Kamala told Nakia and Zoe that their plan involved grabbing as many balls as they can, I couldn’t help but hear the voice of Sterling Archer saying, “Phrasing!”) Zoe and Nakia’s convo as to why she didn’t tell everyone that Kamala has superpowers, to which Zoe responds with, “Kamala should tell the world when she’s ready.” (Hmmm….a hint at something happening between Zoe and Nakia in Season 2, perhaps? A possibility that we’ll get the storyline from the comics in which Zoe is gay and has a crush on Nakia, but is afraid to tell her?) Zoe reaching out to damn near everyone in Jersey City via her TikTok combined with Bruno’s uplink to let them know that they’re being hunted by Damage Control and need help. The chase scene between Kamala and company vs. Damage Control, which feels like a combination of E.T., Home Alone, and an episode of Double Dare. Kamala and Kamran getting this close to kissing before Bruno interrupts so he can do his part in distracting Damage Control. Kamran lashing out more and more aggressively at Damage Control, and Kamala doing what she can to stop him and prevent anyone from getting hurt.
Kamala using her catchphrase “Embiggen” before increasing her size and becoming even stronger than before in order to smash the Humvees carrying the sonic cannons. Kamala’s conversation with Kamran before he escapes to Karachi, in which she tells him that whether they’re seen as ‘normal’ by others is not important, and that what really matters is what they do with the gifts that they’ve been given. The community coming together like Voltron in order to surround Kamala and prevent Damage Control from getting to her. Deever finally suffering some consequences for her actions when Cleary relieves her from duty for disobeying his orders. The montage of TikToks showing members of her community expressing their love and appreciation of Kamala and all that she did to protect them. Yusuf sitting down with Kamala and not only explaining where her name comes from, but also providing her with her superhero name: Ms. Marvel. (Which definitely sounds much better than Ms. Night-Light) Kamala channeling Mona-Lisa Saperstein as she asks Bruno for the keys to Kamran’s car … only to find out that the keys got snatched from Bruno by Nakia.
WHAT’S NOT SO GOOD ABOUT THIS EPISODE?: When an episode of television on Disney Plus starts with a black screen that reads: “There are certain scenes in this fictional series that some viewers may find upsetting” yet again, all you can do is take a deep breath and brace yourself for whatever you’re about to see. And yes, as fun as it is to see Kamala and company unleash he-double-hockey sticks on Damage Control, we’re still watching a group of kids (who are wearing hoodies as part of their disguises, mind you) being aggressively hunted and attacked all around their school by heavily-armed combatants. If you’ve been paying any attention at all to current events, the last thing you probably want to watch are kids being hunted and shot at on school grounds, especially when it’s coming from people who are supposed to be keeping them safe, and who are instead doing more harm than good.
I know that this is fiction and that it’s supposed to be touching and heartwarming and reminiscent of the subway scene in Spider-Man 2 to see the cops from the Jersey City Police Department standing together with the rest of the community to protect Kamala and Kamran from Deever and Damage Control. But I’ve been watching the Marvel Cinematic Universe ever since I saw Iron Man on opening weekend, and I’ve suspended my disbelief with nearly everything I’ve watched in those films (even the fact that Quicksilver died because he supposedly wasn’t fast enough to dodge those bullets being aimed at Hawkeye in Avengers: Age of Ultron and ended up dying as a result, or that Captain America and Black Widow and Falcon can go up against the children of Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War and not get stomped into the ground like they’re being initiated into the Bloods).
But you really expect me to believe that a bunch of cops are going to stand up against government agents (or anyone else, for that matter) and risk their jobs and their lives to protect a young brown child? And one with superpowers?!?!
Beyond that, I really wasn’t too invested in Kamran wrestling with the sudden acquisition of powers gifted to him by Najma. Maybe it was because everything else regarding Najma and the Clandestines left a poor taste in my mouth because of how badly it was handled, but it just seemed like this particular plot twist only existed so it could give Kamran something to do in this episode. As for the mysterious letter that Bruno left in Kamala’s locker … that moment probably would’ve carried a little more weight if we didn’t see him hanging out with Kamala in the following scene about a week later.
DO ANY OF THE AVENGERS APPEAR IN THIS EPISODE?: No.
CAPTAIN MARVEL?: Yes.
REALLY?!?! SHE’S ACTUALLY IN THIS EPISODE?!: Don’t worry, I’ll get to that in a moment.
MONICA RAMBEAU, A.K.A. PHOTON?: No.
WHAT ABOUT ANT-MAN? DO WE GET TO SEE KAMALA BE A GUEST ON HIS PODCAST?: Unfortunately, no.
ANY EASTER EGGS WE SHOULD WATCH OUT FOR?: The episode title “No Normal” is also the title of the trade paperback that collects the first five issues of the 2014 Ms. Marvel comic-book series. The song that plays during the Marvel Studios logo is “Cpt. Space” by Janoobi Khargosh. The Statue of Liberty appears to be in one piece and looking like its usual self, and not the original copper-colored version holding up Captain America’s shield that was seen in Spider-Man: No Way Home. (Which may also raise a question or two as to when Ms. Marvel actually takes place in the timeline of the Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Kamala’s coming-out scene to her family is similar to the comics version of Kamala discussing her superpowers with Muneeba. Tyesha asking Kamala if she needs to recharge when using her powers is a reference to Green Lantern, as members of the Green Lantern Corps use their actual lanterns to recharge their rings. Baseball caps being worn as a disguise to avoid the authorities continues to be an MCU tradition, as seen in Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Ant-Man and the Wasp. The skeleton wearing a grey wig and holding a knife that activates one of the traps in Coles Academic is a shout-out to Norman Bates in Psycho. (My apologies if you still haven’t seen Psycho and I just spoiled the 62-year-old film for you)
When a Damage Control agent says, “What, he can multiply now?” in response to Kamala and company all running around wearing the same Coles Academic hoodies and looking exactly alike, which could be a reference to Jamie Madrox, a.k.a. Multiple Man, from the mutant superhero team X-Factor. The sonic cannons used on Kamala and Kamran by Damage Control look very much like the same sonic cannons that were used by the military against The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk. (Bring back Liv Tyler as Betty Ross already, for f-ck’s sake!) The TikTok montage features Mr. Wilson rocking a sweater that looks like the one Chris Evans wore in Knives Out. And the real G. Willow Wilson, who co-created the Kamala Khan version of Ms. Marvel, appears in one of the TikToks, as someone who can’t help but notice that Kamala in her costume looks a little familiar to her. Yusuf tells Kamala that “when you save one life, you save everyone,” which comes from the Talmud, and is best known for its usage in Schindler’s List. It’s also a favorite quote for Aunt May, as it appears on her gravestone in Spider-Man: No Way Home as well as in Spider-Man on PlayStation 4. When Nakia ends up in the driver’s seat for Kamran’s car and says to Kamala and Bruno, “Get in, losers, we’re getting shawarma,” which of course is a shout-out to Mean Girls, but also references Iron Man’s love of shawarma, and how he and the rest of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes were seen eating that very same food after the Battle of New York in the post-credits scene of The Avengers. And of course, we get the famous visual of Ms. Marvel sitting on top of a streetlight at night and looking out at New York City as she thinks about her life as a superhero and how everything has changed.
Oh, and you can hear a portion of the X-Men ‘97 theme right after Bruno reveals to Kamala that after double-checking her genetic makeup, it turns out she might actually be a mutant.
I’M SORRY, DID YOU SAY “MUTANT?” FOR REAL? KAMALA IS A MUTANT?: It appears so.
BUT—BUT KAMALA ISN’T A MUTANT IN THE COMICS! SHE’S AN INHUMAN!: Yes, I know.
WHAT THE F—? SO WHY DID MARVEL AND DISNEY CHANGE THIS? I MEAN, WE ALL SAW BLACK BOLT MAKE AN APPEARANCE IN DOCTOR STRANGE AND THE MULTIVERSE OF MADNESS, RIGHT? THAT SHOULD’VE BEEN A SIGN THAT THE INHUMANS WOULD SHOW UP ONCE AGAIN AND FINALLY GET THE RESPECT THAT THEY DESERVE. THIS MAKES NO SENSE!: When Marvel and Disney didn’t have the rights to the X-Men, they decided that since they couldn’t use mutants in their films and television shows, the next best thing they could do is use another powerful and misunderstood superhero team instead: the Inhumans. Hence their introduction in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, followed by their short-lived and heavily maligned television series, Inhumans. Even Marvel Comics got in on the petty behavior by insisting that writers were not allowed to introduce any new mutants in the comics, and potentially give Fox some new characters to play with that could contribute to their films becoming box-office hits. And though the Inhumans as a team are nothing to scoff at, it’s clear that Kevin Feige cares more about introducing the X-Men to the Marvel Cinematic Universe than he does about reviving the Inhumans. (As far as we know, anyway. For all we know, Feige could be playing the long game and plans to bring in the Inhumans further down the line.) Especially since introducing the concept of Inhumans and Terrigen Mist and Terrigen Crystals is something that doesn’t fit into his current plans and is too complicated to deal with.
And it seems like Kamala being a mutant isn’t an entirely new idea either, according to Ms. Marvel co-creator Sana Amanat, who is also an executive producer of the Disney Plus series.
“Here’s a really important thing that people do not know - when we were thinking about the character of Kamala back, back, back in the day in 2012, 2013, when [G.] Willow [Wilson, comic book writer] and myself were ideating, we originally wanted to make her a mutant. That was the whole intention, to be able to do that.” In the series, they were able to get back to that initial idea. “Is she a mutant, question mark?” asks Amanat self-reflexively, tip-toeing around the reveal with the Marvel police potentially listening in. “I don’t know. I don’t know, guys! All I know is that we use the word ‘mutation’, and that’s all I can say.” Whatever it means for Kamala’s own story, it is a hint of bigger things to come in the MCU. “I will say, I think this is opening up doors for a lot of great storytelling, obviously, as a huge fan, um… of the word ‘mutation’,” she laughs. “I’m really happy about it.”
I’ll take Sana Amanat’s word on this, and believe that the idea of Kamala Khan being originally introduced in the comics as a mutant was part of the discussion. But I’m also being reminded once again of how Jack Reacher author Lee Child gave the thumbs-up to the casting choice of Tom Cruise as Reacher, despite the fact that Cruise looks nothing at all like the six-foot-five, 250-pound brick sh-thouse that Reacher is described to look like in all of his books. Then again, Sana Amanat is not Gina Carano, and I wouldn’t expect her to oppose this decision out loud and risk f-cking up her career by no longer getting paychecks from Marvel and Disney.
I MEAN—LOOK, I LIKE KAMALA KHAN, JUST LIKE MOST OF US DO. BUT HOW THE HELL IS SHE GOING TO BE THE FIRST MUTANT INTRODUCED IN THE MCU? WHEN THERE ARE ACTUAL MUTANTS LIKE SHADOWCAT OR JUBILEE WHO COULD’VE AND SHOULD’VE GOTTEN THAT HONOR?: The frustration is very understandable, but honestly, the only answer I have to this particular question is…
As for my reaction to Kamala suddenly being revealed as a mutant and not an Inhuman? It’s definitely a combination of this…
…and also this.
I’m willing to see just where this decision will lead, though it’s more out of mild curiosity than overwhelming excitement.
ANY FAN THEORIES SPREADING LIKE WILDFIRE ACROSS THE INTERNET BECAUSE OF THIS EPISODE?: Kamran possibly being recruited to join the Thunderbolts as part of his redemption arc for his rampage against Damage Control. The beeping that is coming from Kamala’s bangle is similar to the beeping that came from the Ten Rings in the mid-credits scene of
Shang-Chi’s Fine-Ass Daddy And Those Ten Bracelets Looking Good On His Forearms Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, which could be a hint that they’re made from the same technology. (Let’s not forget that the bangle was found in a temple that was owned by the Ten Rings. As to why it was found on the wrist of someone who is maybe of Kree origin? I only have lots and lots of question marks in response.) Kamala’s bangle beeping and glowing before her presence is swapped out with Captain Marvel’s seems to be confirmation for some that her bangle is actually a Nega-Band as opposed to a Quantum Band. And after the revelation of Kamala being a mutant, there’s at least one theory that mutants have always been present in the 616 universe, but that no one knows about their existence, and that Professor X possibly used his telepathy combined with Cerebro to pull a Doctor Strange and keep humankind from knowing anything about mutants in order to prevent their persecution. There’s also the hope that Kamala will somehow arrive at Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which would finally lead to the introduction of the X-Men to the MCU.
ARE THERE ANY SCENES DURING THE CLOSING CREDITS?: Yes, there is. Kamala in her Ms. Marvel costume plops down on her bed (You know you’re Black when you see this, and the first thought that pops into your head is “Seriously, Kamala? You’re really laying on your bed in your outside clothes?!”) and suddenly, her bangle starts beeping and glowing. When Kamala gets up and looks confused as to what’s happening, she is suddenly yanked back with great speed and force through her closet door and disappears. This is then followed by someone walking out of Kamala’s closet and looking very confused by her surroundings. That person?
Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel.
When Carol realizes that she’s in a teenager’s bedroom (with many a picture of Captain Marvel displayed on the walls) instead of in outer space or wherever she’s actually supposed to be, she freaks out and runs out of Kamala’s room. Cut to black, followed by this sentence appearing onscreen: “Ms. Marvel will return in The Marvels.”
TO SUM IT ALL UP: I really liked the season finale, which was solid and fairly well-done with how it ended this season. However, the issues that plague the Ms. Marvel season finale and its entire season overall are the same ones that have been present in nearly every other Marvel show on Disney Plus: a solid and impressive start with the first couple of episodes, followed by some bumps in the road with the next few episodes that aren’t nearly as good as they should be, and then the finale comes along to wrap everything up in a good-but-not-entirely-satisfying manner while also planting seeds for what we should expect when the leads show up on the big screen. The six-episode format doesn’t help much either, as it’s not always enough to let the stories truly breathe so that they can be great instead of settling for just being good, and is seemingly more concerned with being a prequel that feels like a required homework assignment so that we can fully understand whatever movie we’ll need to buy tickets to for the next chapter in the MCU. (WandaVision did have a season comprised of nine episodes instead of six, but as Mike pointed out (and he wasn’t the only one to do so), the finale still abandoned everything that made the rest of the season special so there could be a huge special effects-laden battle between Wanda and Agatha with the fate of the world hanging in the balance)
The first two episodes still remain the best ones for this season of Ms. Marvel, and the remaining four episodes have plenty of moments that make them enjoyable, but they don’t reach the same heights in comparison. What started as something that looked and felt unique and different soon fell back into embracing the usual house style from Marvel that makes the majority of its films and television shows indistinguishable from one another. (I expect at least one or two people to point out that the first two episodes look and feel the way they do because Kamala is still riding the high of discovering she’s a superhero, and hasn’t yet experienced the painful realities of what comes with being a superhero, so I’m being harder on the rest of the season than I should be)
There have also been some complaints brought up about Ms. Marvel from viewers in the South Asian/MENA community: the casting of mixed-race actress Yasmeen Fletcher as Turkish-American Nakia, as well as Nakia removing her hijab onscreen (which has been a complaint about the portrayal of many teenage Muslim girls in television shows, mainly because said hijab removal is portrayed as an act of rebellion so that said Muslim girl can feel free to hook up with her white male love interest), though many have pointed out that Nakia’s hijab was only removed when she was in the presence of Kamala, another female Muslim. The themes of the comics being watered-down and made more digestible and family-friendly, such as Kamala not shape-shifting to make herself look like a white woman when she’s Ms. Marvel due to her self-image issues. Kamala’s powers and that of the Clandestines originally being connected to that of genies, which is considered by some to be stereotypical and unnecessary. I can bring up these complaints for further discussion, but as I’ve said before, this is not my lane, and I won’t make the mistake of swerving and getting in the way of people more qualified than myself to comment on it.
I wasn’t sure how much I would like and enjoy Ms. Marvel when I first sat down to watch it, but it absolutely won me over, and despite the speedbumps that occurred as the season progressed (Najma and the Clandestines being the biggest ones), I was and still am left feeling very impressed with much of the series, which was not just an endearing coming-of-age tale, but also a celebration of matriarchy, especially of that between brown women. The performances from the cast were terrific, especially those of Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur as Muneeba and Yusuf, and the writing and directing did a wonderful job in showing the lives of not just a Pakistani-American family, but for their community as well, and how they support one another in ways great and small. But it goes without saying that the MVP of Ms. Marvel is of course, Ms. Marvel herself, played by Iman Vellani.
From the moment she first appears onscreen, it becomes very easy to like Kamala Khan and follow her to wherever she leads the audience, thanks to how Vellani conveys Kamala’s enthusiasm, intelligence, and her growing struggle with what she learns about her superpowers, the responsibility that comes with having superpowers, her family history, and most of all, herself. As exciting as it is to see her embiggen and use her powers to full effect, it’s equally wonderful to see how often she’s willing to talk and to try helping her opponent to see things from another perspective so that fighting and the possibility of death won’t be necessary. Which only further shows that Sana made the right call in giving her bangle to Kamala, who clearly had the potential to be a hero that her community and the rest of the world can be proud of. Whether it’s in The Marvels (which is scheduled to open in theaters July 28, 2023) or in Season 2 of Ms. Marvel, I’m really looking forward to seeing what Kamala Khan and her portrayer, Iman Vellani, will do next.
(FYI: The directors of the Ms. Marvel pilot and season finale, Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, not only directed Bad Boys For Life, but also directed the upcoming Batgirl, starring Leslie Grace and Brendan Fraser)
And if you enjoyed the Ms. Marvel title cards that appeared in each episode, these tweets should definitely be to your liking:
Two more things before I wrap this up:
1) Marvel Studios may be a multibillion-dollar success story that has forever changed the way things are done in Hollywood, but they also need to change the way that their special-effects technicians are treated behind the scenes. Especially since their reputation for how demanding they are has gotten to the point where some people who work in visual effects will do anything to avoid working for Marvel Studios.
Working on #Marvel shows is what pushed me to leave the VFX industry. They're a horrible client, and I've seen way too many colleagues break down after being overworked, while Marvel tightens the purse strings. https://t.co/FacGBfnYmG— Dhruv Govil (@DhruvGovil) July 10, 2022
Holy shit pic.twitter.com/IvSdLng0qa— AJ🏳️🌈 (@AjepArts) July 7, 2022
Can’t believe Marvel is treating vfx artists the same way they’ve been treating comics artists for 60 years. Oh wait, no, I can absolutely believe that.— Josh - Panels to Pixels 👽 (@panelstopixels) July 12, 2022
If you’re a proud member of “Get Woke, Go Broke” Twitter (or one of their equally annoying counterparts on YouTube) who has been complaining about the existence of Ms. Marvel and about how “woke” it is, Zenobia Shroff has a message for you.
If inclusive to you is woke then you need to question your bigotry. @MiniB622— zenobia shroff (@ZenobiaShroff) July 14, 2022
This episode of Ms. Marvel has been brought to you by “What Would Happen” by Meredith Brooks…
“Anthem” by the Swet Shop Boys…
And the theme music for X-Men: The Animated Series.
Header Image Source: Marvel Studios