After “WandaVision” and “Loki” Season 1, Marvel’s Phase Four has been largely dry. “Black Widow,” “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” “Spider-Man No Way Home,” “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier,” “Hawkeye,” and “Moon Knight” exposed the tendency of Marvel Studios to prioritize quantity over quality. It seems that with “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” Kevin Feige and co. have started to realize where they’re going wrong. But by the time the mid-credits scene showed, it was evident that they hadn’t learned anything. Now, going by the first two episodes, “Ms. Marvel” feels fresh with its representation of the Muslim characters in it, and much needed commentary on how white Americans view anyone who doesn’t look like them, and fan culture. Let’s hope this remains consistent till the finale and beyond.
Kamala Khan Has Her ‘Pehla Nasha’ Moment
After realizing that she has been gifted with cosmic powers thanks to her Nani’s bangle, Kamala (Iman Vellani) goes to school the following day with a newfound sense of confidence. She crosses paths with the new guy at school, Kamran (Rish Shah), and probably falls in love with him. In a brief chat with Bruno (Matt Lintz), Kamala hilariously addresses Paul Rudd’s (who plays Scott Lang) agelessness. But all this euphoria is almost immediately deflated by the fact that Zoe (Laurel Marsden) has taken the spotlight because she got saved by a superhero in AvengerCon. Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher), unaware that Kamala is the superhero who saved Zoe, refers to her as “budget Captain Marvel” (Brie Larson), and Kamala almost gives away her superhero identity. Zoe gives Kamala an even worse superhero name: Night Light.
Zoe announces that she’s going to host a party to celebrate the fragility of human life. Kamala initially says that there’s no way she’s going to attend that. But as soon as Zoe invites Kamran, Kamala retracts her statement and says that she is definitely going to Zoe’s party. Nakia gets what is going on, but Bruno is absolutely oblivious to the fact that Kamala is crushing on Kamran. As promised, though, Kamala shows the extent of her powers to Bruno because he apparently missed all the stuff she did at AvengerCon. While doing so, both of them realize that Kamala isn’t all that great at controlling her powers. So, they decide to collectively work on it, leading to a really fun workout montage set to Krewella, NERVO, and Raja Kumari’s “Goddess.”
While testing the source of Kamala’s powers, Bruno observes that the energy beams, platforms, and blasts aren’t exactly coming from the bangle. It’s coming from within Kamala. The bangle has allegedly only helped Kamala unlock her superhuman parts. Kamala wonders for a second if she is related to Thor (Chris Hemsworth) or not. Bruno makes another observation about the bangle. He notices that it has inscriptions on it. Kamala says it’s either Arabic or Urdu. While testing powers looks like fun, reality beckons, and we see Kamala and Nakia hurtling to the local mosque because they’re late for their prayers. They keep their shoes in the rack, wash up and attend the lecture. And they realize how badly Muslim women are treated while Muslim men get pristine treatment.
After getting reprimanded by the lecturer for interrupting him during his lecture, Kamala urges Nakia to partake in the Mosque Board Election and bring about some real change. Nakia rejects the proposal. But after her shoes get stolen (her Versace shoes, BTW), Nakia says that maybe a woman should become the head of the Mosque Board. Because that is the only way, women will be treated better over there because the uncles aren’t bothered about their trials and tribulations. Then they remember that the hugely likable Uncle Rasheed is running for the spot too, and there’s no chance that Nakia will be able to beat him. Kamala proudly claims that Rasheed has nothing on Nakia because she is the change. Nakia appoints Kamala as her campaign manager.
Back home, tensions are still high in the Khan household. Kamala tries her best to get back on good terms with her mother (Zenobia Shroff) by apologizing for sneaking out. Muneeba says that she understands that Kamala is growing up, but she only wants her to stay safe. And Kamala thinks this is the best time to ask for Muneeba’s permission to let her go to Zoe’s party. Kamala says that Bruno and Nakia will go with her and she’ll be back by 9:00 PM. Muneeba grants her permission to party and tells her to come through the front door this time. Seconds after getting there, though, Kamala accidentally drinks alcohol and ogles at Kamran coming out of the pool to the tune of Tesher’s “Jalebi Baby”. They all introduce themselves to each other and are instantly forced to bolt out of there because the cops raid Zoe’s house.
While escaping the police in Kamran’s car, we see that Bruno is clearly jealous of the fact that Kamala is crushing on Kamran and does everything in his power to upset it. But Kamran and Kamala continue to bond over Swet Shop Boys, Shah Rukh Khan (“Baazigar” and “DDLJ” are name-dropped), and because they both failed their first driver’s test. The journey concludes with Kamala and Kamran exchanging numbers and Kamran inviting Kamala to go for drives any time she wants to. Nakia looks visibly excited for her, while Bruno looks bummed. After returning home, Kamala breaks out in a hilariously adorable, albeit imaginary, “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes dance sequence, which turns into a small animated sequence of Kamran and Kamala floating around with sloths.
Kamala Digs Into The Origins Of The Bangle That Gives Her Powers
Kamala daydreams about Kamran, causing the light that usually emanates from her hands to appear on her nose (as if she’s blushing with her superpowers). Kamala rushes to the washroom and tries to get it off or calm herself down so that the light goes away. Nakia, assuming that Kamala is on her period, gets tampons for her. She says she also has pads because she knows how weird Kamala’s mother can be about tampons. This, coupled with Muneeba and Yusuf’s (Mohan Kapur) parenting, has some eerie parallels with “Turning Red,” as that Disney-Pixar movie involves tough parenting and superpowers acting as a metaphor for puberty. Coming back to “Ms. Marvel,” Kamala hints at the fact that things are changing for her too fast, and she feels like she can’t keep up.
Nakia assures Kamala that it is completely okay to feel that way. Nakia says that between the Hijab and the “girlies,” her parents can barely make eye contact with her anymore. Kamala asks Nakia how she makes it all look so easy. Nakia says that it’s definitely not easy. She says that she has always either been too white for some people or too ethnic for others, and that sucks. She says that the first time she put on the Hijab, she hoped to shut some people up. But that’s when she realized that she didn’t really need to prove anything to anybody. Nakia says that when she puts on the Hijab, she feels like herself and that she has a purpose. That’s when she reveals to Kamala that she has put in her name for the Mosque Board. Kamala commends her for that.
Before going any further, I must say that I can’t emphasize enough how important this little conversation is. I don’t know how aware American audiences are of the controversy around Hijab in India. Muslim women who wear Hijab are being discriminated against in schools, at workplaces, and in public places as well. Local and national ministers are stoking the fire to create a negative sentiment around the Hijab while courts are ruling in favor of such bigotry. And as the stars of mainstream Indian entertainment stay mute, seeing a Marvel show embrace its Muslim identity and talk about the choice to wear the Hijab is immensely uplifting. So, consider this a big “thank you” to creator Bisha K. Ali, director Meera Menon, writer Kate Gritmon, Iman, Yasmeen, and everyone involved in the making of “Ms. Marvel” for this scene.
Nakia lends Kamala a beautiful kurti and earrings, you know, to look great for Kamran as she goes for her first driving lesson. Bruno gets called up by Gabe, and he informs Bruno that his application has been accepted for the Early Immersion program at Caltech. But instead of getting as excited as Gabe, Bruno shows trepidation because he doesn’t want to go to California now. Bruno tries to make it about money, but Gabe says that it’s all paid for. Kamala meets up with Kamran (while “Sage” by Ritviz plays in the background). Bruno comes in between them to ask when she intends to practice her powers. Kamala says she can’t train at the moment because she’s going out with Kamran. Kamala does invite Bruno to the Eid gathering, though. Bruno accepts the invitation while Kamala goes out with Kamran.
Kamran lets Kamala drive. They go to a restaurant called Bombay Spice. They talk about having a crush on Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani), who is a Bollywood star in the MCU. Kamala refers to her mom as “Ammi,” and Kamran says that she doesn’t have to explain that “Ammi” means mother because he knows that. It’s a really sweet moment as it shows how comforting it is to be with someone who understands your cultural background. They talk about how Kamran’s mother has a crush on Kingo Senior (who is also Nanjiani, who pretends to be every ancestor of his superstar persona to not give away the fact that he’s a god and doesn’t age). But their date is interrupted by Aamir (Saagar Shaikh) and his fiance, Tyesha (Travina Springer). In order to avoid saying that she’s on a date, Kamala says that Kamran is actually their cousin. Aamir asks about his accent, but he’s easily fooled by Kamran’s lies.
During dinner, Yusuf, Muneeba, Kamala, Aamir, and Tyesha talk about Aamir going through a goth phase. The topic quickly shifts to the Khans’ origins and the Partition of 1947. Aamir and Muneeba agree that talking about the Partition is going to mar the vibe of the dinner. As soon as Muneeba goes to the kitchen, Yusuf resumes his story about the Partition. He says that Muneeba’s family had to get to the train station to catch the last train out of the city. Muneeba’s mother, Sana, was just a toddler then, and got separated from her parents. Sana’s father tried to find her but couldn’t because he was injured and needed a walking stick to get around. However, Sana apparently found her father by following a trail of stars. Tyesha asks about Sana’s mother, and Yusuf says something vague about her disappearing that night, like many others did. That’s when Kamala has an earth-shaking vision of a woman beckoning her, and she faints.
When Kamala regains consciousness, she sees everyone hunching over her, with Aamir thinking it’s the effect of the evil eye and Muneeba scolding her for either not eating anything or eating too much. Later that night, Kamala calls up Sana to talk about the bangle. Sana says that it belonged to her mother, Aisha. Yusuf overhears Kamala talking to someone. Kamala asks Sana to give her some more information about the bangle, but she refuses. Yusuf tries to barge in, but Kamala stops her with her powers. Eventually, he does get in and is surprised to see that Kamala is far, far away from the door. Fearing that he has upset Kamala, Yusuf leaves promptly. The following day, Kamala asks Muneeba about Aisha. Muneeba, surprisingly, says that Aisha brought shame to their entire family and forbids Kamala from bringing her up again.
‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 2: Ending Explained – Kamala Khan Takes Her First Steps Towards Becoming A Superhero
The family leaves for the Eid gathering at the local mosque. Nakia can be seen trying to secure her votes and putting her flyers everywhere she can. Kamala tries to comment on Nakia’s amazing looks, but she shuts Kamala down and tells her to focus on securing votes because everyone’s there to only eat and gossip. So, Nakia divides the three of them for maximum outreach and promotes herself in the following sectors of the community: the Mosque Bros (I think directors Bilall Fallah and Adil El Arbi cameo here), the Pious Boys, the Sunday School Teachers, the Insta-Clique, The Converts (or The Re-Verts), the Mini Harami Girls, and finally, the Illumin-aunties. Kamala goes for the Illumin-aunties because she feels they know something about Aisha, and Naika goes for Yusuf.
Nakia hilariously manipulates Yusuf into securing her vote, who would otherwise side with his best friend, Rasheed. Nakia reminds Yusuf that Kamala is her best friend, and she’s helping her exercise her right as a citizen of the USA to participate in democracy. To dream of building a better future. Then she rhetorically asks Yusuf if he doesn’t intend to rob two young women, Nakia and Kamala, of that future. She even goes so far as to call herself Yusuf’s other daughter. Nakia even name-drops the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Yusuf is left speechless, and that’s when Nakia drops her voting pin on his plate and tells him to vote for her. Yusuf watches in disbelief as Nakia walks away.
At the police station, Zoe is borderline harassed by Agent Deever (Alysia Reiner) and Agent Cleary (Arian Moayed) into admitting that the superhero tried to kill her and that she belongs to an ethnic minority community. And in the most uncomfortable scene in the entire MCU, we get to see the officers be all kinds of racist and how they target non-white people for no reason whatsoever. They even ordered something called a tri-state sweep, via which they’ll search every temple, community center, and mosque. What Cleary says afterward is even more chilling. He says to “be respectful” while carrying out the sweep as the FBI is already surveilling them. It doesn’t matter if they say it to intimidate Zoe or not, but this is the closest the safe-playing MCU comes to addressing the problems of surveillance in White America.
Meanwhile, at the mosque, after campaigning for Nakia, Kamala asks the aunties about Aisha. They don’t give any concrete answers and utter the same nonsense about how Aisha brought “shame to the family.” They accuse her of being a “snake,” having multiple secret affairs, and killing a man during Partition. Mind you, they are saying all this about someone’s great-grandmother in front of them. That’s South Asian culture for you. We’ll lecture about tradition and being respectful towards our elders and then resort to misogyny (internalized misogyny in this case) at the drop of a hat. However, the discussion around Aisha is shelved as everyone finds out that a kid is hanging off of a tower while trying to click some selfies. Kamala realizes that she has to be a superhero and save the kid before he falls to his death and uses the chaos to change into her costume.
Long story short, Kamala’s rescue is daring but insanely hilarious as she tries to keep the kid distracted from his doom by making him talk about his comfort food. And when the kid settles on ice cream pizza (yes, he literally puts ice cream on pizza), they start to disagree about considering it a comfort food because it’s gross, while Kamala makes her way to him. Just when the kid is about to drop, Kamala catches him and goes viral. But while bringing him down, Kamala has one of her seizures where she sees a woman calling her again (just like she did during the dinner). That causes Kamala to let go of the kid and save him again. Traumatized by her vision, she gets out of there and into an alley. She’s attacked by the Stark drones and Deever.
After making a narrow escape, Kamala is picked up by Kamran. When she looks over to the back seat, she sees the woman from her visions sitting there. Kamran reveals that that’s her mom, thereby insinuating that Kamran’s family is somehow connected to Aisha, the bangle, and now Kamala. So, according to the comics, Kamran is supposed to be an Inhuman as he was exposed to the Terrigen Mist (a kind of mutagenic substance that activates one’s latent superhuman powers). There’s not much information on Bushra (that’s the name of Kamran’s mother in the comics). If you know anything about her before the next episode arrives, feel free to let me know.