Review: ‘Ms. Marvel’ Episodes 2 and 3 Explore Kamala’s Powers and Finally Introduce Series’ Villains
The superhero origin story of Ms. Marvel took a big step forward as she explores her powers in Crushed, and we were finally shown the big villains of the season in Destined.
I was surprised that the first episode only touched on Kamala Khan acquiring her powers and not much else. Thankfully, the second episode focused on her exploration and discovery of those powers without ignoring her many other conflicts outside of Damage Control, who are tracking her down thanks to the Sokovia Accords.
I had initially wondered if Damage Control would serve as the main bad guys of the story, but thankfully, a far more cosmic adversary has emerged, which we will get into below. Any good superhero origin needs a compelling villain, and the show finally has some interesting ones. With the emergence of this new opponent, Ms. Marvel is able to deliver us a highly entertaining episode which contains some great action along with dramatic and emotional moments of all kinds.
Crushed spends most of its time with Kamala and Bruno in a fun montage testing her powers, culminating in her first superheroic act as she saves a boy’s life (albeit an idiot who thought it would be a good idea to take a selfie hanging out of a bell tower). Unfortunately, her inexperience meant that her powers faded and the boy fell onto the roof of a car, injuring his leg in the process. Kamala took that part-failure to heart it seems, as she doubts the wisdom of becoming a superhero almost immediately.
It also establishes a love triangle between Kamala, Bruno, and newcomer Kamran, the new kid on the block with an English accent and a sports car, who befriends Kamala almost too quickly to be trustworthy to the audience. However, I did love Kamala’s loved-up dance scene after meeting him, and we got a Kingo (Kumail Nanjiani’s character from Eternals) reference, so I’m okay with it.
Nakia also has a much bigger role to play in these two episodes of Ms. Marvel after her curious lack of involvement in Generation Why. Her passion is an admirable quality, so it’s fun watching her quest to drive change for women at the mosque. Also, her story is given plenty of screentime.
Destined is big on family, as the stage is set for Aamir’s wedding. Kamala’s parents both get some wonderful monologues full of love and wisdom; Muneeba shares a wonderful moment with her daughter as she lets Kamala know that whatever problems she’s facing, she doesn’t have to face them alone, while Yusuf seems constantly full of cheer — his speech to Aamir about choosing love and family as a form of bravery was very inspirational. Speaking of inspirational lines, we also get the big Ms. Marvel quote “Good isn’t a thing you are, it’s a thing you do” as Kamala wrestles with the big decision she has to make this episode.
There were some creative choices that seemed a bit strange in Destined. Kamala seems to almost instantly doubt whether or not she wants to continue down the superhero path, using language that feels unearned and a little illogical. It makes sense to doubt her own ability after accidentally injuring someone, but to state that the bangle is “more trouble than its worth” seemed like an incredibly rushed conclusion to reach. Thankfully, this is quickly dealt with and not a sticking point for the entire episode.
The other choice that puzzled me was the use of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” during a fight sequence, which undermined the dramatic tension during the action. I have generally loved Ms. Marvel‘s use of popular music in the previous two episodes, but this felt like they were throwing in a fun song for the sake of it. Thankfully, the song is ditched halfway through, and the score helps ratchet up the tension.
Spoilers for Destined ahead…
So, we finally know who Ms. Marvel‘s enemies are this season; it turns out that Kamran’s mother Najma and her friends are all Djinns, mystical and long-living beings from another dimension trapped on Earth-616. They’ve been here for over a century, and Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha was one of them, separated from her friends in Partition. We’re treated to a flashback to British-occupied India in 1942, where they first discover the bangle in an old cave.
It would have been nice to see more of India instead of being confined to an indoor space that frankly could have been set anywhere, but it did add a bit of scope to the story regardless. After piecing together the information here with what Najma tells Kamala in the present day, we know that two bangles could safely return the Djinns to their own dimension (the Noor dimension, which I failed to find any source material for after a quick Google).
It can also be done with one, but harnessing the “power of the sun” brings the risk that one bangle alone can’t contain the energy. Using it could trigger a huge explosion and kill lots of people, which is why Kamala is understandably reluctant to help them until all options have been explored.
I appreciate the discovery last week that the bangle merely unlocks powers already dormant in Kamala’s DNA rather than bestowing them on anyone. This week tied her powers to this new dimension; it appears that Kamala would be even more powerful in the Noor dimension, should she ever visit there. The lore behind the bangle feels so much more personal to Kamala and her heritage than simply exposing her to terrigenesis, like in the comics. Of course, that couldn’t happen anyway, as Inhumans don’t exist in the MCU (if you ignore Agents of SHIELD), but the need to separate her from the Inhumans gives Kamala a much more personal origin story.
I thought Ms. Marvel would have a much slower burn before revealing the Djinns as villains. I was enjoying speculating on just how friendly these beings were, considering the text that Yusuf translated says that they were exiled from their original dimension, but Ms. Marvel is fast-paced. It seems Najma was only willing to give Kamala a night to agree to help before forcing her to use the bangle against her will. Once she sees Kamala is reluctant, she gathers her friends to crash Aamir’s wedding.
The wedding scenes were great too. As a white Englishman who was christened as Christian, I have little knowledge of Muslim wedding ceremonies, and it was fascinating to watch and see the differences. The dance routines for the reception looked so much fun. It was heartwarming watching the Khan family celebrate, with all that joy on display.
The fight scene and the subsequent hide-and-seek was very entertaining as well, though the song choice undermined the stakes rather than making it fun and quirky like the creators hoped. Otherwise, I thought the action was great.
I do wonder what purpose Kamala’s family will serve in the story now that Aamir’s wedding is over. I thought they’d end the season with this, so it would seem Aamir has served his purpose for the story for now.
I imagine Muneeba and Yusuf will still be able to provide some emotional and inspirational moments as the stakes get even higher for Kamala, or perhaps Najma will take them hostage at the series’ climax. It does seem strange to have them sidelined so early on, but given Destined‘s theme of the importance of family, I imagine they will still have important roles to play going forward.
Destined also gave Nakia a great moment squaring up to Agent Deever in the mosque; you can tell Kamala will be able to count on her as an ally going forward. It’s understandable that Nakia would be hurt that Kamala didn’t tell her about her newfound powers, but it doesn’t seem likely that it would ruin their relationship moving forward.
It seems Kamran has his own challenge to overcome by the end of the season — can he stop his mother from taking lives by talking her down, or will he be forced to side with Kamala and use more violent methods? He did fight some of the other Djinns to stop them from harming Kamala, but it feels like a more climactic showdown with his mother is yet to come.
If there is a second bangle knocking around somewhere, I could see him using it to become another superhero. I don’t love his habit of consistently getting Bruno’s name wrong, but perhaps I relate to Bruno a little too close for comfort there! Other than that, Kamran appears very likeable.
Ms. Marvel is proving to be a very fun Marvel show so far, with good pacing and pleasant characters. Now that we’re halfway through the season and the traditional origin story beats have been established, I can’t wait to see where the series goes from here.