This review contains full spoilers for episode six of Ms. Marvel, “No Normal”, now available to view on Disney+. To remind yourself of where we left off, check out our Ms. Marvel episode 5 review.
Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) has traveled to her ancestral home of Karachi — not to mention going back to the past — but the first season of Ms. Marvel ends with the Jersey City community standing as one against a pervasive threat. Unlike the fragmented penultimate episode, “No Normal” is fast-paced, action-packed, and cohesive. It lands the emotional punches and includes a fight sequence that doesn’t overstay its welcome.
Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah (aka Adil & Bilall) return, immediately creating stylistic symmetry with the opening episode. The duo set a visually striking tone, which they utilize through sweeping camera movements. This is particularly noticeable when Kamala crosses the city using her powers and throughout the high school sequence. The mix of live-action and animated elements didn’t feature in the series as much as I might have liked, but it is fitting to see it incorporated during the planning stage of the stand against the DODC.
After last week’s abrupt conclusion to the Clandestines opening of the veil between dimensions, it became apparent that the threat would revert to the agency claiming to have US citizens’ best interests as their mandate. In this case, the DODC take on a similar role to Homeland Security, and their surveillance and subsequent search of the mosque are not trying to be subtle in their parallels to the real world.
Kamala is the first Muslim superhero in the MCU, and her community is subject to the same prejudicial scrutiny as those in the real world. The moment when everyone has their IDs ready before Agent Deever (Alysia Reiner) even asks to see them says so much without having to utter a word. Deever’s overzealous actions and refusal to obey an order from a superior later in the episode also feel pointed.
Weaving recognizable experiences within the fantastical world help keep Ms. Marvel grounded. It is a Pakistani American coming-of-age story and a superhero origin. Atrocities like the Partition inform Kamala’s past; however, her present is not free from prejudice or snap judgments. The deep-rooted power of a community grows louder in the finale, and they find a way to wield social media as a weapon for good.
One such case is Zoe taking back control of her narrative when the DODC treat the unidentified Kamran (Rish Shah) as a threat rather than a scared teen. It remains refreshing that this character didn’t turn into the quintessential Queen Bee bully. The reason she is at the high school is rather convenient, but using her voice to get the community down to this location is an organic use of her popularity.
The action set-piece is a classic outgunned and outmanned scenario, using methods straight out of the Home Alone and The Thomas Crown Affair playbook. It’s is a surefire crowd-pleaser and, when it drops “Anthem” by Swet Shop Boys, is a fun callback to the second episode and is another Ms. Marvel soundtrack banger.
The amusement can only last long for so long until this plan comes apart. Kamala and Kamran’s heart-to-heart adds to the romantic tension, before being interrupted by Bruno. I was concerned his jealously would manifest in a way that I would describe as “pulling a Xander” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Ms. Marvel continues to zig when I expect it to zag, and Bruno doesn’t sell out his friend because of envy.
The effects-driven second half of the fight is not as attention-grabbing as everything that occurs inside the school. However, Kamran’s muddle of emotions after finding out his mother is dead is well performed by Shah, as is the quiet moment in the chaos when Kamala implores that he heads to the harbor. It is a somewhat expected turn as he eventually retreats, and the highlight occurs within the cosmic energy bubble rather than the fight scene itself. The community forming a protective shield around Kamala is reminiscent of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man, but thankfully isn’t as cheesy as the New Yorkers against Green Goblin moment.
Ms. Marvel remains at its strongest when humor and heart are combined, which is no more accurate than when Kamala breaks her big superhero news to her family. Of course, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) has already spilled and this mother/daughter dynamic, with its ups and downs, is incredibly rewarding. Every scene is infused with the pain and joy that has come before, which makes what follows so joyful to watch.
How a hero gets their costume is an integral part of the origin story. Kamala goes from wearing a forbidden Captain Marvel suit to Muneeba having one made for her, which is indicative of this powerful arc. Incorporating the red scarf is a brilliant touch that mirrors the comic book design. Costume designer Arjun Bhasin has nailed this evolution, running parallel with the teenager’s personal style, and the red Converse signifies her identity is coming together as one. What we wear speaks volumes, and Kamala is no longer getting pulled in multiple directions.
An Embiggened Look at Ms. Marvel Since Her Debut
Similarly, a conversation with her father also highlights how far they have come since she rejected Yusuf’s (Mohan Kapur) homemade costumes. It is another conversation about identity; her mother gave her the costume she now wears and her father gifts her the meaning behind her name. Some of this dialogue is lifted straight from the first Ms. Marvel comic (which shares the same name as the season finale), but the reflection that it means “Marvel” in Urdu is new. As with any adaptation, there is an expectation that some will be unhappy about changes to the source material (particularly how Kamala gets her powers), but this only adds to the sweet moment.
The scene where Bruno tells Kamala there is a mutation in her genes, over which a few bars of the “X-Men 97” theme play, will no doubt set pulses racing. Ditto the mid-credits scene featuring the one and only Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) herself. Both are fun teases that hint at what’s to come on the MCU slate, but there are plenty of other loose ends, including what the Khans will do next and whether Kamran and Kareem (Aramis Knight) will end up as friends or foes. Kamala is the tie that binds them, and Vellani has more than earned her place among the heroes she reveres in this exciting and emotional conclusion.