Warning: the below contains full spoilers for Season 1 of Ms. Marvel, which is now streaming on Disney+. For more, read our reviews of each episode below.
Ms. Marvel: Series Premiere Review
Ms. Marvel Episode 2 Review
Ms. Marvel Episode 3 Review
Ms. Marvel Episode 4 Review
Ms. Marvel Episode 5 Review
Ms. Marvel Episode 6 Review
In the year and a half since WandaVision debuted on Disney+, the Marvel television universe has welcomed a host of both new and familiar faces. Ms. Marvel stands alone as the one title that isn’t fronted by a returning character or, in the case of Moon Knight, an A-list actor. Considering this is a coming-of-age story, it is fitting they cast an unknown to captain this ship. Not that you would know, but Kamala Khan is Iman Vellani’s debut role as she confidently leads this origin story throughout the first season with infectious charm. It is a journey crossing continents and time, all while delivering a solid sense of community throughout its portrayal of the first Muslim superhero in the MCU. The six-episode series never loses its sense of wonder (or humor), bolstered by its bold color palette and striking visuals.
Pairing a high school-set story with a discovery of superpowers is a tale as old as Spider-Man, and there is a risk of repeating the path taken by every version of Peter Parker. Thankfully, Kamala steps out of this enormous shadow, and Ms. Marvel offers a new perspective on the identity crisis that impacts almost every figure who finds themselves able to do the extraordinary. There are different ways to depict this, and the MCU has covered a variety, from Moon Knight’s psychological crisis to Wanda’s use of sitcoms to protect her psyche from grief.
An Embiggened Look at Ms. Marvel Since Her Debut
Even before she put on the mystical bracelet, Kamala struggled to recognize her place in the world. By the end of the finale, she hasn’t magically solved this relatable existential quandary; however, the newfound strength extends beyond the new piece of jewelry she sports. The changing dynamic with her parents and how the series subverts the strict mother archetype is at the core of this growth. To go from forbidding their daughter to go to AvengerCon without parental supervision to encouraging her heroic endeavors is quite the leap. Given all this, it’s impressive that showrunner Bisha K. Ali has so expertly plotted this shift that it doesn’t feel contrived.
Rather than paint Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) as two-dimensional figures with little wiggle room for change, earlier episodes hinted at complexities. This realization mirrors how, as we grow older, we start to see our parents as people who exist beyond their mom and dad roles. Shroff gets the lion’s share of the emotional arc as she begins the series as the most guarded, but Kapur isn’t simply playing the more open parent. Plus, it is impossible to ignore the spark with his wife that hints at their wilder days.
Rather than remain in Jersey City, the visit to Kamala’s ancestral home further adds to their rich backstory. In Karachi, the depiction of generational trauma doesn’t go on quite the same twisty train journey as Russian Doll recently depicted. Still, it is a significant exploration that illustrates the variety of storytelling within the MCU. Making peace with the past doesn’t mean forgetting what happened; another highlight is how history interweaves with the fantastical. Doctor Who often twists real events with fiction with great results (including an episode featuring the Partition), and Ms. Marvel takes this baton and runs. Yes, this changes the source of Kamala’s powers from the original comic, but there is cohesion within this adaptation in the ripple effect caused by this rupture in 1947. Academy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy digs into Karachi in the present and the love story that kick-started everything decades earlier.
Given how much is squeezed into the series, it is hardly surprising that there are some shortcomings. The thinly painted Clandestines have a clear objective, but even with the Red Dagger explainer (complete with pretty visuals) and flashback scenes, there isn’t much to this group of antagonists. The MCU’s TV output does stumble regarding matching the hero with a suitable foe, and Ms. Marvel does not outdo Ethan Hawke’s recent turn in Moon Knight as foil Arthur Harrow. It also doesn’t help that the way this group of warriors is caught and their subsequent escape is pretty goofy. Spreading the Karachi action sequence and the opening of the veil across two episodes cuts into the momentum, so when Najma (Nimra Bucha) makes her big sacrifice, it doesn’t pack the intended emotional punch.
The Clandestines are underutilized, but the introduction of Kamran (Rish Shah) and Kareem (Aramis Knight) means this storyline isn’t without its merits. Not only are the two former enemies connected by the end, but Kamala got to have not two, but three love interests. Ms. Marvel could have easily gone in the familiar love triangle direction; instead, there are flirty vibes with three teenage guys. Sadly, she did not get to kiss any of them (she was so close with Kamran), but romance is often forfeited when the world needs saving. Each pairing shows her growing confidence, and Vellani deftly portrays how each discovery leaves its impact.
Kamran’s arrival offers an entry point into their shared love of South Asian culture, and Ms. Marvel embraces references that add to its deep roots. I cannot tell you how many soundtracks have introduced me to new music, and this is no different. I have discovered many bangers over the last few weeks. Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding is one example of the overlapping genres, from beloved Bollywood songs (including the incredible dance sequence) to Muneeba’s long-standing love of Bon Jovi. Embracing both cultures shows how the Pakistani American teen doesn’t have to pick one or the other. Laura Karpman’s score also taps into this notion as she hits expected superhero theme notes alongside Bollywood-leaning beats.
The “first Muslim superhero” tag comes with a lot of weight and expectation, and Ms. Marvel does not shy away from highlighting this community. The mosque is a significant location and the way the DODC targets Muslims is not intended to be a subtle read on its real-world parallels. So often are negative stereotypes of Muslims depicted in Hollywood that this marks a refreshing (and significant) change. Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) is underwritten in the pilot but fleshed out in the second episode when successfully running for a place on the mosque board. Unfortunately, the teens who don’t have powers are absent in the middle of the story, which is another casualty of covering too much ground.
However, all of these threads come together in an emotionally charged (and fun) high school standoff that incorporated Kamala’s group of friends. Returning directors Adil & Bilall recapture the exuberance of the pilot during this sequence with sweeping camera moves, a pumping soundtrack, and enough energy to fuel the Jersey City power grid. Community is at the heart of this battle in and outside the school, and Ms. Marvel is consistent with its themes and messaging, which also helps it stick the landing — something other shows like WandaVision, with its extended final fight, whiffed.
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Like Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel explores the experience of growing up in a world with the Avengers. Whereas Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) had a reluctant Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner) to guide her, Kamala’s support system mainly consists of other teenagers and her family. Her journey has only begun, and the gene mutation bombshell and Brie Larson mid-credits reveal point to Kamala’s forthcoming role in The Marvels. Thankfully, Ms. Marvel’s first season doesn’t come across as a means to introduce this character into the main story before ditching this corner of Jersey City. Undoubtedly, Vellani is the breakout star, equally adept at conveying wide-eyed enthusiasm as depicting uncertainty and fear. But just as Kamala doesn’t walk alone, the series’ success also lies in the supporting cast that makes up the rich Jersey City community.