Ms. Marvel – Season 1 Episode 6
Ms. Marvel ends its first season with a heroic debut, a standoff against authority and relationships tested by knowledge.
The first three episodes of this show delivered an excellent introduction to the character with an intense focus on her family life, her relationship with her friends, her heritage and the community surrounding her. Episodes four and five diverted to Karachi in order to explore the origin of Kamala’s powers and pit her against a world-ending threat; something that could -and arguably should- have been left to be fleshed out in more detail during a second season. The final episode returns to her home turf and refines the focus to the more relatable elements with powerful and uplifting results.
Ending the previous episode was an explosion indirectly caused by Kamran who diverted a missile launched by a Damage Control drone. It’s an event that sparks a lot of discussion in the community and provides an excuse for the authorities to point fingers at the Muslim community. Agent Deever showing up to the Mosque demanding answers and being met with a group of people showing their ID before having to be asked is a very clear statement about the inequality and casual racism that exists. All those present being in good spirits about it turns the situation into a joke which highlights how ridiculous the accusation is while establishing that they have become so used to this treatment that they can’t even be angry about it anymore. It’s quietly powerful and gets the point across wonderfully.
The use of Deever in the episode -and the season as a whole- further showcases that the antagonists are the weakest part of Ms. Marvel. The ClanDestines were introduced and resolved so clumsily that it’s impossibly to determine why they were thrown into the mix at all and Deever has been established as nothing more than an authority figure abusing her position to try and scare the Muslim community into compliance. She’s innately unlikeable but nothing more than a figurehead representing corrupted authority. As a villain for Kamala to take on this is an excellent idea, especially when framing her as a local hero but it needed far more development which may have been possible had the growth of Ms. Marvel as a New Jersey presence been the entirety of the focus for this season.
Her defeat works really well because it doesn’t result in her learning anything nor does Damage Control as an organisation change in any way. Agent Cleary chews her out for disobeying orders and relieves her of her position because of the public embarrassment she has created. Once again, there isn’t enough development to determine if Cleary believes that Deever has done something wrong or if he’s just doing damage control -pun intended- to save face following a massive public relations disaster that is actively generating discourse. It generates the desired result of having Damage Control back down but there’s no sense that anyone on that side of the conflict has learned anything which is likely the point. Subtext suggests that Deever is prejudiced and works for an organisation that enables her. Examples of her prejudice include referring to “the wrong people” getting powers. She clarifies this to mean kids but it’s clear that’s not what she means and her clear contempt for Sheikh Abdullah. Cleary’s views remain unknown beyond being concerned about Damage Control’s reputation. This development contains the potential to be deeper than is presented so it’s unfortunate the episode doesn’t deliver that.
Damage Control in general is underwhelming as an antagonistic force. It is amusing to see them kept at bay by a group of teenagers for longer than they reasonably should but they amount to nothing more than anonymous henchmen to be thwarted by the heroes. They are formidable in their numbers but the episode leans into the trope of inept henchmen though there is an awareness of that by the set piece being largely comedic in nature. The obvious comparison is Home Alone albeit with far less brutal traps and the fact that the teenage characters don’t actually win rescues their threat value to some degree.
The episode excels in the portrayal of Kamala and her coming into her own as New Jersey’s homegrown hero. It starts with Kamala coming out to her family as a superhero and having the moment somewhat deflated when she learns that everyone already knows thanks to her father’s inability to keep information to himself. The staging of it is in line with the style of profound developments contrasted with teenage awkwardness found elsewhere in the show. It feels right for Kamala and her family for the news to be delivered in this way and it normalises what Kamala has become in a very wholesome domestic way.
Kamala’s next milestone is the unveiling of her superhero costume made for her by Muneeba. It stands out there’s no way Muneeba would have had the time to create an intricate costume considering very little time has passed since the previous episode and dialogue establishes that they have only just reached home from the airport. That detail is ultimately unimportant because of what the presentation of the costume represents. The first episode featured Muneeba as an overprotective mother refusing to let Kamala go to a convention on her own terms because she was concerned about who else would be in attendance. Learning about Kamala’s powers and seeing her in action has tempered that protective streak and replaced it with acceptance of what Kamala is and what she wants to do with her life. Making a costume for her is a symbol of trust, love and acceptance as well as the completion of an arc that has progressed naturally over the season. One of the strengths of this show is the complex mother/daughter dynamic between Muneeba and Kamala. The coverage of this is what makes the presentation of the costume feel earned and poignant.
Part of the episode involves Kamala defining who she is as a hero and she seems to have settled on being a representative of her community with her debut in full costume being a very public display of her connection to that community. Her first appearance was in Captain Marvel cosplay pulling off a modest save but this is in her own costume and dealing with an overwhelming situation that solidifies her as a hero. Her morality has been defined as the season has progressed with definitive declarations to be found here. Some are action-driven such as her lack of hesitation when going to help Bruno upon learning that he’s not answering his phone. Others are to be found in the words that she says combined with the actions at that moment. A particularly notable example is when she has to talk Kamran down after he expresses concerns over the people accepting them with their powers and losing the ability to live a normal life. Kamala’s response is “there is no normal, there’s just us and what we do with what we’ve been given”.
It’s a riff on a common superhero mantra and very much along the lines of “with great power, there must also come great responsibility” which may be interpreted as a copy of that but positive morality is universal and there are only so many ways to express it. The texture comes in the meaning behind those words and what is associated with them. Iman Vellani delivers the mantra with an earnestness that makes it clear she fully believes in what she is saying and she is demonstrating that belief by working to protect everyone around her. She clearly recognises that she has abilities that can be used to help others and doesn’t question that being what she needs to do with them. It’s a great mix between words and action that comes from everything this show has developed about Kamala.
Another major arc for Kamala has been her growth in confidence and her sense of self. Much as the Karachi interlude was rushed, it was still important in allowing Kamala to gain context as to her origins, family history and the culture that she comes from. This has folded into her identity both as a hero and as a person with her confidence as a hero feeding into her overall self-confidence. A clear visual example of how the context feeds into this is her costume including various items of clothing that she accumulated during her trip to Karachi. She is proudly wearing her culture and heritage as part of her superhero identity. The enhanced understanding helps inform who she is as a person and culminates in her standing in front of the mirror comfortable in the skin that is uniquely hers. It’s a repeat of the same scene in the first episode where was looking to live up to her idol, Carol Danvers but now she is happy being Kamala so it’s a clear visual sign of the lessons learned and growth achieved.
Yusuf also proves to be very inspiring when it comes to defining morality. Early in the episode, he urges her not to go looking for trouble only for Kamala to remind him that she wasn’t raised to be that sort of person. Later, he talks about being a hero and makes no distinction between saving one person and saving the world. To him, they are the same thing and Kamala should never lose sight of that because everyone is significant. It’s in keeping with her current status as a local hero concentrated on what she can do for those around her. The post-credit scene strongly suggests that her focus is possibly about to become more high stakes and cosmic but this episode has her fully internalise the notion of there being no small heroic acts.
The final piece of the current puzzle is choosing a name for her superhero persona. This comes courtesy of her father who tells her why she was named Kamala and tells her the meaning behind the name. A more accurate translation is “marvel” which immediately stands out to Kamala because she unwittingly shares the same name as Carol Danvers. Yusuf talks about the uncertainty around whether he and Muneeba would be able to have another child and chose the name because they consider Kamala to be their “Miss Marvel”. It’s all Kamala needs and makes her superhero name directly linked to her own history rather than being a complete homage to an active hero. That is still in the mix but the name directly reflects who she is and is something she can proudly declare. Similarly, the symbol comes from the first letter of her name in Arabic rather than being a copy of the symbol worn by the previous Ms. Marvel as it was in the comics. It’s a smart choice to make Kamala’s superhero identity something that comes from her background as it supports everything this show has been saying about her.
All she has learned about herself and being a hero is demonstrated through her handling of protecting Kamran. She works with her friends, brother and Zoe to delay Damage Control long enough for Kamran to slip away. Added into that are small yet significant character beats such as Kamala and Nakia resolving the tension between them. Considering Nakia’s reaction to learning Kamala’s secret the way she did it’s resolved far too quickly with a quick discussion and an apology. This may be a commentary on the pace of teenage relationships and them being more forgiving by virtue of not being bittered by life experience. Even if so, it was something that demanded more coverage rather than being brushed aside. Something brushed aside just as quickly is the Kamala/Kamran/Bruno love triangle. An almost kiss interrupted by Bruno swiftly becomes a non-issue, largely because Kamran disappears to Pakistan. There is a boundary line drawn of sorts where Bruno states that he will always be there for her, implying that he means to keep their relationship at the friendship level. Unrequited love is another typical teenage plot and not drawing attention to it was a good choice.
Zoe is a great example of a character who had a lot more potential than the show had time to realise. The Karachi excursion paused the development of Bruno, Nakia and Zoe because they weren’t part of those events. This contributed to the rushed conclusion of the tension between Nakia and Kamala but also prevented Zoe from being a fleshed-out presence. There’s a clear outline of what she was supposed to be. Her contribution to the show so far indicated that she’s popular and shallow with her focus firmly on ensuring that everyone both knows and loves her. This episode establishes that there are hidden depths and she has a defined moral code. She is grateful to Kamala for saving her life and the best way to show that gratitude is to respect her desire to remain anonymous. Nakia questions her on this and Zoe states that she believes Kamala will reveal herself to the world when she’s ready to do so and it isn’t something she intends to force on her. This surprises Nakia because she misjudged Zoe as shallow and self-serving and it’s clear the audience was supposed to latch onto her perspective but Zoe isn’t developed enough for this ethical stance to be the surprise it needs to be.
Despite that, she is a strong and important presence even if the reason for her being at school is contrived. Her social media platform is used to get the word out on what is happening at the school so that the community knows what’s going on and later she pledges to use her platform to boost Nakia’s voice while identifying herself as an ally. There is visible growth that would have been better illustrated had more work been put into developing her character early in the season.
Kamran is similarly underdeveloped but has a meaningful presence all the same. He is the object that Kamala needs to protect but he manages to be a lot more than that thanks to Kamala’s interactions with him. He is characterised through comparison to Kamala in how he chooses to use his powers. His approach is far more violent which heightens the tension as Kamala has to protect him at the same time she has to protect people from him. It’s a lot to juggle and there’s the constant threat of the situation being complicated by Kamran learning about his mother’s death. Once he finds out, his out-of-control powers become a manifestation of his grief and his grief informs his desire to harm their attackers as he briefly sees this world as being responsible for his mother’s death.
One of the foundational elements of Ms. Marvel has been Jersey City as a community. Lots of time was spent in the first three episode showing how Kamala’s community functions and establishing the key figures within it. It’s a dynamic collection of people with a strong sense of culture and history. This episode takes all that has been established and makes it count in significant ways. The scope of the community that Kamala fights for is shown by cycling through the people tuning into Zoe’s broadcast before gathering to witness it first-hand. This is a strong example of Zoe using her influence to shine a light on Damage Control and allow people to see them for what they really are but it also shows how committed the people are to taking care of their own. Injustice in their borders will not be tolerated and those they care about will always be protected. This clearly manifests when the crowd stand between Kamala and the Damage Control agents. It’s a display of strength in numbers as well as an extended family while bringing to mind real-world examples of large groups refusing to accept immigrants being taken away. Jersey City rallying behind its hero and protecting her as she did them is powerful, emotive and heartwarming. It’s a near-perfect showcase of community and fully earned by all this show has delivered.
On a similar note, the montage of reactions in the aftermath of the situation highlights why representation matters. It’s almost the same as the montage of reactions shown at the end of The Avengers and fulfils the same purpose of showing that the events were experienced by real people and made an impact on them. The consistent theme from the reactions is that the people are delighted to have a superhero to call their own. Ms. Marvel -as she will later be known- fights for them and is one of them which makes them feel seen because now they have a tangible connection to the world of superheroes instead of simply existing in a world where they were a distant presence. Moreover, they can feel safe because Ms. Marvel fights to ensure that this community isn’t mistreated and they will all do the same for her. It feeds into the development of Kamala’s identity as she belongs to a community she can be proud to be part of.
There are still open questions around Kamala and her powers. Bruno tells her that her genes are different to the rest of her family because they contain a mutation. Accompanying this revelation is a few bars of the 1997 animated X-Men theme so that there is no doubt in the minds of fans what is being referenced. This makes Kamala the MCU’s first confirmed Mutant and paves the way for the introduction of more. This will include Deadpool, the X-Men and undoubtedly countless others. For the purposes of this episode, it’s a very awkward reveal by way of a very deliberate dialogue exchange that doesn’t feed into the rest of the episode. It’s inorganic and stands out because of how awkwardly presented it is. The implications are certainly widespread but it was clearly written as a shock reveal and a tease rather than a tangible exploration of identity. What rescues it is Kamala dismissing it as “just another label”; something that resonates clearly coming from her because her whole life has been about labels being applied to her so she is less than enthusiastic about another one because they say nothing about who she is. Further exploration of what being a Mutant means and how she fits into that aspect of the wider universe will come but for now, it’s not a concern for her. The reveal does muddy the waters somewhat around her connection to the ClanDestines, Djinn and the interdimensional origins of both her family and powers. Does the mutation come from the other reality or is Kamala unique in that she has connections to Humanity, Mutants and other dimensions? It isn’t explained though may make sense in the future.
An excellent finale that powerfully delivers definitive realisations for Kamala about who she is, showcases poignant relationship development and makes great use of her surrounding community. The use of Deever further showcases the antagonists as the weakest part of the show. Deever is nothing more than an authority figure abusing her position. There are strong hints of her prejudice but she remains underdeveloped. Her defeat works really well and the suggestion that Cleary is more concerned about the damaged reputation than if they are doing anything wrong is interesting. The development isn’t there so Damage Control are shallow as antagonists. This is made worse by their agents being kept at bay by a group of teenagers though not actually being defeated by them rescues their threat value to some degree. The episode excels in the portrayal of Kamala and her coming into her own as New Jersey’s homegrown hero. It starts with her coming out to her family in a way that matches the style of earlier coverage of the familial connection, progresses through Muneeba presenting her with her superhero costume as a poignant conclusion of Muneeba’s arc building toward accepting Kamala for who she is and culminates in Kamala gaining greater self-confidence and a strong sense of identity. Her debut in costume is a public display of her connection to the community. Her morality has been defined over the course of the season and definitive declarations through both actions and words are found here. The mantra she states is a riff on similar ones belonging to other heroes but the earnestness in which its delivered and demonstrated allows Kamala to own it in her own way. The costume itself is a visual example of how everything she has learned and experienced has contributed to her growth. Yusuf helps in her self-understanding who explains where her name came from and draws a very personal connection between her background and superhero name.
All she has learned about herself and being a hero is demonstrated through her handling of protecting Kamran. Added to that are small yet significant character beats such as Nakia and Kamala resolving the tension between them. It’s resolved far too quickly which is a consequence of the disjointed plotting of the season. The Kamala/Bruno/Kamran love triangle is brushed aside just as quickly though there is a boundary line drawn of sorts from Bruno’s point of view. Zoe is a great example of a character with more potential than the show had time to realise. Her contribution to the show so far indicated that she’s popular and shallow with her focus firmly on ensuring that everyone both knows and loves her. This episode establishes that there are hidden depths and she has a defined moral code. This surprises Nakia because she misjudged Zoe as shallow and self-serving and it’s clear the audience was supposed to latch onto her perspective but Zoe isn’t developed enough for this ethical stance to be the surprise it needs to be. Despite that, she is a strong and important presence even if the reason for her being at school is contrived. Her social media platform is used to get the word out on what is happening at the school so that the community knows what’s going on and later she pledges to use her platform to boost Nakia’s voice while identifying herself as an ally. Kamran is similarly underdeveloped but has a meaningful presence all the same. He is the object that Kamala needs to protect but he manages to be a lot more than that thanks to Kamala’s interactions with him. He is characterised through comparison to Kamala in how he chooses to use his powers. His approach is far more violent which heightens the tension as Kamala has to protect him at the same time she has to protect people from him. It’s a lot to juggle and there’s the constant threat of the situation being complicated by Kamran learning about his mother’s death. Once he finds out, his out-of-control powers become a manifestation of his grief and his grief informs his desire to harm their attackers as he briefly sees this world as being responsible for his mother’s death. One of the foundational elements of Ms. Marvel has been Jersey City as a community. This episode takes all that has been established and makes it count in significant ways. The scope of the community that Kamala fights for is shown by cycling through the people tuning into Zoe’s broadcast before gathering to witness it first-hand. This shows how committed the people are to taking care of their own. It clearly manifests when the crowd stand between Kamala and the Damage Control agents. It’s a display of strength in numbers as well as an extended family. It’s a near-perfect showcase of community and fully earned by all this show has delivered. On a similar note, the montage of reactions in the aftermath of the situation highlights why representation matters. The consistent theme from the reactions is that the people are delighted to have a superhero to call their own. There are still open questions around Kamala and her powers. The reveal that she’s a Mutant is clumsily handled but rescued by Kamala dismissing it as “just another label”; something that resonates clearly coming from her because her whole life has been about labels being applied to her so she is less than enthusiastic about another one because they say nothing about who she is.
- Muneeba presenting Kamala with her costume acting as the culmination of a well developed arc
- Deever’s defeat working well
- the portrayal of Kamala coming into her own as a hero
- Kamala defining who she is and what she stands for as a hero
- the earnestness of the delivery of her mantra
- Yusuf helping her define her morality
- the explanation of where her name came from and how that helps tie her superhero name to her own background
- the clear growth in confidence and sense of self for Kamala
- Zoe’s hidden depths
- using her social media broadcast to highlight the well developed sense of community
- the inspiring image of the people standing between Kamala and Damage Control
- the reaction montage showing why representation matters
- Kamran’s powers as a manifestation of his grief
- Kamala’s rejection of another label when she is revealed to be a Mutant
- Damage Control and Deever failing to be engaging antagonists
- the Nakia/Kamala tension being resolved too quickly
- the reveal of Zoe’s hidden depths not being the surprise it needs to be
- the clumsiness of the Mutant reveal
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