The new Marvel television series about the character of Ms. Marvel dropped on HBO and allied streaming networks yesterday. While the show isn’t exactly about Brie Larson’s iteration of the comic superhero, it serves as a precursor to the movie revolving around the protagonist to be a part of the MCU soon.
Ms. Marvel focuses on Kamala Khan, a Pakistani teenager living in the US, who is obsessed with Captain Marvel. She stumbles upon an old bracelet that belonged to her grandmother in the junk box where her things are kept. But it is no ordinary jewellery.
It harnesses strange powers and Kamala now has the burden of knowing this secret. She also attracts the interests of other related Marvel entities who will make an appearance later in the series.
Our very first introduction to Kamala in episode 1 of Ms Marvel is through her hobby. A creative and artistic production on YouTube about the heroic adventures of Captain Marvel – including those Avengers Endgame exploits.
Although it does not have many viewers, the work gives Kamala the confidence and optimism to keep pursuing her dream. The other members of her traditional household are her brother Aamir, who is soon to be married, and her parents Muneeba & Yusuf. She is very close to her best friend, Bruno, who is a computer geek (read: genius).
The central conflict of the first episode is formed vis-a-vis Kamala’s ardent desire to visit a Comic Con and her parents’ equally stubborn resistance. This is where Marvel’s supposed “cultural inroads” come into the picture. She wants to participate in a cosplay contest about the best-dressed Captain Marvel contestant.
Muneeba, worried about the kind of clothing Kamala would have to put on, gives her a green and purple-colored salwar suit (a traditional South Asian attire for women). She and Yusuf hysterically try to convince her to go for a Hulk duet with the latter.
It does not take a genius to figure out that Kamala would be unpopular at her high school. The really strange representation of the students and the buildings do not provide any more insights.
Bruno makes an AI device for Kamala’s parents. Kamala and he make a plan to use the device as a distraction for her to sneak out of the house to the event.
The plan is successful – barely – as they attend the convention. Kamala spots Jenny, a fellow student at her school, but is not too happy seeing her there on account of their cold relationship. She changes into the costume and the moment she wears the bracelet, she feels a sudden surge of energy. It overwhelms her. She rushes to the stage as she gets late for her performance.
When it is time for her to show off the costume, she inadvertently activates the “magical” powers of the bracelet. She is unable to control it and destroys a lot of prop decorations such as the Iron-Man helmet and Thor’s hammer. These gigantic pieces send the audience into a chaotic state.
Jenny is almost crushed by the hammer but is saved owing to Kamala’s quick actions. She escapes the convention and reaches home, where Muneeba admonishes her for lying to Yusuf and her. Kamala seems more concerned with the bracelet, imagining much wilder things to come ahead.
Episode One’s Post-Credit Scene: What does it mean?
So, to understand the meaning of the scene and the people in it, there is a pre-requisite. You must have previously seen Spider-Man: No Way Home. Well, if you can’t, or haven’t, go on and read this.
The two formally dressed persons are agents of the Department of Damage Control. They are akin to SHIELD only in the detail that they too deal with superheroes. But the manner in which they do is completely different. To start off with, they have the patronage of the government in some way.
We have already seen how the Avengers were branded villains by the government in the first two franchise films and so by that logic, this organization is created to quell more such instances of superhero power displays.
For them, these entities remain anomalies that must be neutralized. Agent P. Cleary (Arian Moayed) and Agent Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner) watch a clip from the event that was recorded and unleashed on the internet. The two agents’ body language and profile suggest that Kamala will soon get a visit from them.
It is still early days for the series and we do not know the kind of impact this will have on the narrative. There might be the talk about the intervention of other friendlier entities to help Kamala manage the damage control, but it is too soon to say. Guess we’ll have to wait to find out.
The Episode Review
Hmm. While I really appreciate the refreshing experimentation that Marvel has done in their new ‘phase’ of the MCU, there is an inherent risk attached to it. The speculative hit or miss conversation walks a tightrope in ‘Ms. Marvel’. For me, it does not work.
The visual tone, from the start itself, screams a palate for a person much younger than the average viewer. Animated cartoons and special effects pop out to you without fulfilling a plot-related purpose. They are part of the aesthetic that the creators have chosen to go with for the show.
It is a bold creative choice, and certainly different. But it doesn’t make it any less exposed to the risk of someone like me not liking it. And I don’t. There might be others who found it more appealing but as I said, you can only know when you watch it.
Other than that, Marvel has done the sensible thing to go with off-camera personnel who know the culture. This could certainly protect the show primarily centered around an ethnic community’s household from being whitewashed. But it is not the case in this episode, at least.
I still found the dialogue to be dated and without any semblance of modern sensibilities. The ethos of the writing seemed to be trapped in the early 2000’s when such a consciousness of contra-culture was just gaining popularity.
The same representation of conservatism that we saw in the Netflix show, “Never Have I Ever”, is presented here. It is yet to become a “Muslim” superhero story and shouldn’t be unnecessarily celebrated just for that fact. Ms. Marvel has a long way to go. This episode was just introductory and does a reasonably satisfactory job of doing exactly that.
But besides it, there is nothing more to celebrate here. Ms. Marvel promises significant cultural inroads by giving a voice to the Asian culture. We will see if it holds up at the end of the season.