Before we get into Ms Marvel Episode 2, let me give you a quick recap of the pilot episode in case you need to catch up. (And for more detail, check out Screen Speck’s recap here.) “Generation Why,” the first episode of Ms Marvel, introduces us to Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and chronicles the Muslim Pakistani teenager’s road to the Captain Marvel cosplay competition at AvengerCon, an aptly-named convention that celebrates the Avengers for all they’ve done to save the earth. When her parents disapprove, Kamala formulates a plan to go with Bruno (Matt Lintz); then, after arriving, she puts on her grandmother Sana’s bangle to add a final flourish to her costume. Instantly, Kamala enters superhero mode, shooting “hard light” out of her hands and destroying the venue.
Kamala and Bruno manage to escape, but when Kamala returns home later than she intended, of course her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), is waiting for her. Kamala knows she’s screwed because her mother – in a scene ethnic kids know all too well – looks not angry, but disappointed. Muneeba gives her an ultimatum between herself and what is expected of her. With a naive finality, Kamala decides to fully embrace her cosmic, head in the clouds self, as her mother likes to call it.
“Crushed,” Ms Marvel Episode 2, is about love in all of its aspects. Self-love, familial love, brown love, friendships, religious community: “Crushed” has got ’em all. Kamala is in the honeymoon phase of her powers, coming to terms with them quicker than most superheroes do. And why shouldn’t she? She’s only been waiting for this moment her entire life. She goes to school with newfound confidence, mustering up the courage to get her chemistry book despite her lovebird classmates standing in the way. She’s no longer invisible – what can go wrong?
Naturally, that’s exactly what happens before everything goes wrong. But first, we get some fun sequences: from the superpower montage to ‘Goddess’ by Krewella and NERVO to the infatuated Kamala dancing to ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes, Ms Marvel’s soundtrack is impeccable. I love how the soundtrack represents all the different parts of Kamala.
We learn that Kamala’s powers have deeper ties than she previously thought, especially familial ones, which lead Kamala to seek answers from her grandmother, Sana (Samina Ahmad), to Muneeba’s chagrin. Despite the apprehension, I (and a lot of fans) had about the origins of Kamala’s powers in the MCU – and especially after the pilot episode – it now seems clear that Ms. Marvel intends to make Kamala’s powers intrinsic to her identity and heritage. I hope the show continues that route.
However, Kamala isn’t the only one who has to do some reckoning. Ms. Marvel Episode 2 also sees Bruno and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) struggle with significant and vastly different decisions. Bruno’s dilemma creates a gap between him and Kamala, especially with his crush on her. Nakia’s growing pains, however, bring her and Kamala closer, in a display of wholesome female friendships. Additionally, “Crushed” is big for Nakia because it signifies the beginning of what looks to be a strong and personal arc. I’m especially excited to see how this develops; after all, we rarely get fleshed-out Hijabi characters onscreen.
Ms Marvel also wastes no time exploring more solemn themes – particularly the partition of India and its effects on Kamala’s family. The dinner scene, with Aamir’s fiancee, Tyesha (Travina Springer), where she gets curious about their family history, was essential not just for furthering the plot and fleshing out Muneeba and Yusuf Khan (Mohan Kapoor), but for using a mainstream platform to shed light on a tragedy that affected millions of South Asian families.
Another darker side that gets explored is more subtle. We see it in the Department of Damage Control (DODC) scenes: Agent P. Cleary (Arian Moayed), as seen in Spiderman: No Way Home, is back with another agent, Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner). Although the workings of the DODC are unclear in the MCU, they’re the main antagonists so far, and I suspect there’s going to be more to agent Cleary than we already know; as we’ve seen in the Episode One’s mid-credit scenes, Kamala is already on the DOCC’s radar. And I love how one of Kamala’s main concerns from the comics was addressed here: there are substantial stakes for Kamala since, if her identity becomes known, she’s automatically considered a threat – one that would result in more government monitoring against Muslims.
Overall, Ms. Marvel is only getting better. And it’s not slowing down. The next few episodes look to be heavier thematically and would thus need more attention, but I have high hopes that they’ll maintain the current quality. Except for putting Kamala in nail polish when she’s praying. Come on, guys! Let’s hope it was breathable polish.