The novelty of Kamala’s (Iman Vellani) superpowers begins to wear off in “Destined,” Ms Marvel Episode 3. In Episode 2, Kamala acquaints herself with her new powers, hoping that they mean she’s related to one of her cosmic idols. She develops a crush on Kamran (Rish Shah). She’s on top of the world! That is, until she goes to the masjid for Eid celebrations and has to save a kid from falling from a minaret. Kamala’s powers malfunction when she starts having visions of a mystery woman; she drops the kid several stories and barely saves him. As Kamala flees the scene, the Department of Damage Control attempts to catch her. She’s saved at the very last minute by Kamran and his mother…and the mother turns out to be the woman Kamala envisioned.
Ms Marvel Episode 3 starts with a flashback to a cave in British-occupied India in the the 40s. We meet some of the Clan Destines, including Aisha (Mehwish Hayat), Kamala’s great-grandmother, and Najma (Nimra Bucha), Kamran’s mother. The scene chronicles their discovery of the bangle on a severed blue arm – which raises a lot of theories regarding possible Kree ancestry – and their desire to find the two bangles because it’s their only chance to return to their own dimension. However, the British start destroying the cave, the group separates trying to escape, and that’s when Aisha was last seen.
At least, that’s the story that Najma tells Kamala, before urging her to finish what her great-grandmother started and giving them the bangle so they can go home. Kamala probes further about who her family is and where their home is. Which is precisely when her entire world falls apart. Najma reveals that all of them, including Kamala and Aisha, are actually Djinns: invisible creatures from Islamic theology and mythology, akin to ghosts (but, to most Muslims, realer than that). Whether or not this turns out to be true, I felt that associating the first Muslim superhero with Djinns in any capacity was in bad taste. (Not as bad as Marvel comics calling the only Niqabi “Dust” giving her the power to turn into sand, but I digress.)
Kamala, grateful for having gotten even a crumb of information about her origin, agrees to help them. She asks Bruno (Matt Lintz) about the logistics, deciding to put everything on pause until after her brother Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding. Of course, things only get worse for Kamala once Najma finds out about the delay.
As all this is unfolding, the Department of Damage Control isn’t holding anything back trying to locate our masked superhero. In particular, Agent Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner) is going full force after the incident with Ms Marvel saving the little boy at the mosque on Eid.
Ms Marvel Episode 3 is the show’s second to be directed by Meera Menon, the first recipient of the Tribeca Film Festival’s Nora Ephron Prize. And it’s a perfect midpoint to Kamala’s story. One thing I’ve noticed about Ms Marvel is that despite its four different directors, the show doesn’t undergo any awkward tonal changes from episode to episode. You just know exactly what a given episode is going to tackle based on its director. I happened to mention in my review for Episode 2 (“Crushed”) that Kamala was in her honeymoon phase with her powers and her self-identity, and Episode 3 is the antithesis of it: everything falls apart and Kamala sees how they’ll never be the same again.
Her relationship with her parents is more strained than ever and she even starts keeping secrets from her best friend (and new mosque board member) Nakia Bahadir (Yasmeen Fletcher). Because Nakia hates superheroes. In fact, she hates them even more after the mosque is put under increased surveillance because of Ms Marvel. So Kamala goes to Sheikh Abdullah (Laith Nakli) for help. It’s a beautiful display of community and seeking help from mentors, especially in relation to Kamala’s personal journey with Islam. It also provides us with a beautiful scene taken verbatim from the comics that pretty much dictates the kind of person Kamala wants to be and what she wants to fight for. We have Nakli, alum of Hulu’s Ramy, to thank for that – with his stellar comedic timing, he’s the perfect casting choice for Sheikh Abdullah.
All of this leads us to see how nice it is that Ms Marvel allows its brimming characters to exist and grow without necessarily relating back to Kamala. And despite the fact that the plot stutters a little in Ms Marvel Episode 3 (regarding Kamala’s past and powers), it is thankfully saved by its more intimate moments and a thrilling fight sequence set to “Living On A Prayer.”
Now that show’s antagonists are well-established, “Destined” leaves me wondering about the entirely different direction Ms Marvel would have taken if it its main villain were The Inventor, as is the case with the comics. Because of early casting rumors and a neon “Edison” Easter egg, I think a little part of me was waiting for this beaked psychopath to show up. Honestly, though, even if some comic villains would’ve provided significantly more giggles, I wouldn’t trade show canon for the world.