Ms Marvel Episode 4 takes an entirely different visual and narrative direction from its predecessors. This feels consistent with other Disney+ shows – especially Moon Knight – which have a tendency to pull the rug from underneath your feet in the best way possible.
In “Destined,” Ms Marvel Episode 3, Kamala’s (Iman Vellani) rose-colored glasses shatter with a bang. It’s the first time she realizes that her naïveté has consequences – especially for a Muslim superhero. After the Clandestines destroy her brother’s wedding, Kamala’s parents notice her disappearance and begin to suspect her involvement in something bigger than herself. But Kamala begrudgingly shuts them out, not knowing how to begin to explain. She retreats to her room, before getting a call from her grandma Sana (Samina Ahmed), telling her she needs to go to Karachi because of the same train that Kamala saw when Najma tried to take her bangle.
And so they do. In Ms Marvel Episode 4, “Seeing Red,” Kamala and Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) fly to Pakistan seeking answers. (Though the questions they ask are very different: Muneeba just wants to understand Kamala’s strange attitude.) The family reunion is beautiful, but you can tell by Sana and Muneeba’s reserved embrace that there are multiple elephants in this room. On the other hand, Kamala is taken with everything around her, though she also feels lost, literally and figuratively, in the streets of Karachi. Her cousin calls her an ABCD (American-Born Confused Desi), which bothers her more than she lets on. But Kamala does move on – she’s here for a reason, and she’s only going to find what she seeks at the Karachi train station.
Of course, Red Dagger, also known as Kareem (Aramis Knight), the fan-favorite character from the comics, won’t make it easy for her. Despite the first impression, Kareem realizes that Kamala isn’t with the Clandestines. And unlike with her grandmother, Kamala’s encounters with Kareem bring her comfort and familiarity. These good vibes are short lived, though, since it’s only a matter of time before Najma (Nimra Bucha) and the Clandestines find them.
Two-time Academy Award-winning Pakistani director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy did an amazing job with Ms Marvel Episode 4. “Seeing Red” is the first of Obaid-Chinoy’s two Ms Marvel episodes and her touch with the bridge of Kamala’s story is enchanting and entirely unique. One of the many things at which “Seeing Red” excelled was its portrayal of inter-generational family trauma and how it’s linked systematically to political issues.
I also loved the writing of and Samina Ahmed’s portrayal of Sana. Ahmed played the character differently than the usual “all-knowing, all-wise” elder most of all in her air of equal parts confidence, poise, and kindness. At the same time, Sana has no shame admitting to Kamala that she doesn’t have all the answers; she, too, is still figuring out her identity.
This segues into the apparent unresolved trauma between Muneeba and Sana. Surprisingly, they aren’t too far from what Muneeba and Kamala are dealing with. Shroff and Ahmed deliver Ms Marvel‘s most moving mother-daughter scenes and some of television’s most authentic portrayals of mother and daughter in recent memory in this, the most bittersweet scene Ms Marvel has yet put to screen.
It can sometimes feel like Ms Marvel gives us too much to digest. This is a good problem to have and is especially true in Ms Marvel Episode 4, but the general episode density makes sense when you consider this season is only six episodes long. Unfortunately, “Seeing Red” still overwhelms – nowhere more than the fight scene, which takes up a considerable portion of Episode 4’s runtime. The battle is visually stunning; narratively, it overstays its welcome.
In addition, “Seeing Red” blurs every line between platonic and romantic relationships; I’m still not sure what purpose it serves to bring on three almost-love interests. Maybe they’ve left some strings unattached for a secret or unannounced Season 2, and maybe they’ve saved some unanswered questions for The Marvels movie (although I doubt there will be time for romance in that one).