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Whether you’re into it or not, there’s no superhero series quite like Ms. Marvel. The first episode of the live-action streaming series was an inventive and manic take on a teenager who dreamt of having powers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cut to Episode 5: we’re fully back in time exploring the events of Partition and the effects of generational trauma.
Instead of text messages appearing on the pavement, this episode begins with an old timey newsreel. That’s as quirky as it gets; we’re very far away from Kamala making her own YouTube series. The tonal swing is huge, but the core of the story remains the same. That’s all that really matters.
There may have been a couple of clues as to the ongoing “where do Kamala’s powers really come from” runner as well... but that’s hardly the point of the episode.
***WARNING: Spoilers will follow for Episode 5 of Ms. Marvel. If you haven’t watched yet, platform out of here.***
Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) was thrust back into her own family history at the end of Episode 4, but Episode 5 doesn’t pick up with her. We start with her great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat) on the run from both the Clandestines and British soldiers in 1942. She meets a man named Hasan (Fawad Khan) and decides to put down roots with him. Soon enough, she’s pregnant with Kamala’s grandmother, Sana.
“She looks at you as though you’re magic,” Hasan says once little Sana is born. Their peace is soon shattered because of Partition; they are Muslim, and they will not be allowed to stay in India. Adding to their trouble is Najma (Nimra Bucha) who has finally caught up with Aisha. She wants that bangle back, and dammit, she wants photos of Spider-Man too. Okay we made up the second thing.
Aisha, ready to leave as soon as possible, has to remind a defiant Hasan about something he taught her when they first met. A poem that he likes includes the line “what you seek is seeking you,” and as we now know, that line is inscribed on the bangle. “We can take our memories with us,” Aisha adds. “So long as we’re together, we can build a home anywhere.”
The tragedy of this episode is that this family is split apart forever, as countless families were during Partition. What makes things a bit different for this family is the interference of Najma, magic from the bangle, and Kamala herself becoming a part of her own past. At the packed train station, Aisha takes a moment to show Hasan the truth of who she is by lighting up the bangle. He loved her when they first met, and he still loves her now. She leaves the bangle with little Sana and sends her family to get on the train while she deals with Najma.
At the very moment that Aisha sacrifices herself for one family, Najma accuses her of turning on the other. She stabs her in the chest and swears that she’s going to get that bangle if it’s the last thing she does. Little Sana has now become separated from Hasan, and is lost in the massive traffic of the train station. Kamala approaches the dying Aisha, who’s eyes briefly glow purple. She tells Kamala to get Sana on the train and to protect the bangle. She also gives her a photograph before dying. Kamala turns to Sana, still crying in the street. When is she going to see the trail of stars to lead her back to her father? We’ve heard Sana tell Kamala that very story. The moment has come, and it isn’t happening.
Naturally, Kamala herself is the one who has to light the way for Sana. She uses her energy platforms the get Sana above the crowd, but they soon fall and turn into stars. Sana is led back to Hasan, and they successfully make it onto the train.
“It was me,” Kamala says, before she is whipped back to the present. She wakes along with the Najma and the Clandestines, and the Veil has opened; it looks like a multi-colored shimmer of lightning.
As Kamala helps Kareem (Aramis Knight) get innocents to safety, one of the Clanestines approaches the Veil thinking that they can go home. The Veil turns her into some kind of black crystal which crumbles away. Najma is about to do the same, until Kamala reminds her of Kamran. Even though Najma left him behind, he still needs her. Najma hears this, and decides to close the Veil. There’s only one way she can do it, apparently. She walks right into it and starts to turn into the black crystal material. She says Kamran’s name before she’s gone, and the Veil is closed.
Right at that moment, we briefly cut to Kamran. His eyes glow blue, and his fist lights up.
Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Sana (Samina Ahmed) then arrive, and Muneeba discovers Kamala’s secret. The three generations come together back at Sana’s house, with Sana showing Kamala a glamor photo of Muneeba when she was her age. Kamala gives Sana the old photograph, which shows a pregnant Aisha with Hasan.
Three generations have survived to this moment, and they have more in common than any of them thought. It’s not a bit of quirky comic-book pop; it is the point of this entire series. It’s not based in superhero myth, it’s (somewhat) based in reality.
In one scene, Sana says, “Our family is magical.” Sure, the bangle, various light shows, and a time-loop are magical parts of their family history... but the real magic is something far more human. Three generations of women standing and facing their respective mountains together is more magical than a big glowing fist.
-Muneeba finds Kamala’s broken necklace at the scene of the action with the Clandestines. She holds it up, and it is shaped like the classic Ms. Marvel lightning bolt.
-Kamala’s time in Karachi is over, so she bids farewell to Kareem, aka the Red Dagger. He tells her that he’s just a phone call away. He also gives her his red bandanna.
-Muneeba’s discovery of the “Find My Phone” function that comes with her cell service’s family plan was a delightful moment from Zenobia Shroff. Aside from Kamala herself, Muneeba is almost certainly the MVP of this series.
-We do spend a little time in Jersey right at the end, as Kamran, not knowing where else to go, hides with Bruno (Matt Lintz) at the Circle Q. A Damage Control drone is on them fast, and the episode ends with an explosion. We assume that Kamala is going to have to clean this mess up in the season finale, hopefully donning her full costume to do so.
-It’s not the point of this episode (or of this series), but we can’t help but wonder, once again, what the deal is with Kamala’s powers. It’s still up in the air and there's only one episode left. It could have big ramifications for the MCU on the whole as well as the upcoming The Marvels. Kamala has been told that she is a Djinn, and then was told that she is not a Djinn. We’ve seen the Clandestines, the Veil, a blue arm, and we've heard a lot about Noor. What is in within Kamala that has been unlocked by the bangle? Is it swagger? Maybe she's born with it, maybe she's Palpatine?
-Episode 5 only adds more questions, because the black crystal that encases the Clandestines instantly reminded us of Terrigen cocoons. For a mad second we thought that the Veil itself could be a Terrigen bomb, and that Kamala’s Inhuman origins would end up being much closer to the comics than we originally thought. Is she Kree, is she something new, or is the MCU going to use this story to re-introduce Inhumans? We’re seeking answers, but what you seek is seeking you. The next episode is seeking us and it could have answers.
-Line of the episode goes to Muneeba. After Sana tells her that she put a microchip in her dog to track him, Muneeba has to explain that Kamala is a person and not a dog. She quickly adds, “If it was legal, I would do it.”
Ms. Marvel streams on Disney+ every Wednesday. “It was all true, Nani.”