Ms. Marvel was never going to be able to keep up the same pace. The opening episode flew out the gates and never let up, thanks mainly to Kamala Khan having a clearly defined goal: breaking free from her mother’s grasp and going to AvengersCon. The follow-up, ‘Crushed’, unfortunately, lacks the same clear directive.
Kamala’s dealing with the fallout of discovering that her ancestorial band unleashes an inner power. Along with her side-kick Bruno, she starts testing her abilities in scenes reminiscent of Spider-Man’s own training. It’s lighthearted fun, but we’ve seen this before. The narrative thrust instead comes from Kamala investigating her own origins, hoping to discover a family secret that may reveal the truth about where these light shards are coming from – there’s one particular hint pointing towards this being the reintroduction of the Inhumans into the MCU, which would follow Kamala’s comic book story a little more closely. Whatever the case, the writers are building to something bigger than Kamala being “part-Asgardian”, and her family is key to understanding just why she’s so special.
Seeing Kamala try and get information from her own mother, played excellently by Zenobia Shroff, and the Illumin-Aunties is charming. Kamala’s a wonderful addition to the Marvel franchise and Iman Vellani continues to capture the spirit of the character perfectly – and when she’s on all-out detective mode, she’s at her very best. She also benefits from the Ms. Marvel showrunners’ decision to root Kamala in her culture, making her background all the more specific, yet, at the same time, offering universal themes we can all relate to.
The issues come when we follow different characters – there’s a distinct lack of zing. Matt Lintz’ Bruno has his The Devil Wears Prada moment, a teacher even calling Bruno the “lead character” of this story, yet the scene lacks energy. Similarly, seeing Yasmeen Fletcher’s Nakia trying to become an elected leader at her Mosque leads to some fun moments – one where she convinces Kamala’s father to vote for her is particularly great – but, again, it’s a subplot to bulk out future episodes, rather than having momentum right now.
These characters suffer because Kamala’s a scene-stealer. Even when partnered with a new annoyingly one-dimensional love interest, she’s able to make everything bounce along. These scenes between Kamala and Rish Shah’s Kamran lack a certain bite – there’s not much tension when they’re so perfectly matched. Indeed, the conversation flows so well between them (there’s a brilliant shout-out to Eternals’ hero Kingo, the everlasting Bollywood star) that it’s eye-rollingly too good to be true – and, thankfully, there’s a reason. For a moment, I was worried we were going to have Kamran, Bruno, and Kamala embroiled in a love triangle that would be a boring over-the-top High School drama, but the final moments reveal Kamran’s true intentions, tying this newcomer into the main mystery.
Ms. Marvel’s last act brings together a few dangling threads. It’s unfortunate that the child falling from a window is so dimly lit, and there are a few too many cutaways to people on their phones, and the Department for Damage Control are so easy to escape from. Yet, Kamran introducing his mother – who we saw in Kamala’s visions – promises so much to come. Where the story of ‘Crushed’ struggles to balance a few too many narratives and suffers for holding Kamran’s true intentions at a distance, we’re now thrust into a coming-of-age adventure that offers Kamala a mentor. Like how Spider-Man had Iron Man, I’m very much expecting this mystery woman to offer Kamala the guidance she needs to find her place in this world – and perhaps we’ll get an actual villain for her to fight.
Ms. Marvel is on Disney Plus now, with new episodes coming every Wednesday – check out the full Ms. Marvel release schedule for more. For more, check out our guide to Marvel Phase 4 and Loki season 2.