Warning: spoilers for Ms. Marvel episode 3 ahead – turn back now if you have not seen the latest episode of the MCU show.
"The man who chooses family is never alone," Kamala Khan’s father says. Not to Kamala, although she’s eavesdropping on the conversation, but to her brother, Aamir. Has any other Marvel series made such a poignant point about the importance of family? Sure, we have seen Hawkeye’s kids, Wanda’s drive to create a nuclear family leading her to madness, and the Avengers found family, but there’s rarely a superhero with parents who are a positive influence (Thor’s about the only one, despite a back-stabbing brother).
It’s a refreshing change: superheroes don’t need to have broken homes, they can come from love instead. Spider-Man had Aunt May and Uncle Ben. Kamala has a (very large) extended family. There are problems and issues, but everyone’s held together by love. Come the end of the episode, when Kamala decides not to reveal the truth about her powers to her parents, there’s genuine heartache – they would no doubt be angry at Kamala for using the mysterious bangle, but there’s so much love, there’s no way they would stay annoyed for long. Instead, you can imagine them all teaming up to fight the dangerous Djinn. But that’s not to be just yet.
Speaking of the Djinn, Kamala’s saviors from the second episode are not so nice after all. Kamala’s own powers are linked to these other-dimensional genies who have long been trapped on Earth. Akin to how Moon Knight made Egyptian Gods a reality, Ms. Marvel takes these beings from Islamic mythology and makes them very real. The result is excellent, using Muslim culture to reason why Kamala has abilities – a much stronger reason than her simply being Inhuman.
Indeed, Ms. Marvel is diving deeper and deeper into Kamala’s heritage and culture. Aamir and Tyesha's wedding offers a wonderful look at a Muslim ceremony and gives the filmmakers a great excuse to choreograph a dance routine straight out of a Bollywood movie, with the necessary camera zooms and sweeping overhead shots. It’s an uplifting, joyous scene that momentarily makes us forget about the group of demons coming to crash the party. Even before we get to the main wedding, there are nice nods to Muslim tradition, such as Amir having his shoes snatched away. It’s a funny moment that will have many viewers interested in Muslim culture.
For Kamala, though, this episode’s all about inner conflict: should she keep her newfound powers a secret or tell her family and friends? Bruno – and I’m heavily shipping Bruno and Kamala, sorry Kamran – knows about the bangles, but her best friend, Nakia, does not. When Nakia discovers the truth, she’s justifiably angry, and you have to wonder how long Kamala can keep everything quiet. Her grandma’s now involved, having somehow sent a train to help Kamala during her wedding fight with the Djinn, and now Kamala’s heading to Karachi. I have a feeling that watching Kamala come up with an excuse to her parents for that trip will be fun to watch as Iman Vellani continues to be a joyful screen presence.
Vellani manages a few things during this episode: she plays worried during her fight with the Djinn, which has more than a few shades of Jurassic Park’s similarly kitchen-based velociraptor scene; she does anxious teen when telling Bruno about the Djinn; and, perhaps in her finest moment yet, she portrays a wounded kid who knows they’re in trouble with their parents. She goes through all these emotions perfectly – there’s no denying Vellani is a brilliant casting.
Perhaps my only issue with the episode is that, after over 40 minutes of screentime, it simply feels that not much has happened to push the narrative forward. The Djinn unveil themselves to Kamala within five minutes, Kamala finds out they could be bad, and then the Djinn chase her. We spend a lot of time simply being with Kamala and her family, seeing those relationships play out. It’s great to see a Bollywood number in a Marvel show (and done better than in Eternals) but anyone hoping for a bunch of action may be disappointed (if you’re after that, catch the epic Obi-Wan Kenobi finale). However, when hanging out with the Khans is this much fun, who can blame the writers for wanting to show us more of them.
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.