Well, after two episodes of exposition, the latest Ms. Marvel entry finally delivered on the action that is a hallmark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But while “Destined” gives us a big fight scene and introduces this season’s bad guys, it was really about tackling one fundamental question: What, exactly, is home?
We got the answer (or rather, answers) over the course of the episode which, like the first two, had a large event—Aamir and Tyesha’s wedding—that was the catalyst for bringing everyone together. It could seem a little rote for each episode to center around a gathering, but I love how it speaks to the fact that many communities, and indeed especially immigrant communities, use celebrations as a way to connect, sometimes after being apart from each other for a long time.
And parted from each other for a long time is indeed what Najma, Fariha, Saleem and Aadam have been—at least when it comes to Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha. We find this out in an opening sequence that takes us back to 1942, when India was one country, with the British still in charge but slowly losing their grip as the independence movement grew stronger. There, we join a group of people in a temple as they dig through rubble, before we see Kamran’s mom Najma (Nimra Bucha), who we met at the end of the last episode, find a severed blue arm, around which is the bangle we’re by now so familiar with.
And then…in walks Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat), who seems to be in charge, or at least a co-leader with Najma, of the group. They’re trying to make their way home, and needs the bangle to do so. In fact, as Aisha says, “he” said they would need two. Who is he?
As the temple collapses around them, we hear the sounds of a fight taking place outside, and Najma and Aisha part ways to try and keep safe. That, present-day Najma tells Kamala (Iman Vellani), is the last time any of them saw Aisha, especially as they’ve been “running ever since.” Kamala is, it’s fair to say, stunned and all she can do is look round the room and ask folks–excluding Kamran (Rish Shah), who’s standing next to his mother and looking a bit nervous—if they “met at school.”
Of course they didn’t. Najma quite straightforwardly tells Kamala they’re from another dimension and were exiled. She then drops the biggest bombshell: that she, Aisha, and the others are all Djinn. In their home dimensions, they’re called the Clandestines, and other people might call them Ajnabi or Majnoon or Unseen. But they’re Djinn.
And so the show calls on a bit of pre-Islamic mythology to explain Kamala’s powers. It’s completely different from the comic books, where she’s an Inhuman, but it’s a nice touch as it again calls on Kamala’s ethnic and religious heritage. Djinns, Kamala tells Bruno (Matt Lintz), are the “stuff of my childhood nightmares.” Yes, Djinn are scary, but these beings, which can be found in Islamic mythology and theology, are complex and not inherently bad; they are capable of choosing between good and evil (a bit like humans). That there are so many stories around and about Djinn gives the show a lot of room to play and come up with its own interpretation. We see this in the story Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) later translates for Bruno, and which he says he’s not heard before.
Kamala begs Bruno for his help and he reluctantly agrees, because he’s half in love with her and would do anything for her, especially make sure she’s safe before he heads off to CalTech. Kamala has her mission for the series, seemingly, which is to help the Djinn make their way back home. The group are funny (teasing Kamran about his crush on Kamala) and kind, so why wouldn’t she help?
Well, because they’re not so kind. Their desire to return home is their absolute focus, at the expense of everyone and everything else. When Najma stumbles across a message from Kamala to Kamran, saying she needs more time to consider whether she can help, Najma is unhappy, to say the least. Najma knows helping the Clandestines will be dangerous, but she doesn’t care; she’ll do anything to return to the place she calls home.
Anything includes displeasing her son, Kamran, and gatecrashing Aamir and Tyesha’s wedding to start an all-out fight with Kamala. Najma, Fariha, Saleem, and Aadam versus Kamala seems a little unfair—given they have decades of experience plus some very flashy weapons—but Kamala holds her own. It’s a little surprising how much she’s improved, but perhaps she’s operating partly on instinct, listening to her body, which somehow knows what to do.
Just when it seems like Kamala is losing, surrounded by the Clandestines while holding onto an injured Bruno, the Department of Damage Control turns up and arrests the Clandestines, and poor Kamran, giving Kamala and Bruno time to escape. And so, for the moment, the Clandestines’ mission to get home is stymied.
Perhaps, and this might sound cheesy and a little unfair, the Clandestines need to reconsider their definition of home. For them, it’s a place. They’ve been in this dimension for 100 years, and yet home to them is still somewhere else. That’s despite the fact that they have built a life, especially Najma, who has a son. (Kamran is, to my relief, genuinely 17 years old and not some creepy older dude in a young guy’s body hitting on Kamala.) It is understandable, to a point, that the Clandestines consider a place a home, because that place will feel familiar and will accept them and they’l be surrounded by people they know and have things in common with.
But if home is a place for the Clandestines, for Kamala and the non-Clandestines we see in this episode, home is people. More specifically, home is family, in all its guises. Ms. Marvel is strongest, as we’ve seen, during scenes with Kamala’s family and friends, and that’s especially true this episode. We get some beautiful heart to hearts, the first of which is Kamala and Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) talking in the bathroom as Muneeba tenderly cleans up a wound Kamala sustained from superheroing.
So far, we’ve mostly seen Muneeba and Kamala clashing (and indeed, a character in this episode says that “mothers and daughters, it’s the eternal struggle”), so it’s wonderful to see an episode in which, more often than not, they come together. As Kamala asks her mom for advice, in a roundabout way, Muneeba tells her that coming to America was a dream for her and Yusuf, but it proved extremely difficult once they arrived, and Muneeba “never felt so alone.” How, Kamala asks, did they get through it? “I found the mosque,” replies Muneeba. “I found Auntie Ruby and Humaira, and I found my family and I let them love me…. Whatever mountain you’re facing, you don’t have to do it alone.”
Yes, Muneeba and Yusuf left behind everything they knew in Pakistan, but they created a new home in America, where their family and friends now (mostly) are. Home, goes the saying, is where the heart is, and that’s true for the Khans.
If the scene between Kamala and her mom wasn’t sweet enough, we’re also treated to some bonding between Aamir and Yusuf, just before Aamir marries Tyesha. Feeling nervous about the fact that he doesn’t have much money, Aamir is reassured by his dad that he will find his way, that he is brave because he has “chosen family…and the man who chooses family is never alone.” Kamala overhears the conversation, and for her it cements that she needs to put her family, her home, first.
That still doesn’t mean she feels she can open up to them, though. After the joy of the wedding, it all turns to despair when Kamala pulls the fire alarm to get everyone out of the hall so the Clandestines don’t hurt them, Kamala still can’t find it in her to tell her family about her powers. Yes, she’s learned that family is home and comfort and joy, but she’s also gleaned in this episode that what she can do will put people in danger—and she’d rather disappoint them than do that.
That lesson comes from learning that the members of the Department of Damage Control have been to the mosque to try and find out her identity. They’re interested in superheroes, but they’re particularly interested in a brown, Muslim superhero, and are treating her like a terrorist threat. Sheikh Abdullah (Laith Nakli) and Nakia succeed in turning Agent Cleever away, but she’s not happy and neither are they. Neither am I, and part of the reason I’m addressing this so late in this piece is that I am still so, so angry about Agent Cleever not taking her shoes off when entering the prayer space. She’s not there in an emergency situation, there’s no reason she and her colleagues can’t take their shoes off. No reason, except that she knows it’s hugely disrespectful and therefore it’s a power play. Sheikh Abdullah has the last word though, telling Agent Cleever as she leaves to “next time, remove her shoes.”
Nakia is aware of the government’s game, that they want to do the whole “good Muslim versus bad Muslim, let’s self-surveil our people thing,” but it still leaves a bad taste in her mouth, and means that she’s not exactly on Ms. Marvel/Night Light’s side. And so, understandably I think, since all Nakia wants is to protect her community, her reaction to finding out that Kamala is the mysterious superhero is not exactly positive. No doubt that reaction also contributes to Kamala’s refusal to tell her family what’s going on.
There is one family member, however, who is on Kamala’s side: Nani. As the episode ends, Kamala takes a call from her grandmother, who tells her that she must come to Karachi. It’s a strange request, but then Nani drops the news that she also saw a vision (although she calls it a dream), and that Kamala and her mother must both come to Karachi.
Are we going to Karachi in the next episode? Seems wild, but if we are, bring it on.
- When the Djinn are hunting for the bangle, Fariha says that the “Brits would have looted the place twice over.” She’s not wrong. Have you ever been to the British Museum? Also, I like how this sentence is a very subtle nod to Black Panther.
- Sana Amanat, Ms. Marvel co-creator and co-executive producer on the show, is a guest at Aamir and Tyesha’s wedding.
- When Najma and Kamala have a joint vision, they see a train hurtling towards them with the destination showing as Karachi. It’s just after Najma has said that she won’t protect those who betray her. Is there a double meaning here? Did Aisha betray Najma by not coming back, but also by going to Pakistan when Partition happened?
- While Agent Cleever didn’t take her shoes off, poor Aamir couldn’t put them on, thanks to a Pakistani tradition where the groom’s shoes are often stolen during weddings. Everyone has a slightly different version, but often the bride’s side will steal a shoe (or both) from the groom during the wedding reception, and will only give it back if he gives them enough money. Yes, it’s technically a type of extortion, but it’s also fun.
- I love that Tyesha was bored and hungry while getting her mehndi done, a state many an Asian bride has found herself in.
- I’ve mostly ignored poor Kamran, but he really came through for Kamala. I fully believe he really likes Kamala. Please, please, please don’t prove me wrong, Kamran.
- “I swear he gets my name wrong on purpose.” Oh, I love Bruno, but yes, Kamran definitely gets his name wrong on purpose. And not just because it’s a way to undermine Bruno in front of Kamala, but also because it’s probably revenge for all those generations of white people who pronounce our names wrong, yet are perfectly comfortable saying Tchaikovsky, Daenerys, and Galadriel. Bruno is the wrong target, but yeah, I get it.
- How exciting to see an Islamic wedding ceremony onscreen. It was slightly westernized, with Tyesha and Aamir saying “I do” instead of the more traditional “I accept” or “qubool,” but I love that, since it brought everyone in. Mostly, I loved the “Allahuakbar” at the end, which was said with such joy, a contrast to how the phrase is often portrayed in western narratives as something threatening.
- Big, elaborate group dances are a really thing at Asian weddings. I’d tell you to search “Asian wedding dance” on YouTube, but I don’t want you to blame me for losing hours of your life to the videos you’ll find.
- Nakia got elected to the mosque board because she’s brilliant.
- I let out a cheer when Kamala extended her arm to attack the Clandestines.
- Brown Jovi! And then “Livin’ On A Prayer” playing as Kamala fights the Clandestines.
- Bruno made Kamala a mask, and I love that we’re seeing the Ms. Marvel costume slowly coming together.