PREVIOUSLY, ON MS. MARVEL: Kamala Khan (Vellani), a Pakistani-American teenager living in New Jersey, is a huge fan of superheroes, and Captain Marvel in particular. She aspires to go to AvengerCon with her best friend Bruno (Lintz) and win a Captain Marvel cosplay competition, but her conservative parents (Shroff and Kapur) are unwilling to let her attend. After sneaking out anyway, and taking a mysterious bangle to complete her costume, Kamala discovers that she has suddenly acquired cosmic superpowers, which cause a scene at AvengerCon and alert the Department of Damage Control.
IN THIS EPISODE: Kamala and Bruno test her newfound powers, while she also develops a new crush on handsome classmate Kamran (Shah)…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
After a fiery and energetic introductory episode, you’d think that Ms. Marvel would start to settle down and get right into the usual superheroics of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – but as this second episode (titled Crushed, for reasons that will become obvious momentarily) of the miniseries sets out to prove, it’s just getting started.
Crushed begins just after Kamala Khan’s (Iman Vellani) sudden acquisition of cosmic superpowers, which has brought about a renewed sense of confidence to our plucky young heroine. She and best mate Bruno (Matt Lintz) begin exploring her new powers, which seem to include creating energy platforms in mid-air, as well as enlarged and extendable fists that pack quite the punch. Training is briefly put on hold, however, when Kamala meets her attractive fellow student Kamran (Rish Shah), whom she forms an instant connection with; soon enough, this seemingly nice young lad is teaching her how to drive, leaving poor Bruno somewhat in the lurch. It all comes to a head at a celebration for Eid Mubarak, where Kamala’s new superpowers and blossoming superhero identity are put to the real test.
Only two episodes in, and Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan is already giving the MCU a much-needed jolt of fresh energy (not that it was flickering necessarily, but the signs were starting to point towards falling into far-too comfortable familiarity). This is such an endearing, charming, and all around lovable hero who’s easy to root for, has strong morals as well as those easily identifiable teenage quirks, and is just a good and caring person to those around her. Watching her develop her powers in this episode, and also trying to learn more about them from people who curiously don’t want to divulge any further, is simply joyous, but none more so than the sweet energy she exhibits at all times which Vellani’s endearing lead performance is so central to. You’ll be utterly taken by her opening walk of pride in the opening moments, and later during a fantasy dance sequence set to The Ronettes, all because both the character and the actress are so lively that you’d have to have a heart made of stone not to feel anything for this person or the radiant presence she gives.
In terms of representation, the character also offers an insight into a culture that is endlessly fascinating to both watch and depict on-screen. More so than last week’s episode, the Muslim culture to which Kamala and her family belong is given an undeniable presence that almost makes it feel like a character in its own right; we see Kamala and her close friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) in the midst of prayer in a mosque, celebrating Eid Mubarak with their community, talking about the positives of wearing a hijab to feel a sense of pride and empowerment, and listening to family conversations about how their elders experienced the horrors of Partition. All the while, Kamala is bonding with the handsome young fella she makes googly eyes at during a party over their shared love of Bollywood movies (keep your ears out for an Eternals name-drop during their conversation as well), and encouraging Nakia to make a stand for the miserable conditions women have to experience in their designated section at the mosque, which really stands for a great deal of positivity towards a way of life that isn’t hurting anyone else nor is it proving to be that much of a bad influence. It’s very encouraging to see a mainstream show like Ms. Marvel – or indeed a major Hollywood franchise such as Marvel in general – take the time to really embrace this culture without patronising it or making it feel like an accessory.
There’s also a lot of fun things to spot in the writing and direction (the latter this time being done by Meera Menon, who also directs next week’s episode), from the imaginative graphics used to display text messages and fantasy sequences, to the genuinely strong character work that develops characters who perhaps weren’t given as much focus last week. The episode also sets up a number of things which will almost surely tie in to remaining episodes, such as the nature of this power-unlocking bangle and its mysterious owner, why the intimidating Department of Damage Control is so keen on nailing Kamala for her powers despite this being a whole universe where superpowered beings are very much the norm, and how she was able to get powers in the first place.
However it answers those questions, it’s bound to be just as invigorating and charming a ride as these first two episodes of Ms. Marvel have been, especially this second one which confirms that we are truly blessed to have such a lovable hero like Kamala Khan in our lives right now.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Ms. Marvel: Episode 2 – Crushed continues the series’ delightful and charming vision with deeper focus on the Muslim culture to which lead character Kamala Khan belongs, as well as the incredibly endearing lovability of this new Marvel superhero that lead actress Iman Vellani brings to life with impossible ease.