DIRECTOR: Meera Menon

CAST: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Rish Shah, Nimra Bucha, Adaku Ononogbo, Laith Nakli, Travina Springer

RUNNING TIME: 48 mins

PREVIOUSLY, ON MS. MARVEL: Kamala Khan (Vellani) and her best friend Bruno (Lintz) have been testing her newfound superpowers, which she had acquired from putting on a mysterious bangle, but Kamala’s training is briefly disrupted by her growing crush on handsome classmate Kamran (Shah). After a disastrous attempt at a superheroic rescue, due to a sudden vision of an unknown woman, Kamala finds herself targeted by the Department of Damage Control, but is rescued by Kamran – and his mother Najma (Bucha), the woman in the vision.

IN THIS EPISODE: Kamala learns of an interdimensional group that needs her power, while the family makes final preparations for the wedding of Kamala’s brother (Shaikh)…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

With the hero now firmly established, it’s time for Ms. Marvel to meet her villains – and while it’s still early days, they seem like an intimidating enough threat for Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan to begin protecting people from.

They are known as the Djinn, known to Kamala and other Pakistani children through supernatural fairy tales, and are quickly revealed to have been the ones responsible for the young superhero’s rescue at the end of last week’s episode. This one – entitled Destined – sets them up at first as a seemingly trustworthy clan not dissimilar to the Eternals (they are even immune to aging, it seems), who explain that they’re from another dimension and simply want Kamala’s magical bangle to go back home. Of course, having seen this type of ruse many a time in not just Marvel but other stories as well, it’s evident that their intentions are a little more destructive than they let on, and at the drop of a hat they turn truly sinister, in ways that can only get worse when we undoubtedly return to them later in the series.

For Kamala, though, it’s actually the least of her worries – at least, right now. In addition to discovering that her failed superhero attempt is going viral, she and her family are busy putting the final touches on the imminent wedding of her older brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), and with the Department of Damage Control starting to intimidate the peaceful community into giving up its new masked vigilante (and you can tell that they’re not very nice or considerate by the way they keep their shoes on when entering a mosque), she is beginning to question whether she even wants the responsibility of her superpowers. It’s typical coming-of-age stuff in a superhero origin tale, but like Spider-Man and even her idol Captain Marvel before her, Kamala is a morally sound hero whose inexplicable power ultimately serves a purpose as to who she really is, and so while you’re 99.9% certain she’ll eventually do the right thing in the end, it only makes sense that she also weigh the risk of that remaining 0.1% for the sake of those around her.

Compared to the previous two episodes of Ms. Marvel, Destined doesn’t have quite as much kinetic energy or stylish flair, and is often bogged down by a heavy dose of exposition (which is certainly necessary, but even still), but that isn’t to say that there aren’t still fun and impressive things about it. Most of it comes from this wedding which we spend most of the episode’s second half at, which in keeping with the series’ strong focus on Pakistani and Muslim culture is joyous to both watch and feel like a part of, especially when it pulls off a big choreographed Bollywood dance number with a number of our familiar characters dancing along. Under lesser creative talent, a moment such as this really would have felt random and unnecessary, but the writing, direction, and certainly the characters have enough charm and charisma to them that they can easily get away with it, whether or not there is any context. Beyond that, though, is the sheer happiness that it emits in these (literally) showstopping moments; between the smiling faces of these wedding guests and the passion that they put into every single step, there is not a cynical aspect to be found in how this show both depicts and respects this way of life, and all of that seriously rubs off on the viewer as much as it clearly dis the people working on it in front of or behind the camera.

Such happiness, though, can only stay that way for so long, and while the wedding doesn’t descend fully into Game of Thrones territory (which would have brought on one hell of a tonal shift), the arrival of those menacing Djinn brings the Marvel aspect to the now dampened reception. There’s plenty of cool stuff about the climactic fight sequence of this episode, including Kamala learning more about her powers whilst in action mode, and the visuals are plentiful while the villains are, once again, pretty intimidating and mysterious enough to learn a bit more about. Some surprises along the way also level the playing field (don’t worry, Kamran fans: his biological association with these villains doesn’t necessarily mean that he too is now just as nasty), but don’t expect much in terms of full-on closure: after all, we’ve only just reached the halfway point of this six-episode series, with more surprises still to apparently come (and, judging by the final scene, a bit of international travel as well).

For now, though, this is a wholly decent halfway mark for Ms. Marvel, though after two incredibly engaging and stylishly pleasing opening entries, it’s a little humbling to have things start to return to the standard Marvel formula for this one. Hopefully, though, the rest of the series will find a strong enough way to combine both elements to make something that continues to please just about everyone.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Ms. Marvel: Episode 3 – Destined is a calmer and slightly less energetic episode compared to its two predecessors, but a joyous and uncynical celebration of Pakistani and Muslim culture, as well as some cool fight sequences opposite some intimidating villains, makes it just as entertaining.

Ms. Marvel: Episodes 1-3 are now available on Disney+. Episode 4 will be available next week.

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