CAST: Iman Vellani, Zenobia Shroff, Samina Ahmad, Nimra Bucha, Rish Shah, Adaku Ononogbo, Ali Alsaleh, Dan Carter, Aramis Knight, Farhan Akhtar
RUNNING TIME: 48 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON MS. MARVEL: Kamala Khan (Vellani) is still trying to figure out her newfound powers, when an interdimensional group known as the Clandestines show up to force Kamala to open up a portal back to their world. After attacking Kamala at her brother’s wedding, the Clandestines are arrested by the Department of Damage Control, but not before Kamala receives a vision of a train. Soon after, Kamala gets a call from her grandmother Sana (Ahmad), who says that she received the same vision, and insists that she come to Pakistan to learn more.
IN THIS EPISODE: Kamala and her mother Muneeba (Shroff) land in Karachi, where the young superhero learns more about the mysterious origins of her powers…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Having already charmed viewers with its heavy focus on Pakistani culture and style, Ms. Marvel indulges even further in it by visiting the country itself, in this international fourth episode of the miniseries where more superhero fun is to be had, but also a healthy dose of the local attributes which drive home how important they are to not just our titular hero, but to history itself.
Seeing Red picks up with Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), fresh off of ruining her brother’s wedding due to the now-imprisoned Clandestines attacking her at the venue, on the plane with her mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) to Karachi, Pakistan to stay with her grandmother Sana (Samina Ahmad), who could provide more answers about Kamala’s new powers. In Karachi, Kamala explores the city with family, gets a taste of its numerous customs (and some of its incredibly spicy food), and encounters a clan of friendly warriors known as the Red Daggers, who provide Kamala with some useful knowledge about where her powers seem to come from, as well as what the Clandestines plan to do with them. Speaking of that sinister group, being chained up in a super-prison isn’t going to stop them from escaping (seriously though, for a facility designed to imprison superpowered beings, there is some pretty lousy security at this place), and seeking out Kamala for their own purposes.
Like when Moon Knight decided to travel to Egypt roughly halfway through his own miniseries, it’s cool to see a new part of this world that has barely been explored in other Marvel stories, and with such a heavy focus on the vibrant way of life that is apparent in every corner of the Pakistani city. The episode is almost like a fish-out-of-water tale for Kamala, as she initially struggles to connect with her own heritage and aspects of the local culture, which in fairness to her is not the main reason she’s there: she’s much more eager to find clues to her other heritage as a superpowered djinn, and eventually does manage to find some answers as well as some friendly faces in the form of the Red Daggers (who are, so far, much more trustworthy than the Clandestines). Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy dials down the Scott Pilgrim-esque graphics that dominated earlier episodes, but she does well to bring this city to life in a way that, once again, respects the culture and its people without reducing them to blatant stereotypes, not to mention further highlighting the darkness of Partition which turns out to be much more significant to this plot than it might at first seem (especially given how this particular episode ends).
So much has been said about Iman Vellani simply dominating this series with her bright on-screen charisma, but perhaps not enough credit has yet been given to Zenobia Shroff, who has proved to be captivating in completely different terms as Kamala’s stern but loving mother. This could so easily have been just another one-dimensional caricature of a strict, uptight and permanently nagging mother type, but there is real depth given to this character throughout this series which makes her feel much more human and well-rounded, and Shroff’s gentle performance is a neat balance of stoicism and genuine nurturing. Seeing Red spends a fair portion of time with this character as she becomes more and more reacquainted with her own mother, and in parts you do feel some of the heartbreak that she carries with having to leave her family behind so many years ago, which has clearly been gnawing at her ever since. Shroff may have been overshadowed by the sparky young lead, but so far she’s proved to be a formidable secret weapon of this series, and this episode further solidifies that fact.
The episode is slower paced than the previous three, and by the time its cliffhanger comes it barely feels like there’s been a whole episode’s worth of material. The final act also becomes very action-heavy, in that traditional Marvel sense where there’s plenty of effects-heavy stunt work and comedic quips, which is still entertaining but disrupts the easy-going flow that the rest of the episode seems to be aiming for. However, there’s still enough about Seeing Red that makes it a formidable, if not completely outstanding, episode of Ms. Marvel, especially in the many places of this city and culture that it takes us through on a pleasing exploration, and it looks like next week will dive even deeper into Pakistan’s dark past which means another visually and narratively pleasing look at this part of the world and its fascinating history.
But for now, all I have to say is this: seriously, WORST. PRISON SECURITY. EVER.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Ms. Marvel: Episode 4 – Seeing Red is a formidable entry that takes Kamala Khan on a trip to her Pakistani roots in this vibrant exploration of the MCU version of Karachi, which offers plenty of the charm and richness one has come to expect from this series’ exploration of the culture, but a slower pace and a slightly action-heavy second half disrupts the easy-going flow that it’s otherwise going for.