DIRECTOR: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

CAST: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Rish Shah, Nimra Bucha, Adaku Ononogbo, Samina Ahmad, Fawad Khan, Mehwish Hayat, Aramis Knight

RUNNING TIME: 41 mins

PREVIOUSLY, ON MS. MARVEL: Kamala Khan (Vellani) has travelled to Karachi, Pakistan with her mother Muneeba (Shroff) to visit her grandmother Sana (Ahmad), who has ties to Kamala’s new cosmic superpowers. Once there, she encounters a friendly sect of vigilantes known as the Red Daggers, who begin to train her as well as inform her of the Clandestines’ sinister plan to take over reality once they cross back into theirs. However, when the Clandestines attack, Kamala finds herself suddenly transported back in time to the partition of India.

IN THIS EPISODE: The origins of Kamala’s long-lost great-grandmother Aisha (Hayat) are revealed, while Kamala plays a vital role in her family history…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The last time we left our scrappy teen hero Kamala Khan, the yet-to-be-officially-named Ms. Marvel was in the middle of fighting that sinister clan of Clandestines, when all of a sudden the unexpected element of time-travel kicks in. However, this is no mere retread of Back to the Future; this sudden bit of teen time-travelling offers an important bout of context not just for the narrative, but for the general history of a country that was painfully divided in 1947 following the monumental decision to become free of British rule.

So, yeah, this fifth and penultimate episode of the series – appropriately titled Time and Again – is a bit of a history lesson, but it’s one that needed to be told, especially to a generation who may never have even heard of the Partition of India before now. In that regard, this is an admirable episode for using its time to make more people at least aware of the historical climate, whilst also retaining the huge amount of heart that the series has done very well to establish.

As mentioned, the first half of this episode is set in 40s India, where we follow the journey of Aisha (Mehwish Hayat), the great-grandmother of Kamala (Iman Vellani) who, along with the other Clandestines, had been searching for a way back to her home dimension via the use of a magic bangle. She eventually meets and falls in love with a man named Hasan (Fawad Khan), with whom she has a child, Sana (Samina Ahmad) – Kamala’s grandmother – and things seem relatively happy. That is, until the double whammy of Clandestine leader Najma (Nimra Bucha) coming back into Aisha’s life, as well as that other small niggle of Muslim citizens being forced into the newly-created Pakistan following the country’s landmark independence declaration. It all comes to a climactic head at a busy train station, which is where Kamala herself was suddenly sent back to at the end of last week’s episode; what role she has to play in this particular moment, as well as how she ties directly into her family’s history, is best left for your own viewing pleasure, but be prepared to shed a couple of tears if you’re the type to easily cry at heavily emotional revelations.

Admittedly, since the episode is rather short (at 41 minutes, and that’s without credits, it’s by far the shortest of the season by a considerable margin), there are aspects to the storytelling here which feel rushed, leaving certain things like character development seeming slightly underdeveloped.  However, Time and Again offers just enough of the most essential parts that you can still get emotionally invested in what is actually happening, since not only is the writing so neatly focused on its warm and likeable characters, but the filmmaking itself is a handsome feat that captures the growing uncertainty surrounding this historical atmosphere. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy helms her second and last episode of the series – handing the reins back to directors Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah for next week’s grand finale – and as with last week’s gleeful tour across Pakistan, she really manages to capture the timeless spirit of the country, not to mention the genuine humanity that exists within it, personified by characters that are easy to like as well as a welcoming culture that is endlessly appealing. It’s a gorgeously shot episode, too, with scenes set in this quiet Indian village looking like they’ve come right out of a painting, while moments of human heartbreak that unfold later on put the viewer in an uneasy state since it is intentionally shot to replicate that discombobulated feeling one would normally get at an unusually packed train station.

Credit, too, must go to writer Fatimah Asghar (who also co-wrote the teleplay for last week’s episode) for not shying away from some of the absolute chaos that erupted during this dark point in the country’s history, from crops being set on fire to onslaughts of violence befalling the country (the latter is only ever conveyed through archive footage and brief radio announcements, but blame the shortened running time for that). No matter how brief the actual depictions, Asghar’s writing still manages to honour the souls who fell victim to the mass migration, all while still retaining that traditional Marvel edge, especially when Kamala herself comes back into the frame around the episode’s mid-point. Even then, though, the episode never feels like it suddenly turns back into something completely different; the emotional impact is still there, the characters are still charming and in some cases utterly endearing, and there are a couple of turns that are honestly surprising in that they didn’t wait until next week’s final episode to do. As a relatively normal episode of Ms. Marvel, it’s a satisfying and wholesome new entry; as a vital history lesson, it’s even more profound, and kudos to Marvel for allowing the creative team the time it needs to address this vital point in history that, again, not that many people are even aware of within modern history.

It’s far from the most quintessential depiction of Partition in media, largely due to its shortened length which prevents the episode from diving any further into this bit of history, but as an introduction for wider audiences it’s a formidable place to start. Meanwhile, given the concluding moments of this episode, it looks like things are going to lean heavily into traditional superhero territory once more for next week’s series finale – but by this point, since the character work is top notch, among some of the strongest yet in Marvel’s line of Disney+ shows, and the actual hero is one who’s worth rooting for, Ms. Marvel has earned the right to engage with the typical Marvel movie climax.

SO, TO SUM UP…

Ms. Marvel: Episode 5 – Time and Again is both a satisfying and endearing continuation of the main storyline, but also an engaging and even vital depiction of the dark period of Indian Partition, which despite the episode’s shortened length still manages to convey the heartbreak but also the humanity of the devastating historical event.

Ms. Marvel: Episodes 1-5 are now available on Disney+. Episode 6 will be available next week.

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