Ms. Marvel ends with a focus on the power of community

·14 min read
Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel
Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel

Well, that was quite something, wasn’t it?

When we left Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) at the end of episode five, it seemed like Ms. Marvel had both concluded all its storylines and opened a massive new one that couldn’t possibly fit into the only episode left of the series. But I’m not too proud to admit I was wrong: That one storyline did fit, and Ms. Marvel’s season one finale was everything I could hope for. There was action, contemplation, laughter, pointed jabs at the government, and a family and community that stands up for its own. It’s an undoubtedly packed episode, but rather than feeling rushed, “No Normal” manages to combine big set pieces with the really touching and intimate family moments the show has excelled at since the beginning. I finally get to use the A grade I’ve been saving all season.

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We open with Agent Deever (Alysia Reiner) putting out an order to catch the “kids” who blew up Circle Q, before cutting to Bruno (Matt Lintz) helping Kamran (Rish Shah) escape after the latter has accidentally unleashed his newfound powers. They’re on the PATH train (which, FYI, connects Jersey City to Manhattan) when Department of Damage Control agents catch up with them. They barely manage to escape, but not before Kamran shoots a few light beams out of his body that crystallize much like Kamala’s light does.

At home, Kamala is unaware of what is going on as she and Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) have just returned from Pakistan, and Kamala has an important announcement to make. She apologizes for the wedding fiasco, and for not telling her family sooner before confessing she is “Light Girl” (or at Aamir’s insistent “You’re what?” she resignedly says she’s “Night Light.”) Aamir and Yusuf’s (Mohan Kapoor) reactions are priceless because they clearly knew in advance, thanks to the “classic Khan gossip train” i.e. Muneeba being a typical Pakistani mother who can’t keep a secret. She told Yusuf, who had his phone on speaker so Aamir and Tyesha (Travina Springer) overheard.

It’s in this scene we see how far Muneeba and Kamala’s relationship has come. Yusuf tells Kamala he’s proud of her but wants her to stay safe and not run into danger, while Muneeba points out that they trust Kamala. It’s a beautiful callback to the first episode—one of many—when Muneeba said she didn’t trust Kamala. It also speaks to how finding out about the family history has helped both Muneeba and Kamala understand each other better. Taking us to Pakistan may have felt odd at times, but that time in Pakistan has clearly changed both women. We further see just how supportive and on board Muneeba is when she gives Kamala a handmade Ms. Marvel costume: THE Ms. Marvel costume. All those elements they gathered in Pakistan have come together to create something beautiful, and Kamala immediately puts it on to go help Bruno and Kamran after finding out from Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) that they’re in danger.

Bruno and Kamran turn up, of all places, at the mosque. In some ways, it’s a logical choice. Bruno thinks as a place of worship, it should be a sanctuary, and he’s absolutely not wrong. In other ways, as Nakia points out, it’s a terrible choice, given that it’s a mosque in America and is therefore probably under surveillance by a myriad of government agencies. Still, they’re allowed to shelter there until they can safely make their way to the high school, which Nakia points out is the only place guaranteed to be empty on a Saturday.

Damage Control unsurprisingly heads to the mosque first, and Agent Deever, having learned nothing, still wears her shoes inside. I am outraged all over again, and I hate her. It’s the ultimate indication of the fact that she is a true villain, and I should never have considered anyone else after that first time SHE WORE HER SHOES INSIDE THE MOSQUE. She calls Kamran a “high-level threat” and then gives the most generic description of a brown person, saying he could be “Pakistani or Arab.” Because we’re all the same, right, Agent Deever? An extensive search fails to find anything but a community banding together to protect their own. Sneaking out of their hiding place behind a bookshelf, Sheikh Abdullah (Laith Nakli) gives them a disguise of (ingenious) halal/haram baseball caps and tells them to be careful.

Saagar Shaikh, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur in Ms. Marvel
Saagar Shaikh, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur in Ms. Marvel

As they make their way to the high school, a classic setting for a showdown, Kamala makes her way across Jersey City using her Noor to throw down stepping stones, and leaving everyone in the neighborhood staring up at her in awe, none more so than Bruno and Kamran. She finds them in an alleyway, and both of them are still obviously crushing on her and are stunned to see Kamala in her new costume. As Kamala and Bruno reunite and share a hug, Kamran loses control of his powers. He’s clearly in a huge amount of pain, saying that he feels like he’s “being crushed from the inside.” It’s obvious that he needs more help than Kamala can give, so when they arrive at the high school, Kamala rings Kareem (Aramis Knight) who agrees to smuggle Kamran out of Jersey City and over to Karachi and the Red Daggers.

After a short but sweet make-up scene between Kamala and Nakia, it’s on to the fun stuff. Suddenly, a gang of five has assembled in the school hallway to help out. Five, I hear you say? Kamala, Bruno, Kamran, and Nakia only equal four. But my math isn’t wrong because guess who’s turned up, having been making TikToks in the school auditorium because it has good lighting? Zoe (Laurel Marsden). It feels slightly strange to bring her back for this final episode since we’ve seen so little of her until now, but it’s also kind of fun, and I love this ragtag group of people that are going to come up with a ragtag plan to try and distract Damage Control so Kamran can get to the harbor.

It becomes even more ragtag when Aamir turns up, having been sent by Muneeba to keep an eye on Kamala, who is understandably whiny about how she doesn’t need to be chaperoned. It’s a lovely reminder that she’s still a teenager, and her parents, however supportive, are still worried and still Pakistani. She gets past it enough to describe her plan on a blackboard—another call back to episode one—and it’s charming and absolutely befitting of a group of teenagers (plus Aamir), consisting of distraction via softballs, lots of people dressed in the same hoodie, and school science experiments. The vibe, if I may say so, is very much Kevin in Home Alone. That’s a compliment.

Zoe gets on TikTok to tell her many, many followers to get down to the school because Damage Control is surrounding them. As agents in full body armor roam the school hallways, Kamala and co. try to confuse them. It works for a while, as they get covered in foam, pelted with softballs, and confused by some very amateur tricks. It’s a very un-Marvel-like fight, and it works because of that. It’s more realistic to have kids pulling these tricks than using sophisticated weaponry. The simplicity also serves to highlight how ridiculous Agent Deever is being, sending armored soldiers into a school under the guise of keeping people safe. And, if we want to, we can see the weapon imbalance as a metaphor for how ordinary Muslims are faced with disproportionate violence by government agencies.

Kamala’s plan soon falls apart when Bruno gets smashed in the face with a gun, and Nakia, Zoe, and Aamir get trapped on both sides by agents. All four end up handcuffed in a van, waiting and watching along with a huge crowd that includes Kamala’s parents and Tyesha to see what will happen next. For a moment, the action slows down and we zoom into Kamala and Kamran, walking down the empty school hallways. Kamran wants to know what happened to the Clandestines and, more importantly, to his mother Najma. Kamala is reluctant to tell him (having been advised by Bruno that wouldn’t be a good idea to do so before they get Kamran free). But there’s no time for secrets: Kamala reveals the Clandestines were set on destroying everything, and Kamran guesses his mother is dead, which obviously sets him off on a spiral.

As a Damage Control agent attacks, Kamran fights back and Kamala stops him using her giant arm of light. He shakes her off, and then we’re outside, in another one of those brilliant big scenes the show has proved to be so accomplished at. Instead of overlooking a crowded train station, we have Jersey City’s citizens clamoring for information. Plus, DDC agents with guns pointed at the school, and a van of teenagers all watch as an angry Kamran appears. When he refuses to get on his knees, Agent Deever orders her men to shoot, which they do without hesitation.

Rish Shah and Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel
Rish Shah and Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel

Luckily, Kamala leaps out of the window above and draws a shield to protect Kamran. It’s enough until Agent Deever pulls out the big guns, literally. A huge stun gun blasts away Kamala’s shield and sends her and Kamran flying. As Muneeba, Yusuf, and the rest of the crowd shout in worry and anger, Agent Deever prepares to shoot again. In some ways, this moment mirrors those Partition scenes from earlier episodes. Everything slows down to zoom in on the distress on everyone’s faces, especially Kamala’s family, and we register intimately the pain a community feels watching a detached entity trying to tear them apart. Kamala summons up some energy with a quiet but firm “Embiggen” as a nod to the comics, using her Noor to create a shield around her body, making her tall and big enough to crush the gun to smithereens.

As Kamala and Kamran continue to try to protect themselves from attacking agents, Kamran eventually again loses control, shooting out huge beams of light that solidify and expand, putting everyone in danger. The only thing Kamala can do is create a dome shield over them and try to talk Kamran down. “They’re never going to accept me, and they’ll never accept you either,” he tells Kamala. He’s not sure he’s ever going to be normal after what has happened, but Kamala points out that Najma saved this world for her son, and there is no such thing as normal. All he can do is escape and try to help himself. He agrees. In what I found to be the only confusing part of the finale, he punches a hole in the ground that presumably takes him to the harbor via a tunnel.

Kamran escapes, leaving Kamala to face Damage Control on her own. Or rather, she’s not on her own. As soon as Agent Deever gives the order for Kamala to be arrested, her friends, family, and community surround her. So do a line of local police, which is sweet, but also feels a bit message-y and unrealistic in an America where police officers are so often in the news for treating people of color in inhumane ways. But I did love how Ms. Marvel has always been about community, and it was really demonstrated here. When Muneeba tells Kamala, “Look, they’re all with you,” I might’ve cried.

It’s enough for Kamala to get away, and for Agent Deever to get a call from an incensed Agent Cleary (Arian Moayed) asking her to leave the scene immedediately. And so, the day is saved, Kamala is protected, and everyone lives. There are still aa few things to wrap up, namely the big question of who Kamala is, which has occupied so much of the series. There’s a beautiful scene that mirrors episode one, where Kamala looks in her mirror while dressed in her costume. Unlike back then, when she was dressed as Captain Marvel, she now looks comfortable and completely at ease in her own skin.

Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel
Iman Vellani in Ms. Marvel

And then there’s a gorgeous moment between Yusuf and Kamala on the roof, where Kamala tells her dad she’s still “figuring it out” when it comes to her name. And if I’ve said in these recaps once that names are important, I’ve said it many time. Yusuf tells Kamala about her name: Yusuf and Muneeba struggled to have a second child, so when Kamala was born, they thought she was perfect. In Arabic, he says, “kamal” means perfect. In Urdu though, it means wonder or marvel. He tells Kamala she will always be “Our own little Ms. Marvel.” And voila! There it is, Kamala’s iconic superhero name.

Our final mystery is just what Kamala is, and Bruno helps with that, telling her that he looked at her genetic make up again. He discovered that there’s something different, something “like a mutation.” Um, what is happening here? Is Kamala one of the X-Men or is it a reference to her being Inhuman? Either way, Kamala doesn’t care because all it means is adding another label to her. For now, she just wants to enjoy time with her friends. She also wants to avoid her science homework in the mid-credits scene, which her mother is shouting at her about. And that’s when Kamala’s banglee starts to glow. She’s suddenly thrust buck into her closed closet door, but Kamala isn’t the one who steps back out. It’s her idol, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).

Carol looks around the room to come face-to-face with poster of herself, with a comical “Oh, no no no” slips out of her mouth as she leaves the room. I’d like to take this moment to gloat and say I predicted this cameo before the show premiered. We don’t get any interactions between Vellani and Larson, but I can’t wait to see how their dynamic will develop. With that, we’re told Kamala will be back in next year’s The Marvels, which I’m now looking forward to a whole lot more than I did before “No Normal.” It’s been a rollercoaster of a season, and while the djinn and villain storylines weren’t perfect, this episode is an illustration of everything that did work with the show. It’s great storytelling, with family (in many guises) at its heart, and if Marvel can keep some of this energy for future projects, we’ll all be a little more entertained and moved.

Stray observations

  • Kamala might be a rubbish driver, but she respects the rules of the road, as we see when she stops in the sky at a red light on her way to find Bruno and Kamran.

  • Is it me or were Nakia and Zoe a little flirty?

  • Aamir attempting to give Kamran the talk and being disturbed while doing so feels very Aamir.

  • My favorite part of the TikTok montage at the end has to be Auntie Ruby, who is on the typical Pakistani mom brand when she says it will be “very difficult for her to find a husband” when talking about Ms. Marvel.

  • Among the other callbacks to episode one was the reuse of the fantastic song “Ko Ko Kareena.”

  • Kamala and Kamran almost kissed! And Bruno interrupted them! Classic love triangle moment, and felt right.

  • Adil and Bilall were back as directors for this finale, and you could see their touch in the return of graphics on the screen.

  • Sheikh Abdullah was giving great advice this episode, including confusing Agent Deever by quoting from Abraham Lincoln and not the Quran.

  • And, of course, the best advice came from Kamala’s dad, in a call out to one of the most famous lines from the comic books. Yusuf tells Kamala: “If you saved one life, well, you saved them all.”

  • Speaking of comic books, this episode took its name from the title of the first volume of the Ms. Marvel comics.

  • Thank you for following along my recaps of the show.