Ms Marvel Episode 4 Review: The City of Lights
Ms. Marvel Episode 4 sees Kamala venturing out of Jersey City and visiting her grandmother in Pakistan to uncover more about her powers and family history.
Just when you think that the mystery of Kamala Khan’s powers and the history of her family is about to be solved, Ms. Marvel throws you for a bit of a loop. I must admit that even as a comic book reader with knowledge of Kamala’s history, I’m a little stumped. I can still see little hints and nods to her original origin story, but the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is weaving a tale together that not even I may be able to solve until all 6 episodes of the series have been released on Disney+. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it is certainly something that I hadn’t expected to happen when I began watching and reviewing Ms. Marvel.
Episode 4 of Ms. Marvel sees Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) traveling to Pakistan at the urging of her grandmother (or Nani), Sana (Samina Ahmad). Alongside her mother (and Sana’s daughter), Muneeba Khan (Zenobia Shroff), Kamala heads to Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, in the hope of finding more answers about her powers, the visions she’s been having, and her family history. She’s now in unfamiliar territory, and things aren’t going to get any easier.
While Ms. Marvel Episode 4 is filled with some excellent fights, and fascinating visuals from Academy Award winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the story told here makes things a little confusing. Right off the bat, audiences are expected to believe that Kamala’s mother just agrees to go to Pakistan with her following the chaos at Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding in Episode 3. Muneeba has been shown in the series and in the comics to be the stricter of Kamala’s parents, no matter the justification, hand waving the events of the previous episode away and going to Pakistan just by saying Kamala is grounded doesn’t fit her character.
Then there is the origin of Kamala’s powers and their ties to the Clandestines. Things are just made more confusing by Episode 4. Not to mention, our primary antagonist, Najma (Nimra Bucha), hasn’t been given much depth with two episodes left in the season. I’d hoped that by introducing her earlier, that wouldn’t be the case, but Episodes 3 and 4 put her solely in the position of hunting Kamala. All we know about her is that she is a Djinn and leader of the Clandestines, who has some sort of relationship with Kamala’s great-great grandmother, Aisha (Mehwish Hayat). Her primary motivation is to return their home dimension (we do learn more about said dimension in Episode 4, for what it’s worth) and Kamala’s bangle appears to be the key to Najma and the Clandestines getting home. Even with the new information provided by the plot of Episode 4, the truth behind Kamala’s powers and their connection to the Clandestines is still quite murky and confusing. I suppose it’s fitting, since Kamala is just as confused as we are.
One thing that Episode 4’s story does provide is the continuation of the ongoing arc of Kamala figuring out who she is in terms of her powers, religion, and family history. The conversations and revelations of this episode will go a long way in ensuring that Kamala’s MCU origin follows the same basic points as her comic origin. Even though they are confusing now and you can’t quite figure out where things are headed, you can see the seeds of Kamala eventually reaching the point where she’ll know who she is in all aspects and the impact that it will have on her life as a superhero. That is the most important part of telling Kamala Khan’s origin story, knowing how much her family, friends, and religion play such a key part of who the character is. Her powers make Kamala a superhero, but these other things, along with her personality, help mold Ms. Marvel into who she is. I still have faith in the creative team behind Ms. Marvel being able to reach that point, even if I don’t have many core comic elements to cling to because of the changes to her origin. This is the story of how Kamala becomes and chooses to become the hero known as Ms. Marvel, and you can’t get there without understanding who she is and having her accept every aspect of herself. The MCU version of Kamala is very much still on her coming-of-age journey to reach that point.
Episode 4’s story doesn’t do much to justify the inclusion of Damage Control in Ms. Marvel either. After last week, I thought I had an idea of why they were here, but they don’t have a central presence this week with Kamala being out of the country. With only two episodes left, Marvel will have to do some heavy lifting to explain just why the organization was included at all. As it stands right now, you could’ve frankly left them out completely and not much about the narrative would change.
The fights are pretty cool in this episode of Ms. Marvel, with Kamala having to again learn how to use and control them on the fly. A lot of credit has to be given to director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who shoots some intense fight sequences when you consider that most of Kamala’s powers must be added in by the Visual effects department after shooting. Kudos must also be given to the fight and stunt chorographers that helped each fight in Episode 4 stand out alongside the work of Obaid-Chinoy.
Showrunner Bisha K. Ali mentioned that a lot of Ms. Marvel Episode 4 came from the personal experiences of the episode’s writer Sabir Pirzada and the other Pakistani writers working on the show. While I, as an outsider, can’t point to exactly what these experiences are, Episode 4 appears to deliver an authentic portrayal of Karachi, at least from my view. Not to mention, it nails what I imagine it would be like if you had grown up in a different country than the one that your family is originally from. Returning there, even if you had visited previously, would be a culture shock for sure, and the writers did a great job of capturing that for Kamala. This trip also helps further the larger story and the arcs of Kamala and her mother. It isn’t something that will be forgotten about by any means, we can see traces of how this trip to Karachi will impact them both once they get back to Jersey City. While things may seem confusing in certain aspects right now, this trip is helping to move everything forward. It’s also interesting to see the MCU branch out even further into a different country and culture. We’ve spent so much time during The Infinity Saga in New York or New York adjacent areas and Phase 4 has taken us far beyond that including across the multiverse and to different areas of the world. This will help keep things fresh going forward for sure.
Despite Ms. Marvel Episode 4 having a story that is a little confusing, much like a puzzle, to reference something Kamala’s Nani said, it’s still a good episode. The action scenes are solid and the change in location is fascinating. Iman Vellani is still superb as Kamala and she and the writers do a fantastic job of capturing the character’s culture shock upon returning to Pakistan and moving her larger arc forward. We’re also left with another intriguing cliffhanger for next week, as the final two episodes of the series are upon us.
Ms Marvel ‘s Episode 4 is now available to watch on Disney Plus.
WATCH MS MARVEL: EPISODE 4:
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