The dramatic Ms. Marvel Episode 5 practically completes Kamala’s origin story and doesn’t leave much for the show’s finale to follow up on.
Here we are at the last episode before the finale of Ms. Marvel and last week, I was confused about where the series was going. After Episode 5, I may have an idea, but I don’t agree with all the creative decisions made to get to this point.
I’ve spoken throughout these reviews about a problem that a majority of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Disney+ series have found themselves in. It appeared that Ms. Marvel would buck the trend of ridiculous antagonistic force reveals before the finale by revealing its villain early, allowing them to give said villain depth while maintaining the charm the series had built. Unfortunately, what was a creative, charming, coming-of-age tale has now been consumed by the universe it takes place in and feels more “Marvel” than ever.
While Kamala’s coming-of-age story/origin is close to wrapping up and the developments towards accomplishing that are satisfying, the series itself has begun to lose the uniqueness it had, in the same way that WandaVision (2021) did. By the finale, WandaVision felt and looked very much like a Marvel show that you’ve seen before, and Ms. Marvel is headed in that direction.
At the end of the day, you must connect to the larger MCU with most of these shows. In the case of Ms. Marvel, you need to get Kamala ready for her big screen appearance in The Marvels (2023). My hope was that Kamala’s MCU series wouldn’t lose its charm and yet still connect to the greater story that Marvel is trying to tell. In Episode 5, things are beginning to look and feel like your standard Marvel Studios streaming series affair, despite some solid drama and development for Kamala.
Let me break this down for you: Most of the MCU series on Disney+ usually have a main villain and then a sort of underboss. For example, WandaVision had Agatha Harkness (Kathryn Hahn) as its main baddie, while the S.W.O.R.D. organization kind of acted as an underboss, with spheritic appearances throughout the miniseries. Audiences were given just enough information about Agatha, and along with Hahn’s performance, that sold her as the villain. S.W.O.R.D. on the other hand was a secondary antagonist, used to introduce new characters/further connect it to the greater MCU and provide another obstacle to Elizabeth Olsen’s Wanda Maximoff and Paul Bettany’s Vision before Wanda’s showdown with Agatha, which had been built up. It all feels very comic booky and part of a universe by the end, after WandaVision had spent so much time making itself stand out. This wasn’t something I fully considered until every MCU Disney+ show, besides Moon Knight (2022), began to follow the boss/underboss formula.
As much as I love the connections and building the universe, there is such a thing as doing too much at the expense of the show audiences are currently watching. This boss/underboss formula has too often been used to serve the greater MCU. Certain villains could have been developed within the actual series they are a part of and yet that information is being withheld from us to set up a spinoff series, or even a movie. The way that Marvel seems to be getting around this is by introducing a secondary antagonistic force that usually has established ties to the world, and it is unfortunate.
Why should we have to wait for a spinoff or a movie when you could develop a character in the series that the audience is watching? It makes no real sense frankly, the answer to this problem is simple: don’t make the secondary villain such a key player and develop your true big bad properly. Black Panther (2018) did this very well: Ulysses Klaue (Andy Serkis) was an established villain used to introduce/develop N’Jadaka / Erik “Killmonger” Stevens (Michael B. Jordan) and he even got to fight Chadwick Boseman’s T’Challa without taking too much depth away from Killmonger. Marvel needs to learn how to take a step back and develop the primary antagonists of its streaming series.
Anyway, how was Ms. Marvel Episode 5? For the character of Kamala’s coming-of-age story, it was great and emotional. Its impact on the larger narrative is more complicated and causes the show to start losing what made it so refreshing in the first place.
In Episode 5, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) has been transported back in time to the night during which India and Pakistan violently separated in August 1947. It is there where she and audiences will learn about her family, her religion/home country, and even a little bit about the bangle from which Kamala gets her powers.
What Episode 5 of Ms. Marvel does extremely well is get MCU Kamala’s coming-of-age story to the brink of being finished. By taking the character into the past, you can tie the central themes of her character in the comics together. Kamala gets to know who she is in all aspects for the most part thanks to her trip back in time. This trip has her learn not only about her powers, but also her family, home country, and her religion. Each of these things has helped shape who Kamala and her family are today, having her learn and accept each of them means she’s one step away from being who she is meant to be. The development of Kamala is what the narrative of this episode does well. While it may strike some as rushed, having Kamala reach this point so soon, I think because the writers put so much time into it throughout the series, everything coming to a head here makes sense.
Not only that, but with the way that this episode is written, you would think that it was the finale. Episode 5 doesn’t just leave Kamala one step away from being a hero, but the characters around her, like her grandmother, Sana (Samina Ahmad) and her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) also end up having their arcs wrapped up. Well, I should say that most of the central characters in Ms. Marvel are in a good place by Episode 5 ’s end. There are some key characters and threads left for next week, and potentially beyond.
Speaking of those threads, let’s talk about where the series begins to lose some of the charm, which as my detailed points earlier would imply, comes back to the villains. Najma (Nimra Bucha) and the Clandestines haven’t gotten any real development since being introduced, and since they and the home dimension that they are trying to get back to have such a big tie to Kamala’s powers, that’s a problem. We learn a little more, but we don’t know why they don’t age, and why they were exiled, for one. Audiences have also been made aware that Kamala’s powers in the bangle come from the veil guarding Earth from the Clandestines home, but why?
Leaving these questions unanswered wouldn’t be a problem if there wasn’t one episode left in the series and our big bad had any development. Even if they were a secondary big bad to say, Damage Control, that group hasn’t been given much development either. Do you see the problem here? Kamala is on the verge of becoming a hero and she doesn’t have a well-developed antagonist to take on.
Episode 5 of Ms. Marvel does a tremendous job of exploring the Partition of India and discussing how much it has impacted the modern world/the generations that followed, and how Kamala, as a Pakistani-American can represent hope for the future. It’s an emotional episode for the character and the audience. There’s also an interesting parallel considering that Kamala is also a djinn who has spent the series running and hiding from Damage Control, run by regular humans. Boy, if only Damage Control had been given actual development, because there’s your compelling villain right there. It’s not enough to reintroduce a villain in P. Cleary (Arian Moayed) with a clear bias against those with superpowers without explaining why. Damage Control as introduced in Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017), helps clean up superpowered messes, but that doesn’t mean Cleary should have such a distain for heroes, so why not explore why he does? Unfortunately, it’s too late for that with one episode left and, most likely, no matter who Kamala faces next week, it won’t have the impact of a fleshed-out villain. What an absolute shame that is, considering its Kamala’s first appearance in the MCU.
Thus, Ms. Marvel is now in a category with most of Marvel’s streaming shows, in which exposition and universe building have taken a precedent over telling the story that audiences are watching unfold. The antagonist, no matter who it is, has no development, and any battle with Kamala will just be another big MCU fight with little meaning. Next week’s episode will likely rip any uniqueness left from the actual story being told in favor of making sure things are set up for The Marvels. Kamala Khan herself remains unique and her origin has been successfully told for the MCU, but the series doesn’t stand out in the way that it did in the beginning. That’s thanks in part to the lack of a developed antagonist, who should’ve been built up alongside Kamala and her coming-of-age story. Her origin and the series would be so much more satisfying than it already is if the finale appeared to have any formidable/developed foe on the horizon. Instead, the origin is basically already told, with the only formalities left being for Kamala to become a hero and get her suit. Perhaps she’ll fight someone too, even if it doesn’t really matter outside of resolving this week’s cliffhanger. We’ll likely also see her meet someone connected to or maybe even Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel (Brie Larson) and/or Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) to set up Kamala’s big screen debut.
Next week is really a formality, with the way Episode 5 of Ms. Marvel wrapped up, and due to the lack of a developed antagonist. Kamala is mostly ready for The Marvels in 2023, and the little reasons that she isn’t, namely the suit, meeting Carol/Monica, and of course, getting her true superhero name, are the only reasons to stick around for Episode 6.
Ms Marvel ‘s Episode 5 is now available to watch on Disney Plus.