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Episode 5, “Time and Again”

Episode 5, “Time and Again”

Ms.  Marvel looks desperate.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios / Disney +

Last we left Ms. Marvelhis budding young heroKamala Khan (Iman Vellani), she was transported back in time to partition-era India at a train station after the leader of SecretNajma (Nimra Bucha) accidentally beat her family bracelet. Did the bracelet actually send Kamala back in time? What will she discover?

Image for article entitled Ms.  Marvel travels to the past to make the present more powerful

But instead of starting with Kamala, this episode starts with her great-grandmother Aisha (Mewish Hayat). We begin the episode with an old video of British news video in 1947, which proclaims how “India will wake up to light and freedom” and the creation of Pakistan would now be the home of Muslims. But we learn immediately about how riots and violent outbreaks occurred across the region. This is India from the time of the division, the largest mass migration in history, created by almost a century of British imperialism, the persecution of Muslims who encouraged Muslim leaders to demand their own independent nation, and political incompetence that resulted in mass deaths, displacement and family separation. The long-term effects of that generational trauma continue to this day throughout South Asia. I have heard from several South Asian colleagues and friends that “everyone has a partition history” that has affected their families – and in this episode we look at Kamala’s family.

We then went to 1942 where we see Aisha run from and kill a British soldier chasing her. We see her future husband Hasan (Fawad Khan) give an uplifting speech to his community for independence before the British colonizers arrive to disperse the crowd. We then see the blossoming of their romance when Hasan offers Aisha a place to spend the night. These are intimate and beautiful scenes when we see the story of Kamala’s great-grandparents. “I like your roses,” Aisha says as she continues to tell Hasan her name, which means “She who lives.”

Image for article entitled Ms.  Marvel travels to the past to make the present more powerful

Screenshot: Marvel Studios / Disney +

We cut ahead in time to see that Aisha has settled down with Hasan, and is now pregnant with their baby. We then see Aisha singing for baby Sana in Urdu while Hasan overlooks them. We ended several years later when Sana is a child and Hasan listens to British radio propaganda and shouts its hypocrisy. Their (presumably Hindu) neighbor Rohan then arrives and offers them milk and vegetables for free. While Aisha gratefully accepts his charity, Hasan refuses, prompting their neighbor to say that he “plays right into the hands of the British” for not accepting. In a particularly burning scene, Hasan points out the prejudices he and probably Aisha have encountered: he has been pushed out of his home, no one is willing to buy flowers from him, and no one wants to sell milk to his wife. Simply because they are Muslims. The realities of the divisions in the local community the British exploited and aggravated are shown to us here.

Just then Aisha sees someone out in the field. It’s Najma, and she goes out to meet her. Najma embraces her supposed friend, while Aisha looks uncertainly at their reunion, and Najma mentions that she wants to put her “plan into action.” Namely, the same plan she has in Kamala’s time, to use the bracelet to open the door to the Noor dimension. Aisha has until sunset tomorrow, but will she abide by it?

We cut to the family and make a plan to travel to Pakistan as the riots spread. While Hasan expresses doubts about leaving his home, Aisha convinces him that wherever they are, it will be at home, and Hasan very curiously reminds us that it was he who taught her “What you seek is to seek you.” (It is the same phrase of the famous Persian poet Rumi that appears on Kamala’s bracelet.) She then gives the bracelet to Sana for safekeeping. We then cut to Aisha and Hasan in the crowds going towards the train, but Hasan yells at her because she wanted to run away from Najma. She then finally reveals the truth about Hasan’s “magic” to the bracelet. He reveals to her that while he suspected something, he “never spread” because she chose them, and that was what mattered. Aisha then makes Hasan promise that he will get Sana on the last train to Karachi.

We go to the train station, where Aisha sees Najma walking after them, and lets Hasan and a crying Sana board the train. Najma accuses Aisha of turning her back on them, and immediately stabs Aisha in the stomach as she yells at her that “It will not work!” It all happens so fast in the midst of the chaos of mass migration. In a very sad scene, we see Sana jump off the train as she shouts and cries for Ammi. Aisha hears her daughter, looks at their picture together and shouts “What you are looking for, you are looking for”. Her eyes glow purple, the bracelet falls to the floor from Sana, and we immediately cut back to where we left Kamala at the end of the last episode.

Kamala finds his great-grandmother almost immediately, lying in a carriage and dying. She asks Kamala (who she thinks is Sana) to “get Sana on the train and protect the bracelet.” It seems that she used the bracelet in an attempt to get a future Sana to save herself, but got Kamala instead. Aisha then passes away, confident that Kamala will achieve it because “she is here.” Kamala finds and carries Sana to safety. She uses the bracelet to give Sana hard light platforms to step on through the crowd, which she then sees as the “star track” from her story. It is an incredibly beautiful and emotional scene when Hasan finds his daughter. Kamala realizes that she was the one who saved her family while watching Sana and Hasan travel safely away on the last train.

Image for article entitled Ms.  Marvel travels to the past to make the present more powerful

Screenshot: Marvel Studios / Disney +

As you may imagine, there are a large number of changes in this particular story from the comics. During Ms. Marvel cartoons put during Second Civil War arc, we got some scenes of Kamala’s grandparents Aisha (who is pregnant with Kamala’s grandmother on the trip) and Kareem (his name was changed to “Hasan” in the show) when they start making the trip to Pakistan from Mumbai. The bracelet is never supernatural, but is extremely important to the couple, since it is her wedding bracelet where Aisha hid the money she got from selling her jewelry, to ensure that the family has enough to start a new life in Pakistan. The show, in an attempt to tie Kamala’s powers closer to her family instead of just being inhuman by chance, decided to extrapolate more from this story and make it part of Kamala’s heroic origins.

As presented simply in this episode, this is where this approach has worked best. No discussion of “Djinn”, hardly any mention of another dimension, just a family working to survive, and being there for each other in truly compelling ways. Just like Kamala’s family has always been. Once again, it’s here Ms. Marvel tends to work best – and if we were to get a season two after next week’s season one finale at Disney +, hopefully the show will continue to focus on that.

Ms. Marvel streams Wednesdays at Disney +.


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