With only two episodes of Ms. Marvel left, the series had the seemingly ungrateful task of trying to end it all without sacrificing the tight character-focused storytelling that has been by far the strongest aspect of the show so far. But with the introduction to episode 5, “Time and Again”, which is literally time travel, with Kamala (Iman Vellani) as I fell through a hole into partition-era India, I was worried that this smaller, personal story was about to become unmanageably large. Fortunately, as a director, I did not have to worry Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and author Fatimah Asghar delivered what is without a doubt the strongest episode with the best pace to date.
Instead of opening immediately with Kamala, the episode begins instead with an intro to the news picture, where a friendly 1940s announcer explains the basics of partition and what it means to the people of India after the end of the British occupation. The random way he explains that the British found it appropriate to cut off part of the country and create a new country for Muslim inhabitants while keeping the rest of the vast nation secular, freezes in its secession, as is the clinical, voyeuristic way. where the resulting violence and riots are described.
Fortunately, the perspective of a British news program is not expected to serve as the audience’s entire context for Partition and what it means for Kamala’s family. With the news newspaper’s statement that the root of the violence and unrest began five years before, in 1942, the episode jumps back to the year in which Aisha (Mehwish Hayat) is on the run from a British soldier. She kills him and slips into a small village where she sees Hasan (Fawad Khan), a young man who keeps the villagers in suspense with declarations that they need to unite across religious lines – Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims – and fight for their own freedom, no matter what it costs.
When colonization is addressed in the media, be it from the perspective of the colonized or the colonizer, there is often unnecessary focus on those who colonize. We focus on the evil colonizer whose tactics are more comic book villains than an indication of the real atrocities inflicted on most of the world, and then of course it is the sympathetic one who really tries to understand the people who have their home and their way. of life changed, but ultimately can not do much with it except maybe help a person or two. Disneys Pocahontas is one to think about, but the trend is obviously more widespread than that.
It is to Ms. Marvelits credit – and proof of why it’s so important to let people tell their own stories – that the series is not even trying to go this route. The British soldiers who come to break Hasan’s speech remain anonymous. For the most part, they even remain faceless, since the camera does not hang long enough to see them well. Because they are not what matters here. This is 100% Aisha and Hasan’s story.
After the incident with the British, Hasan finds Aisha, who has apparently been on the run for a while, sleeping under a tree in his rose garden. He offers her food and a place to live, and you would be forgiven for forgetting that this is a Marvel series and not a romance, while he carefully tries to find out who she is. He even says at one point that she reminds him of his favorite poem, and begins to recite it for her. She is won by his charm – who would not be? – and finally her name tells him.
Although they are happy together, fall in love in the end, get married and have a daughter, the ticking clock of Partition is an endless reminder of both the effort and the fact that the audience knows what the bittersweet result will be for the two of them. The show addresses the growing tensions and the small ways their lives have begun to change when a neighbor brings food to them from the market, like the villagers – the same people who once agreed to put aside religious differences and fight for freedom together – will no longer sell their goods to them because they are a Muslim family. While Aisha is adamant that they can make things work, it is the sudden arrival of Najma (Nimra Bucha) which forces her to see things differently.
Najma is adamant that they come home as soon as they can, and needs Aisha and the bracelet to achieve this. Aisha, who seems to be not only fleeing the British but also Najma, buys herself some time by saying that she must pick up the bracelet from the hiding place, then packs what little she and Hasan can carry, and takes the family to the train station. While she initially draws on her husband’s arguments to explain why they should leave, he realizes that more is happening than she says, and eventually gets a complete explanation from her. Or as much of an explanation she can give him at a crowded train station with the last train to Karachi about to leave. She asks him to keep their daughter Sana safe, gives her the bracelet and pulls in the opposite direction to confront Najma, who stabs her deadly without much fuss.
It is at this point that the two timelines meet and Kamala comes into the past. She arrives in time to see Aisha die and panic, believing that her great-grandmother is the one who eventually reunites Sana with her father. But as I predicted last week, the source of the legendary “star trail” that led Sana home was actually Kamala all along. With the purpose served and the grandmother safe, Kamala falls back to the present with only seemingly only seconds after leaving, and fortunately saves the audience from an episode-long battle to get Kamala back to today.
She arrives just as the veil that separates her world from that of ClanDestines has opened, demanding the lives of the first of Najma’s employees to try to venture through. Najma is dazzled by her determined determination to come home and believes she would survive the crossing. When Kamala’s requests for help do not work, she appeals to Najma’s family feelings and asks her not to leave her son Kamran (Rish Shah) bak. Instead, Najma sacrifices herself to close the veil, and at the last moment transfers her power to her son instead. The forces manifest in him immediately, and the episode ends with him running to Bruno (Matt Lintz) for help.
Where the series now goes for the final next week has become a mystery. Najma is gone, the veil is closed, and Kamala’s mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) has learned that her daughter is the “Light Girl” superhero they saw back in New Jersey. But the fact that Ms. Marvel seems to be building for a final that will be more of a downturn than a series of battles and explosions are nothing short of a relief. As mentioned above, the strongest part of the show has always been Kamala and her family and community. It’s the emphasis on who she is despite the superhero story, rather than the only thing convincing about her.
Not to mention the sheer emphasis on love and understanding that the episode presented. Scripture often repeats a line of poetry that Hasan recited, “What you seek is to seek,” and the meaning plays out in a number of ways. Sometimes it’s literal – for example when Sana and Hasan are looking for each other at the train station. But towards the end of the episode, when Kamala and Muneeba have a beautiful mother-daughter moment, it is clear that both sought the kind of understanding that was sought from them in turn.
Of course, with next week as the finale of a superhero series, I do not expect 45 minutes of hugs and conversation – especially since the last shot is of Circle Q where Bruno works exploding – but if this is something to go for, I feel safe in the hope that the finale will both resolve the unique conflict and provide ample time for all the character moments we have fallen in love with. In addition, Kamala has used the last two episodes to collect pieces of her iconic Ms. Marvel costumes. Here she hopes next week will act like an Avenger and put it together.
Assessment: A +
The first five episodes of Ms. Marvel now streaming on Disney +.