Warning! Spoilers ahead for episode 5 of Ms. Marvel.
As Moon Knights, Ms. Marvel has used its fifth episode to fill in the previously unseen story of the title character’s powers. But while “Asylum” was the strongest episode of Moon Knights far, “Time and Again” can be Ms. Marvelits weakest installment to date. There are some tempo issues in the fifth episode of Ms. Marvel, but it would be forgivable if “Time and Again” did not miss the show’s greatest strength: Iman Vellani’s infectiously enthusiastic performance as Kamala Khan. Strangely enough, Kamala is nowhere to be seen in the first half of the episode.
On the plus side, “Time and Again” deals with some interesting topics and historical context. Like the recent action-packed gem RRR, this episode uses speculative genre missions to explore the real cruelty of Britain’s colonization of India. It also solves the show’s gripping, widespread theme of conflict between mothers and daughters. Kamala’s ongoing tensions with Muneeba contrast with Muneeba’s relationship with her own mother. Like Kamala, Muneeba used to rebel against his mother. Now she has the hindsight to see that her mother only took care of her. Kamala comes to that realization on his own. Unfortunately, after the Kamala-loose first half of the episode, this resolution is crammed into the second half where it does not have enough room to really breathe and develop.
There’s still a chance that next week’s final can bring it all together, but five episodes in, Ms. Marvel feels somewhat speechless and meandering. It started as a high school show if the teenage main character happened to have superpowers, but it has since skipped the whole map. The last two episodes left behind the teenage drama, but they focused at least on Kamala. Vellani must have had a week off when they filmed this episode, because she is completely absent to the center.
The series’ distinctive visual style has fallen off in the last couple of weeks, possibly due to the changing directors. All the stylistic features that did Ms. Marvelhis early episodes such a breath of fresh air – soaring camera movements, fast editing editing, animation transferred to live-action – have been gone in the last couple of episodes. On top of that, the series’ most convincing villain, Najma, has been quickly killed and swept under the rug. The final scene in the episode brings back one of the show’s least interesting plot lines with the appearance of a Damage Control drone. The series’ antagonist is no longer a group of sympathetic demons called ClanDestine; it is state bureaucracy, which is much less gripping.
“Time and Again” is the shortest part of Ms. Marvel as far as it appears. The episode is strangely fast paced. The flashback prologue covers the entire first half of the episode, the emotional breakup with Kamala feels rushed in the second half, and it all ends very abruptly. The final scene of the episode jumps from Karachi back to Jersey City, where Kamran visits Bruno and “Brian” gag is paid hysterically. It seems that Kamran was not just a jerk, and he actually thought it was Bruno’s name – reinforced by a hysterically embarrassing apology – but there is something sinister going on with Kamran. This scene is shortened so suddenly that it is as if the rest of the footage was destroyed and the editors had to save what they could. During the last seconds of the episode, a Damage Control drone appears from nowhere to bomb the convenience store where Bruno works, then the editing is cut straight to the final text before the audience even has a chance to understand the explosion.
Ms. Marvel could have done with 10 or 12 episodes. From Bruno’s unanswered feelings for Kamala to Nakia’s struggle with her identity to Aamir’s role as an intermediary between his younger sister and their strict, indulgent parents, this series has introduced many characters and stories that are worth exploring further. With only one episode left, Ms. Marvel has many threads to pull together. Based on the penultimate chapter in the race, Ms. Marvel may end up suffering from the same problem as much of Marvel’s Disney + content.
The show set up many story threads in the first couple of episodes, and then padded out the middle episodes without much development of these threads. Now the final has a lot on its shoulders. It doesn’t just have to end the series’ own stories; it is also charged with setting up Kamala’s role with Captain Marvel in The Marvels. Hopefully next week’s final will be able to hold the landing. Ms. Marvel has been such a pleasant trip up to this point that there is reason to believe that the authors can handle it.
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