Ms. Marvel’s first episode just premiered on Disney+, which shows the origin of the new MCU superhero. And it’s a charming start to the series.
SPOILERS for Ms. Marvel episode 1.
Ms. Marvel – aka Kamala Khan – has set a precedent as Marvel’s first on-screen Muslim superhero, so it feels like a lot is hanging on this series in terms of representation within superhero media.
Thankfully, the first episode sets the series off well, even if it’s not the big or mysterious in-your-face debut that a lot of Marvel shows have kicked off with.
Episode 1: “Generation Why” lays the groundwork
Ms. Marvel seems to be taking its time laying the story out. When looking back on the 50-minute episode, not much actually happens. The world is established, Kamala fights with her parents, and it ends when she gets her powers.
But surprisingly, the episode doesn’t drag either. This is likely due to the energetic cinematography and animation that gives the series its unique, whimsical identity.
The episode opens with the Weeknd’s ‘Blinded by the Light,’ – which feels like nice foreshadowing for Ms. Marvel’s powers – before color and animation suddenly burst onto the screen. With a voiceover from Kamala, the viewer is treated to a scribbled recreation of Avengers: Endgame, which is perhaps a little exposition-y, but it helps those who haven’t seen the Avengers finale catch up.
Since Kamala – and her best friend Bruno – are obsessed with the Avengers, it’s probably a good idea to catch up on all the big MCU movies to really understand where Kamala is coming from, as well as to understand the Marvel Easter eggs that are inevitably sprinkled throughout the episode. But if not, it’s still easy to grasp Kamala’s fangirl excitement, especially when it comes to Captain Marvel, whom she is obsessed with.
Iman Vellani’s performance as Kamala really helps pull this fangirl-persona off. She has an excitable and endearing quality, and doesn’t feel like a walking stereotype of a nerd, even if other people treat her as such.
If there’s anything to be improved about Vellani’s performance, it’s that she could go bigger and more exaggerated during her funny scenes, as sometimes the quiet mumbling can lead to her comedic timing feeling slightly off. The same could be said for a lot of other characters; Bruno in particular feels rather downplayed in this first episode. However, the majority are enjoyably charming, which easily makes up for it.
When it comes to the more emotional scenes, Kamala’s fearful silence while being reprimanded by her mother is palpable, and feels very realistic. The family’s fighting is often painful to watch, as all parties make mistakes that stem from misunderstandings. Kamala even manages to make her dad cry at one point.
Move over Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel is the new teen hero
The series is likely going to be very relatable to teenagers, if anything because it shows how much being a teenager can suck. Controlling parents, awkward interests, and the hell that is high school. During the first scene at school we can see that Kamala has not yet found her place in this world, or even found herself. Which is pretty much how most teenager feels.
There’s no mention of any particular social media, just views and followers, which is probably a smart idea; since social media trends change so quickly, tying the series to any one particular platform could quickly lead to it being dated.
Granted, the series does place itself in a particular time in the MCU, which is a few years after the Blip. Throughout the episode, we see the public’s appreciation for the Avengers and their fight against Thanos, including a touching tribute to Iron Man and Black Widow at AvengerCon.
AvengerCon, a Comic Con-esque event, is a great set piece, and a fine way to end the episode. Considering how much Kamala wants to be like the Avengers – especially Captain Marvel – it’s fitting that she gains her powers while taking part in a Captain Marvel cosplay contest.
The episode ends with a bang, as Kamala’s powers suddenly appear from a bangle, an heirloom from her grandmother. And while things go well at first – with Khan’s powers helping her gain attention in the contest – things quickly go south when she decapitates an Ant-Man statue, which then leads to her school’s popular girl being sent flying by a giant version of Thor’s hammer.
After a string of violent superhero media akin to the newly released third season of The Boys, one almost expects the girl to be crushed by the hammer in a splatter of blood. But of course, this is Ms. Marvel, which seems like it’s aiming more for Disney Channel slapstick, and it’s honestly refreshing.
However, Kamala and Bruno’s reaction to her new abilities is underwhelmingly underplayed, which feels somewhat unrealistic. You’d think a teenager would be freaking out a bit more about having new cosmic powers.
And considering no villain or real danger has been introduced – save for an ominous end-credits scene – the first episode potentially leaves the audience with nothing to pull them onto the second.
But this show is likely going for the long-con. It isn’t an action-packed thriller akin to other Marvel projects, and it isn’t trying to be. Indeed, it seems that the show is hinging more on the colorfully endearing world of Kamala Khan, along with the relationships between the character and those around her. It’s just a case of seeing if the rest of the series can pull that off.
The second episode of Ms. Marvel will hit Disney+ next Wednesday, June 15.