Ms. Marvel – Season 1, Episode 1: Generation Why

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Thanks to the appearance of Disney+, the TV arm of Phase 4 of the MCU has been a blizzard of content that’s given the heroes who usually stand slightly to the left of the main trio of Captain America, Iron Man and Thor the screen time they so desperately had earned. But now the likes of Hawkeye, Loki and the artist formally known as Falcon have managed to finally rack up some much needed screen time, it became the turn of the denizens of Marvel Comics who hadn’t previously seen the light if a projector to finally take the spotlight for their debuts. Mere weeks after Moon Knight showed what could be done with a brand new character, it came time for Ms. Marvel to finally show the world that even the brown girls from Jersey can save the world (her words, not mine), but does this relatively new creation – Kamala Kahn first appeared in 2013 – manage to stand out in the seemingly neverending torent of Marvel content that’s been streamed into our homes for over a year now?

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Kamala Khan is a day dreamer who worships superhero culture and looks up to her idol, Captain Marvel, in the form of slickly done, but rarely viewed posts on her YouTube channel, but aside from that, she’s also a 16 year old Muslim girl whose mother strongly disapproves of virtually everything she says or does. However, despite the various attempts from her stern mother, Muneeba, her jolly father Yusuf and her school guidance counsellor (who resorts to quoting Mulan lyrics at her), Kamala’s head stays steadfastly in the clouds and the only thing she can focus on is the upcoming, first ever AvengerCon, a convention that unsurprisingly celebrates the world’s mightiest heroes after their belated win over Thanos. Supernaturally determined to win the cosplay competition by dressing as her cosmically coiffed idol, Kamala plots with her best friend Bruno as how exactly to get her parents to agree to let her go. However their attempts to do it with honest, everyday words not only falls flat, but makes things worse as Kamala inadvertently not only angers her mother, but hurts her father’s feelings as he was hoping to chaperone dressed as the Hulk.
Plan B, of course, employs far more teenage mischief and after putting it into action Kamala and Bruno finally achieve their highly desired objective and make it to the candy coloured extravaganza that is AvengerCon but there’s a couple of issues that arise.
Earlier, in an attempt to mix some of her heritage into her costume, Kamala found an old bracelet in a box sent to her family by her grandma and when she puts it on at the convention it bestows the ability to form weird, glowy constructs that both wreaks havoc and saves lives. It seems that this fan girl of superpowered beings has become a superpowered being herself – but will this even be enough to stop her from being grounded?

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Exploding into the MCU to the sound of Blinding Lights by The Weeknd, Ms. Marvel is the greatest breath of fresh air the franchise has had since – the last one; which was Moon Knight, so I guess this was enough to prove that Kevin Feige and his army of creators still haven’t lot their magic touch yet. But still, even by the standards set by the unstoppable studio, the newly minted adventures of Kamala Kahn is impossibly endearing, showing off an aggressively adorable visual streak that takes the bouncey, youthful exuberance of Spider-Man: Homecoming and launches it through the damn roof.
Any ridiculous claims of if a show led by a teenage Pakistani girl whose family is devoutly Muslim could possibly have wide appeal are immediately rendered null and void by the central performance of Iman Vellani as the title character who makes Kahn utterly relatable thanks to her gargantuan likeability factor. I’m genuinely unsure if I can even faitly describe her performance as she genuinely seems to be Kamala Kahn through and through and projects wit, vulnerability and smarts as easily as her new abilities allow her to project a giant, glowy hand in order to save a falling civilian. The show stands on the shoulders of similar programs such as Mindy Kaling’s Never Have I Ever and uses them to launch itself into something that feels refreshingly familiar, yet extraordinarily cutting edge – something that’s ingrained in the dazzling visuals.
Giving us a garish eyeful the likes of which we haven’t seen since the opening credits of Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver, Kamala’s imagination bleeds onto the screen in the form of a spirited opening puppet show retelling the climax of Avengers: Endgame, or the sight of animated graffiti crawing up and the walls as she walks past to show her distracted grey cells in action. At one moment a text conversation is subtly conveyed by the neon signs on the side of a store and directors Adil & Bilall (Bad Boys For Life) go all out to bring a lush, hyper real, Into The Spider-Verse style visual language to fully convey their main character’s inner thoughts.

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The other performances are of a similarly high standard with Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur who regardless of your heritage are cuttingly familiar as a mother who wields passive aggressiveness like a cudgel (“This is all my fault. These are my genetics, I come from a long line of fantasizing, unrealistic daydreamers.”) and a loving father who comes across as embarrassing.
If there’s any issues to be had, you could argue that beside Bruno, none of Kamala’s other school mates get much of a look in with friend Nakia and bully Zoe firmly being kept on the outskirts of the episode for now; but considering that this is the first episode, this is hardly cause for alarm.
Ms. Marvel purists may complain at the changing of the origin of her powers (seemingly no longer heavily Inhumans based) and the nature of how they’re presented (no stretchy Reed Richard limbs here), but it’s offset by the staggering amount of surprisingly organic easter eggs the episode comes armed with which includes everything from Trust A Bro moving van from Hawkeye to a head melting onslaught once action moves to AvengerCon – and of course Scott Lang has a podcast.
The fact that Ms. Marvel seems to be something of a hopeful commentary of fan culture comes at a deeply ironic time as we now seemingly live in a world where gate keeping fans and haters in equal measure will now review bomb any new addition to their beloved franchise if things don’t go exactly the way they want, but watching this starstruck girl daydream her way through life while knowing full well that she’ll meet her idol sooner rather than later, still leaves a warm feeling inside.
However, whether Ms. Marvel can maintain this sugar-rush speed for the entirety of its episodes will remain to be seen as we have virtually no threat yet and not even a sniff of a villain (if you don’t count the post credits return of Arian Moayed’s Damage Control agent from Spider-Man: No Way Home, that is), but as it stands, Generation Why may stand even above Moon Knight as the MCU’s best opening episode yet.

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With a massively endearing main character about to start her journey into a world she’s admired from afar and beautifully realised world that blends the Pakistani Muslim culture with the imagination of a teenage girl, Ms. Marvel gives us a natural progression from the adolescent giddiness of Spider-Man: Homecoming that stands out as one of Marvel’s most purely fun debuts yet.

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