Ms. Marvel – Season 1, Episode 5: Time And Again

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The continuing (and frankly unnecessary) debate about diversity in popular culture has always been a strange subject to rail against. Not only is it invaluable for others to see their people of varying colours, genders and creeds represented on screen as other things than comic relief, villains or even victims, but it also gives people the opportunity to see moments from their history told to people that may not even know it existed.
So it’s with this in mind that we cast an eye over the fifth and penultimate episode of Marvel Studio’s Ms. Marvel, which has been strongly hinting that it was going to tackle the Partition of India by the British that split the country in two back in 1947 and sees our plucky heroine unceremoniously dumped back in time to that fateful day when families were traumatically pulled apart and all the events that’s set Kamala on her path to heroism were set in motion.

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We kick the episode off in 1942 where other dimensional refugee Aisha stumbles upon the peace-loving Hassan, an Indian independence activist who gives her shelter and the two quickly fall in love and soon give birth to Sana  who will go on to be Kamala’s grandmother – time travel, am I right? Hassan’s fears over the growning tensions in the country are eventually realised when when the British divide India into two provinces based on muslim practices leaving people on the “wrong” side scrabbling to leave their homes to cross the border. During the chaos, Aisha’s Clandestine colleague, Najma is furious that she has chosen her earth family instead of trying to find a way to use her magic bangle to send them back to their home dimension and in the Hustle of the crowd, Aisha is fatally stabbed leaving her daughter lost among the jostling bodies.
It’s here that Kamala Kahn turns up after being sent hurtling back through time after during a fight with Najma in the present and the budding superhero realises that the family story she’s been told all these years about her grandmother being led to safety by a trail of glowing stars may have more to do with her than she ever could have imagined.
Meanwhile, back in the present, Kamala eventually bounces back to find that Najma has succeeded in opening a potentially catastrophic portal to her home world and they have to find a way to close it.
Among a cluster of family revelations, self sacrifice and a slighty contrived transference of superpowers, it seems that Kamala’s road to being the MCU’s newest hero seems to have reached its peak – but troubles back in New Jersey hint that Kamala may have one last Djinn to contend with.

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Time And Again may be the most frustrating episode of Ms. Marvel yet, thanks to the clumsy storytelling issues of episode 3 returning in full force to dilute what should have been an insanely powerful episode. After directing the sparky, fun, fourth episode, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy returns for his second episode, but noticably it ironically ends up being an episode broken into two distinct halves with the first finally filling us in with Aisha’s long hinted at back story and the second scrambling to tie up every plot thread it can despite there being a whole episode left to go. It all screams of the continuing problems that almost all of Marvel’s Disney+ have suffered from an that’s a continuing inability to craft a penultimate episode that builds any momentum for the final episode be it thanks to a weirdly timed cliffhanger or a poorly placed flashback and Ms. Marvel unfortunately is no exception.
So let’s focus on the flashback section, which, is by far the strongest of the two and gives plonks us in the middle of 1940’s India and gives us a genuinely touching look at Kamala’s family history thanks to the performances of Mehwish Hayat and Fawad Khan as the dimension-crossed lovers who have to deal with the violently changing political landscape that’s upheaving their beloved country. It’s a genuinely sweet change of pace from the modern day super-fan stuff that the show was sold on and it’s nice to take a quick breather before being hurled back into the rather rushed thread of Clandestines, Damage Control and other universes. However, even though the revelation that was actually a time hopping Kamala who got her grandmother to safety with her glowing headlight powers (that no one seems to notice) gives her a moving connection to her past, it’s tough to ignore that it blatantly breaks all laws of time travel established thus far (and in great detail) in Avengers: Endgame. It shouldn’t really effect the fact that Marvel is tackling a historical event that doesn’t really get mentioned alot (and in truth, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t) but those who view the MCU as a whole through a magnifying glass will no doubt cry foul very loudly on the internet…

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Anyway, as nice as that first section is, things get brought down to earth with a bump when the action returns to the present day and the script doubles down on clearing up all this Clandestine nonsense as quick as it can. Not only does Najma have another character twist at the last minute (this time to good) and manages to close the dimensional gate at the cost of her life, she somehow transfers her powers to her son back in the States while Muneeba discovers her daughter has superpowers with virtually no fanfare. It smacks of convenience and stinks of a rush job in order to clear the table for the inevitable final episode costume reveal/superhero fight that makes you openly question why Najma would suddenly give a shit about her son barely days after leaving him to rot in a Damage Control supermax. Worse yet, the far more interesting revelation that Kamala’s mother now knows that she is the light emitting superhero everyone’s been talking about is horribly underplayed (at least Marisa Tomei got to shreik “WHAT THE F-” at the end of Spider-Man: Homecoming) and while it’ll doubtless be explored more fully in the final episode, it feel like a wasted opportunity – much like how the far more interesting Kareem is shuffled off-screen in favour of a newly super powered Kamran…

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The good news? Vellani still shines – both figuratively and literally thanks to those powers – and the final episode boasts the return of directing duo Adil & Bilall who steered the first episode to such greatness, but with a show down with Damage Control, a full costume reveal and maybe some tantalising hints for the upcoming movie The Marvels still to come, there’s still plenty of time for Ms. Marvel to reclaim some of that early energy while retaining that all-important connection with the character’s roots.

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