Episode Analysis Ms Marvel: No Normal
How does the final episode of Ms Marvel stack up against its comics counterpart? (Hint: pretty good, actually!)
Warning: The following contains spoilers for all of the MCU, all of Ms Marvel, as well as spoilers from the Ms Marvel comics. read at your own risk.
Y’all it was SO GOOD. I loved it. Ms Marvel was such a great show. Yeah it had some points that could be stronger than others (too short episodes and a chase scene that wasn’t as amazing as it could have been) but 1) this is me being very nitpicky and 2) it’s obvious the weak points weren’t because anybody was slacking off. Like it says a lot that the parts that were “bad” were really more “sure in a perfect world this could’ve been better.” And I genuinely think that even those parts were still the result of everyone doing the best they could with the resources they were given. Like I said in Seeing Red, the chase scene clearly had a shit ton of work put into it even if the final visuals of it didn't reflect that work as well as possible. This was everybody’s A game for sure.
To talk about the finale and the series as a whole, though, I do need to talk about how things were in the comics vs the show. Which I think is a fair thing to do because it’s clear the show was trying to do justice to Kamala in the comics. It’s not in any way necessary to have memorized the comics to appreciate this show (unlike some, cough). However, since what we do here is talk about how things came together I think talking about those decisions is worthwhile.
So warning for comics spoilers ahead! But if you need that quick review it’s IT WAS SO GOOD.
Ahem. Let’s go!
Ms Marvel the Show vs The Comics
The key thing that stands out to me is that, regardless of the changes made, it’s clear that everyone involved in the show, particularly Bisha K Ali who was in charge of it all, adored Kamala. They loved her, they loved her storylines, and they got her. Yes, I’ve had nitpicky complaints about swapping Kamala’s fanfic for videos but again: nitpicky. Likewise the change of her powers is still a meh to me in terms of doing it at all but since they did do it I think they did a good job of honoring what her powers in the comics feel like. (Could “Embiggen” have had more of a leadup for newer fans to understand what the eff was going on and why she was saying it? Yeah. Did I still scream with joy when it happened? Also yeah.)
The love and, more importantly, the understanding of what makes Kamala Kamala really showed up in the establishment of Kamala’s costume and name. In the comics Kamala takes the name Ms Marvel because she idealized Carol who had used the name prior to becoming Captain Marvel. Likewise the lightning bolt on Kamala’s costume came from Carol’s old one (pictured here on the right). Finally, in the comics Kamala makes the costume herself.
However, the underlying themes of all of this is that Kamala, a Muslim, Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City, taking on the name Ms Marvel was a sign of personal growth and strength. It’s not a coincidence that the original appearance of “Good is not a thing you are, it’s a thing you do” came when Kamala was making her costume: she was defining who she would be as a hero.
So taking Kamala’s direct inspiration from Carol and centering it on Kamala herself, especially her own name, is not only a pitch perfect translation of the idea from the comics, but frankly an even stronger version of it. Kamala isn’t trying to be her own version of Carol, she’s trying to be a hero, which Carol helped inspire her to do.
Speaking of the costume, again while there’s symbolic meaning in Kamala designing it herself, in the comics it’s actually part of the story that her family finds out and supports her. There’s a beautiful quote from the comics which sadly didn’t make it to the show but when Muneeba tells Kamala that she knows Kamala is Ms Marvel, she says:
“Your father and I were worried you would get involved with drugs or with friends who were bad for you. If the worst thing you do is to sneak out to help suffering people -- then I thank God for having raised a righteous child.”
Which is a wonderful quote both for how supportive Muneeba and Yusuf are, but it again ties into how Kamala’s religion shapes so much of who she is. Her being Muslim isn’t a background detail, it’s fundamental to who she is.
Now we didn’t get the quote from Muneeba but on the other hand her coming up with the idea for the costume and giving it to Kamala is a great show don’t tell of the same thing.
Likewise in the comics Kamala’s friends figure out she’s Ms Marvel, many on their own, and support her. The comics reasons differed (one storyline being Kamala was out of commission so her friends stepped up to be “Ms Marvel” while she was gone even as they were supposed to pretend they still didn’t know who Ms Marvel was) but again that’s not important when the idea is the same. the people we know who know her - Zoe, Naika, Aamir - help her directly, and then her community rallies around her as well. They had six episodes to play with, the end result and the feeling of it was more important than the details. Kamala is who she is because of her connections to her friends and her community, again a pitch perfect way to show that.
Then we have some of the differences, and the big one here was Kamran. This was the one I was most dreading as the series went on, because in the comics Kamran is a bad guy (see why I was holding off on talking about that during earlier episodes?) Now it’s not that I have a problem with bad guys per se - they kept Kamran’s family being bad too, after all. But for Ms Marvel the show it would’ve been problematic to have Kamran do a heel turn. Hence why my notes for last night’s ep say “Please don’t make him bad!” about as often as they say “Oh god, Bruno, why are you STILL HERE?”
Here’s why: on the show Kamran is presented as being good and respectful of Kamala in general, particularly compared with our resident incel Bruno. Having the guy who, until Kareem came along, was the only romantic interest who treated Kamala like a person instead of a trophy he had a right to, turn out to be evil would’ve been super not great in terms of overall messages. To say nothing of the implications of having Kamran, a Muslim boy, being shown to be one bad moment away from going evil and using his powers to blow everyone up.
Now given the people who worked on the show I felt fairly certain they were aware of the issues with the latter, but I did have fear about the former given that the show still acts like Bruno is genuinely a good guy. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they do get that Bruno is Nice Guy personified, but my gut feeling is that they don’t. Like that scene of Bruno seeing Kamran and Kamala about to kiss was a perfect setup, well known visual medium language and everything, for Bruno to have a heel turn and betray Kamala because she liked someone else. Instead the show kind of skipped right past Bruno’s reaction into a too long scene of Bruno dancing (not Hulk taking selfies long, thank god, but still longer than it needed to be).
(Insert your own joke here about how any scene involving Bruno is longer than it needs to be.)
And even without the Bruno of it all it’s also a well known teenage hero trope of having the person they love turn into a bad guy. So that was another reason we couldn’t rule out Kamran going dark side.
However, they didn’t do that, and I was thrilled. Yeah, Kamran had moments of anger and understandably so. But it was just that, understandable. And they paired it with him not having control of his powers yet to explain the danger.
Moreover what I particularly loved is that on the one hand you had Bruno saying don’t tell Kamran the truth, but ultimately it was Kamala who was right in not just telling Kamran the truth that Najma died but why she died. Thus reinforcing the concept that Kamala wasn’t wrong to trust her instincts about Kamran both from the start and all the way to the end.
This is normally where I talk about such things so I want to mention how this ep was written by Will Dunn, AC Bradley, and Matthew Chauncey. The story was by Will Dunn as well and, given that the episode overall felt like an actual story, my guess is that Will and Matthew did most of the writing. There wasn’t much that stood out as being points on a checklist. Probably the Department of Damage Control stuff did most of all so if you asked me to put some Vegas odds on which part AC did I’d point in that direction. But even there the DODC was just a plot device for everything else to happen so I’m not mad at it. Again, I forgive the Flag Smashers so no judgement here.
I will say, though, that the DODC, particularly the character of Deever and her anger about kids with powers, reads as being something that wants to continue. Especially when you had those hints about Zoe’s sexuality thrown in as well. Like not just hinting about Zoe being gay but doing so in a way that said “watch this space” more than it did confirming she was queer like her comics self. This goes back to my hope/theory that the intention is for Ms Marvel to have a second season, whether or not that actually happens. (And, one assumes, wouldn’t happen until after The Marvels airs anyway, since the show itself said that’s the next time we can expect to see Kamala).
But otherwise yeah. Loved it, loved the show. Hope it gets a second season. Definitely up there in my favorites of all the Disney+ shows thus far. Moon Knight takes the tippy top spot for the level of work done, but at this moment Ms Marvel comes in second.
As always, things that don’t fit anywhere else:
- Bisha K Ali tweeted about what it was like for her to work on the show. Ms Marvel really was made with love, you can tell.
- It’s sad that as soon as you see a warning about scenes viewers might find upsetting you immediately know it’s going to involve guns in high schools.
- I appreciate that Bruno pronounces “gyro” correctly but I still hate him.
- I loved Kamala’s little pose when she said “I am the light girl.” You just knew she practiced it in her head before telling her family.
- Kamala’s costume being packed in one of Sana’s toffee boxes was a great touch. It’s those levels of detail that make me chef’s kiss this show.
- I also liked how Muneeba getting the costume for Kamala was quietly foreshadowed by Muneeba mentioning going clothes shopping to Tyesha earlier in the episode
- As always, Nakia was amazing and there was not enough of her. I liked how they took time for the moment of her and Kamala talking, and Kamala acknowledging she screwed up.
- “The secret ingredient is nutmeg” - ah, a Townsends fan I see.
- “The only place guaranteed to be empty on a Saturday” - uh, not if you have a sports team? Which we know you have at least one of since Zoe does softball?
- Related, the show mentioning Zoe playing softball had me writing in my notes about whether or not it was a hint that her MCU incarnation was gay as well. And here we are!
- Zoe having a hard time with the glass with the fire extinguisher was a nice little comedy beat. Well handled physically and in terms of how long they let it go on.
- I also liked how Zoe’s social media following was used as a force for good. There was no Mitchells vs the Machines style “OMG social media is only for LOSERS who can’t survive without posting pictures of their food!!” attitude here. Yeah, social media can be a bad thing. But it can also be a fast way to spread information, especially when you’re trying to rally a community to a good cause. They didn’t even include a ding against Zoe for having it. It was immediately recognized as a handy tool and used as such.
- Why did Kamala keep taking her mask off? I don’t mind how she pretty much doesn’t need the mask since, as mentioned earlier, her secret identity is more of a well known wink wink secret in the comics. But once you have the mask you’re supposed to leave it on. Her frequently removing it struck me as some kind of real world issue, like either it was uncomfortable for Iman to wear or it was a continuity problem from one shot to the next.
- I love that Muneeba sent Aamir to check on Kamala even though she was in the middle of superheroing. Family’s gotta family.
- I don’t understand why we had a “one week later” for that last scene before the credits. I get that maybe they wanted to establish time passing to explain why Bruno was able to test for “mutation” like he did. But it was set up oddly by the scene right before that. Like Bruno leaving that note in a locker is very awkward when he’s still hanging around a week later. If anything I feel like they could’ve done the tiny time jump before the scene of Kamala and Yusuf on the rooftop.
- I’m not a clickbait site so I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that the show dropped the m-word. Kamala’s an Inhuman in the comics, if they’d left her as a Clandestine here it would’ve been fine. Like Kamala herself says, at this point it’s just another label.
- Likewise I’m not going to go crazy wondering what the mid-credits scene is all about. Sure we can make educated guesses but meh. We’ll find out when The Marvels gets here. I’m content to wait.
And that’s it for now! Next stop: She-Hulk! Thanks for reading.