*Warning: The following article contains spoilers for episode two of Ms. Marvel*
Have you seen Baazigar? Abbas-Mustan’s drama rose Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan to stardom, which is fantastic. It’s free on YouTube and is one of the films Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her crush Kamran (Rish Shah) gush on while driving away from Zoe (Laurel Mardsen)’s party in this week’s episode of Ms. Marvel. One hopes some viewers are curious enough to check it out and see a different sphere of star-making magnetism western audiences aren’t accustomed to seeing. There’s a reason why SRK is referred to as the “King of Bollywood,” and it all started with Baazigar.
I was surprised when Kamala and Kamran named dropped Baazigar, as it was my introduction to SRK and the incredible world of Hindi cinema. Still, it is proof of how rich the show’s references are, which this episode has plenty of them. They’re even going so far as to compare Shah Rukh Khan to Kumail Nanjiani’s Kingo, a fictitious Bollywood actor (and likely the most popular in the MCU). It’s a fun scene and adds incredible amounts of emotional levity to an already great series, whose only two episodes have already skyrocketed it to some of the best storytelling the MCU has ever done.
I’ve already discussed the show’s aesthetic in the last recap, which continues to dazzle. Text conversations embedded in the show’s world (as opposed to showing cellphones or text bubbles) are incredible, and the camera constantly moving in different directions is so thrilling to watch. In addition, its lively colors and impeccable song choices are leading me to think that this may be the best MCU show yet after it ends, though I certainly don’t want to jump the gun (as was the case with WandaVision…its first three episodes were incredible until it plummeted in quality once it started to overexplain).
But Iman Vellani is so good as Kamala Khan, perfectly embodying the character’s energy from the comics and representing teen angst in such a way that it’s easy to relate to everything that’s happening to her, that it’s hard not to like anything the show throws at you. One scene in particular, in which she dreams of Kamran while singing The Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” is stellar–it’s a perfect marriage of staggering visuals, sweeping cinematography, and flawless acting from Vellani, who pours her heart and soul into every inch of the frame. The episode also deepens Kamala’s relationship with her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), who doesn’t want to talk about her grandmother, Aisha, the original owner of Kamala’s bangles. Her past will likely be explored in future episodes, but the tease is powerful enough to incite viewers to want to know what happens next.
The episode fleshes out Kamala’s relationship with Bruno (Matt Lintz), who becomes her Ned Leeds (Jacob Batalon). Bruno is the only person who knows Kamala’s powers, and a training montage earlier on solidifies their bond. Subsequent episodes will be more interesting as a love triangle is quickly established between Kamran and Bruno once Rish Shah comes into play. But a twist at the end of the episode showed that Kamran wasn’t approaching Kamala for love but for her to meet his mother (Nimra Bucha). Kamala has been sparsely seeing her through visions from her bangle, but it is still unclear who she is.
This week’s episode gives Nakia Bahadir (Yasmeen Fletcher) a more significant role and starts to develop the bond she has with Kamala. We barely saw her in the first episode, but we can tell their friendship goes way back from how they interact. Fletcher gives an impassioned performance as Nakia and shares an impactful scene with Vellani in which she talks about why she chooses to wear a hijab. The lines are powerful enough, but Fletcher’s performance enhances them greatly: “My whole life, I’ve either been too white for some people or too ethnic for others. And it’s been this very uncomfortable, sucky, in-between. So, when I first put this on, I was hoping to shut some people up, but I kinda realized I don’t really need to prove anything to anybody. Like, when I put this on, I feel like me. Like I have a purpose.”
Nakia decides to run for the Mosque Board against the well-established Uncle Rasheed (who likely has Laith Nakli’s Sheikh Abdullah’s endorsement), so it will be an exciting arc to follow as the show progresses. I also hope to see more of Nakli in the series, who was terrific in Ramy as Uncle Naseem (which co-stars May Calamawy and Mahershala Ali, who are current MCU stars). His character could act as a guide for Kamala when she needs the most guidance, after likely accepting her newfound responsibilities as a superhero. Unfortunately, the action scene in this episode is pretty dull and is triggered by one of the most foolish character decisions I’ve seen in a superhero title since Superman II’s Niagara Falls scene (really, you’re going to climb on top of the mosque to take a selfie? Come on! You’re practically begging to be saved before you’ll inevitably trip!). Still, it does establish an enticing rivalry between Kamala and the Department of Damage Control.
Yes, it’s great to see Arian Moayed back as Agent Cleary from Spider-Man: No Way Home, but Alysia Reiner’s Agent Deever seems more menacing than Cleary, who continues to impress as being one of the biggest pain in the necks of the MCU. Time will tell where this series will be going within the third episode. Still, Ms. Marvel takes time to establish the character relationships and fleshes everyone out before going to the “superhero stuff,” which, unsurprisingly, is the weakest aspect of the episode. Still, I have high hopes to see the show deepen on its cultural themes and multiple character arcs, particularly Nakia and Bruno, who are the most exciting side protagonists of the bunch. So until next week, watch Baazigar and DDLJ (and the Brahmastra trailer while you’re at it, where SRK will appear next).
The second episode of Ms. Marvel is now streaming on Disney+.