*Warning: The following piece contains spoilers for episode four of Ms. Marvel*
While Ms. Marvel’s fourth episode certainly feels like its most personal yet, as it directly connects Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) through her roots while on a trip to Karachi, Pakistan, it’s also the weakest of the bunch. It strips away most of the aesthetic flourishes that made the first three episodes so great. It also thwarts our titular character in two bog-standard action sequences that feel more typical MCU than anything else.
That doesn’t mean that the episode is bad, far from it. However, the way it explores Kamala’s relationship with her grandmother (Samina Ahmad) is done with care. Sana is wonderfully portrayed by Samina Ahmad, who gives an emotionally impactful performance, giving Kamala guidance on her journey as a superhero. She also meets Kareem (Aramis Knight) and Waleed (Farhan Akhtar) from the Red Daggers, a group of vigilantes who operate under the shadows while wearing red masks and throwing tiny daggers. Unfortunately, the fight between her and Red Dagger is incredibly disappointing. Still, when Kamala meets Waleed, who gives her backstory on the origins of the ClanDestine and their plans to break the veil of the Noor to turn Earth into their dimension, the exposition is riveting to watch.
It helps that director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and screenwriters Sabir Pirzada, Matthew Chauncey, and A.C. Bradley know how to use Indian actor Farhan Akhtar to deliver exposition into the most scene-chewing material possible. His role is small (and disappointing since he gets killed off minutes later), but his impact on the episode cannot be overstated.
The way he talks to Kamala and explains the dangers the ClanDestine pose to her world is brilliantly delivered, making us feel for him once he eventually bites the dust during the episode’s most significant (and the series’ longest) action scene. Obaid-Chinoy’s focus on Kamala’s bond with her mother (Zenobia Shroff) is also one of the episode’s most decisive moments. Arriving in Karachi seems to have lessened their tense mother/daughter relationship, especially when Kamala sees her cousins (Vardah Aziz & Asfandyar Khan) and her grandmother. They share a terrific scene over toffee, and one hopes Kamala will eventually reveal her super-heroics to her family.
I would’ve loved to see Kamala talk to Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) about her powers after discovering them last week while Kamala was saving Bruno (Matt Lintz) from the clutches of ClanDestine. Still, the episode drops that arc completely by having Nakia ignore Kamala’s text messages. It’s okay for now, but the series will eventually have to come back to it should it want to tie up all loose ends, especially because Nakia is one of Kamala’s best friends in the comics. However, none of the episodes wasted any time establishing character relationships and an exuberant style, so I assume we’ll know more about what Nakia thinks very soon.
But I would’ve loved to see more of Ms. Marvel’s carefree, almost fly-to-the-wall camerawork that previous episodes brought so well to the table here, especially during action sequences. The episode’s almost ten-minute-long chase through the streets of Karachi does have some kinetic moments here and there, but it doesn’t come close to the same level that episode three’s kitchen fight scene brought to the table. Many jarring cuts in the middle of a fight move (which seems typical for most MCU-related Disney+ projects) appear out of nowhere and hide most of the choreography from everyone. Weird zooms that also try to hide some of the CGI hinder the momentum and pace of the fight scene, which starts as a fistfight, morphing into a car/bike chase to a foot chase. Its staging is brilliant–every fight move leads to the next logical step in the sequence–but the execution leaves little to be desired.
Still, the overall scope of the episode felt like a refreshing change of pace from its New Jersey ones. Even if the aesthetic sensibilities aren’t the same and are more in line with standard MCU, Kamala’s relationships with Kareem/Waleed, Sana, and Muneeba (Shroff) are top-notch and elevate the episode from being a rather boring one. And from the looks of this week’s cliffhanger, we’ll get a flashback episode during the Partition next week. It seems typical with most Marvel series now, where their penultimate episodes reveal important backstories on the characters and pull back the curtain on their origins before they become the “hero” we’ll know more about in future projects. It may be the most emotionally investing episode of the series yet, but we’ll have to wait and see until next week…
The fifth episode of Ms. Marvel is now streaming on Disney+.