‘Ms. Marvel’: Breaking down Kamala meaning, mutant DNA, more

This story contains spoilers for “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+.

Over the course of the six episodes “Ms. Marvel” has taken its viewers on a fast-paced journey through continents and times. Kamala Khan’s superhero origin story, which concluded on Wednesday, saw the Avengers-loving New Jersey teen learn about her hidden supernatural family history while weaving actual historical events into the narrative.

With its youthful tone, inclusive storytelling, and loose ties to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Ms. Marvel has the ingredients to become another MCU show that will appeal to audiences beyond the usual Marvel faithful. Now that the series is wrapped, Times television critic Lorraine Ali and contributor Tracy Brown discuss what worked, the series’ representative milestones, and more.

Tracy Brown: There are a few moments in the “Ms. Marvel” finale actually made me scream, but there’s a lot we should cover before I derail our conversation by delving into what I think are the episode’s most exciting reveals.

I can’t stress enough how much fun “Ms. Marvel” was seen. I don’t want to repeat everything you said in your first review of the series, but it really drew on the joy and youthful energy and cultural quirks that I’ve always believed were the comic book’s strengths Ms. Marvel are.

People love to talk about superhero fatigue or dismiss movies or TV shows within the genre, but “Ms. Marvel” is a perfect example of the different kind of storytelling that can take place in the superhero space. When has an American TV show even addressed the division of India and Pakistan?

However, part of Kamala Khan’s legacy is that her comics appealed to readers who had never read superhero comics before. I think, barring a few highlights like WandaVision, the MCU’s Disney+ shows are struggling to attract audiences beyond existing Marvel fans. Lorraine, I know you’re no stranger to Marvel series or the genre, but what did you think of the full series? How friendly do you think it is to viewers who haven’t kept up with the MCU in its entirety?

A boy holding a dagger and a girl with a bracelet in fighting poses.

Aramis Knight and Iman Vellani in an episode of “Ms. Wonder.”

(Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel)

Lorraine Ali: Youthful energy and cultural idiosyncrasies are definitely the key ingredients in “Ms. Marvel’s Special Sauce. The series was a joy to watch for many reasons. Although all of Marvel’s Disney+ series differed in tone and approach, Ms. Marvel really is an outlier, and that’s a good thing.

First of all, our heroine Kamala Khan (played by the supremely charismatic Iman Vellani) is an American-Pakistani Muslim teenager. Her origins, gender and beliefs play an important role in the development of her character and the origins of their power. And the music and artistic flourishes in the series – all the moving animation on billboards, blackboards, in the sky – feel totally original. The series has a deep respect for Marvel’s storylines and mythologies, but also understands immigrant culture, from clashes between South Asian parents and their American-born children to the journey of an American child delving into his roots in the old world. MS. Marvel fuses these worlds together in a natural way, and the result is a superhero show Not feel like another superhero show. With that in mind, I think it’s more accessible to viewers who aren’t invested in the MCU.

Tracy, how do you think it’s been received by the hardcore MCU fan base? And you are also the child of immigrant parents. Have you seen any of yours in Kamala? I definitely have. I have to say after watching the finale I know what to wear for Halloween. Now all I have to do is find halal and haram baseball hats for my son and husband to complete the look.

Brown: According to reports, “Ms. Marvel” had sluggish viewership. As you mentioned, the show is about a teenage Pakistani American girl and there are a lot of people – even among MCU fans – who have no interest in a series or will turn it down based on that fact alone. But I feel like everyone who was already a fan of Kamala Khan and the people who have been waiting for the MCU to be more inclusive have embraced it.

I will say that the reveal about Kamala’s DNA during the finale will only be approximate everyone MCU fan talks about it.

As a nerdy comics fan who tended to draw my favorite characters as a kid rather than doing homework, there are definitely aspects of Kamala that I can relate to a lot. But what I appreciated most about this show is the nuance of how she grows up as a second-generation immigrant child that encompasses all aspects of her identity. I think stories about being an Asian-American kid with immigrant parents have defaulted in a binary way for a very long time – traditional Asian bad, modern American good; Traditional parents bad, modern friends and found family good. But that’s not the case for all of us.

On shows like “Ms. Marvel” and films like Pixar’s “Turning Red”, we get stories that show how the “suspense” comes from a place of love. Kamala clearly loves her parents, and she embraces being Pakistani-American and Muslim just as much as she loves being a giant superhero nerd. It might be difficult to figure out how to connect different parts of our identity as we grow up, but it’s never about rejecting one or the other.

We addressed how “Ms. Marvel” is a milestone representative of both the MCU and television in general, but not so much specific to Kamala’s beliefs. How was it for you to see the MCU’s first Muslim superhero? How do you think this series has handled this aspect of Kamala’s story?

A girl in a mask holding a dagger in one hand and waving with the other that glows.

Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan in Ms. Wonder.”

(Marvel Studios)

Ali: The finale’s DNA twist is such a great cliffhanger. And you’re so right about the cross-cultural, cross-generational nuance in the show. Even in the best of TV dramas, it’s rare to find such an intimate but non-judgmental on-screen family dynamic.

How has the show integrated themes of Muslim American life into the larger story? “MS. Marvel” somehow managed to rival one of my favorite shows, Hulu’s darkly funny sitcom Ramy, when it comes to portraying faith through one individual’s journey rather than a monolithic experience. From the early ones Scenes when her friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) explains why chosen wearing a hijab, to the women who complain about the shabbiness of their prayer room masjid Compared to the men’s section, to their descriptions of the various cliques in the Islamic center (the mosque brothers, the pious boys, the mini harami girls, the illuminin aunts), it was so apt and so damn funny. And they were never too expensive, which was my concern going into the series.

The subplot of her mosque being monitored by law enforcement agencies has been the source of several jokes about the realities facing US Muslims after 9/11. And I’m assuming that all of the Islam-centric humor I was referring to was interwoven with Avengers references, which I totally missed because I’m not particularly familiar with the verse. My point is that this fun little series accomplished a lot in six episodes, including combining worlds that initially seemed at odds.

One more thing: in the finale, her sweet father (played by Mohan Kapur) says that Kamal means “wonder” or “wonder” in Urdu. Then Kamala realizes she shares a name with Carol Danvers, and when her dad says, “Our own little Ms. Marvel.” Call me cheesy, but I’m a bit choked up.

Brown: This scene is so beautiful. I also got a little cloudy-eyed when I saw it. And it’s also an example of what this show has done so well, paying homage to the comics and letting Kamala and the series stand on their own.

Kamala and her father have a similar conversation in an early issue of Ms. Marvel,” but her father only mentions that Kamal means “perfection” in Arabic. Ms. Marvel’s name and iconography already existed in the comics, as Carol Danvers was Ms. Marvel before she became Captain Marvel. So in the comics, Kamala simply took the name of a hero she admired.

But there has never been a Ms. Marvel in the MCU. In the show, Kamala does not inherit an existing coat. With her father’s declaration, she can claim the name and identity that has always been hers. What’s more powerful than that?

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/tv/story/2022-07-13/ms-marvel-episode-6-finale-explained ‘Ms. Marvel’: Breaking down Kamala meaning, mutant DNA, more

Sarah Ridley

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