Superpowers and Sacrifices: Ms. Marvel: “Crushed”

Ms. Marvel‘s second episode, written by Kate Gritmon and directed by Meera Menon, is possibly even more charming that its debut! “Crushed” introduces a new character and a whole bunch of Plot.

Kamala Khan deals with a classic conundrum: how do you balance your brand new superpowers with your same old life? This is complicated by the sudden appearance of Kamran, a ridiculously charming new student, and further complicated by Kamala’s first attempt at rescuing someone, which is itself even further further complicated by the sudden appearance of Damage Control.

Superhero-ing is not quite as magical as Kamala hoped.

Recap

The day after AvengersCon, Kamala has a ton of confidence. We geet a repeat of her initial walk down the school hallway, but this time she says hi to people, catches a basketball, and gently but firmly pushes through the couple who always make out in front of her locker. Then she walks smack into an incredibly hot senior, and turns back into pre-powers Kamala.

She and Bruno try to have a quick post mortem in the hall, but then Nakia joins them and for some reason Kamala doesn’t want to tell her other best friend yet. Since Zoe keeps posting about her rescue, she now has a ton of followers on Instagram, and she’s throwing a “fragility of life” party—which Kamala is very against until she realizes that the new British student is going.

Bruno’s fine with all this, why do you ask?

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Next we see Nakia and Kamala running to their masjid, obviously late. They rush through wuḍūʾ, a practice made harder by the fact that the women’s section only has one working faucet. It’s the same behind the screen: the light is dim, they can barely hear the imam, and Nakia grouses about the mold under the carpet. Meanwhile the men’s section gleams with light and new furniture. Kamala, a walking embodiment of “well do something about it then”, tells Nakia to run for a spot on the board. Nakia brushes her off until after services, when she realizes her shoes have been stolen from the shared cupboard. Someone really needs to clean this place up.

Ammi, shockingly, agrees to Kamala’s request to go to Zoe’s party—presumably because Bruno and Nakia will be there. But literally the second they get there, a boy offers Kamala a drink, tells her it’s orange juice, and laughs at her when she realizes she’s had vodka.

But all other concerns go out the window when they see Kamran dive into Zoe’s pool, and then, more important, watch him emerge dripping wet.

“Mashallah…” Nakia and Kamala both murmur, in unison.

“God has willed it,” Bruno translates, not jealous even a little. He’s fine. He’s fine with all of this.

But Kamran, the new British student, turns out to be nice! When the cops show up to Zoe’s house party he rounds up our heroes and herds them into his sweet car to get them to safety. He and Kamala actually hit it off—they like the same music, the same Bollywood films. And she’s so smitten she doesn’t even correct him when he gets Bruno’s name wrong.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

He takes her phone, adds his number, and later that night she gets a text offering her a driving lesson.

Back at school, Kamala’s nose starts glowing purple, and she has to hide in the bathroom. This leads to a lovely scene of Nakia assuming Kamala’s having period issues, and two talk about growing up (but also about Kamala’s growing superpowers. Just tell Nakia, Kamala!) Kamala confesses that Nakia’s making everything look easy, but Nakia says that she has her own struggles, with people thinking she’s either “too white” or “too Muslim” and that “between the hijab and the girlies my parents can barely make eye contact with me anymore.”

Heck yes she’s running for the Masjid Council.

Bruno learns he’s gotten into an early immersion porgram at CalTech, which would mean he’d spend then ext sememster there. Obviously he wants to consult with Kamala, but SHE has a driving lesson with Kamran, which turns into something looks like a date, which is then interrupted by Aamir and his finace Tyesha. Kamala says he’s a cousin of theirs, and Kamran swtitches into a Pakistani accent and pretends his British accent was a Great British Bake Off bit. Aamir buys it, Tyesha does not, but she also herds Kamala’s brother away to give the girl some peace. It’s very sweet.

Back at home the family is having a celebratory dinner and telling Tyesha the family history. We learn that Muneeba and Yusuf both ended up in Karachi after Partition. Muneeba’s mother, Suna, got separated from her family, and nearly missed the train, but somehow found her father in the crowd. She told people “she followed a trail of stars right back to her father.” But when Kamala tries to learn more about Suna’s mother, her great-grandmother Aisha, Ammi will only say that she brought shame on the family.

The bangle that focuses Kamala’s powers, the one that Suna sent from Karachi, belonged to Aisha.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Kamala tries to call Nani late at night to account for the time difference, but Nani won’t tell her anything either. And just to complicate matters, Kamala starts having visions of a glowing woman—who can only be her great-grandmother, right?

Later, at the Eid al-Adha celebration, Bruno and Kamala help Nakia distribute her posters. Kamala may have a secret mission to get the Illuminaunties to give her some gossip about Great-Grandmother Aisha, and she soon learns the Aisha “had many affairs” “cursed people” and “killed a man”—but is any of this real or are the Aunties trying to top each other for a willing audience?

Was Aisha a superhero working during Partition?

Meanwhile, at…oh, crap. Damage Control. Apparently they’ve brought Zoe in for questioning, and within a few moments of straight-up bullying she slips and indicates that the person who saved her might have been South Asian. The agents decide to sweep the mosques in the TriState area, with one saying, “Be respectful. The FBI is already surveilling them, we know that.”

Hm.

But back at the Eid carnival, we get the classic clash of personal life and superhero life. A kid is leaning out of the mosque window for a selfie, falls, and just barely catches a curtain to save himself. Kamala springs into action, slowly, creeping along the mosques roof and talking to the kid to calm him down. When she asks about food he likes, he replies “Ice cream pizza” which distracts both the hero trying to save him and the crowd watching breathlessly below.

Seriously, what? You put ice cream on pizza? Do you eat it with a fork? Is the pizza hot when you do this?

I mean, I’ll try it.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Anyway. Sorry. Kamala saves the kid! She throws her light platforms under him, and starts to help him back to a safer part of the roof. But then she stops to do a superhero pose for the crowd.

Have the children learned nothing? You pose AFTER.

She’s hit with a vision of Aisha (Again, I’m assuming it’s Aisha), her powers falter, and the kid falls. She manages to throw more platforms under him to slow his fall, but they obviously hurt each time he lands, and he finally lands on top of a car, probably with a broken ankle. The crowd is angry now, and Kamala runs away crying.

But she has still saved two people, that kid would’ve been toast if she wasn’t there.

The second she slows down in a dark alley, Damage Control drones are on her. She barely gets away as a phalanx of cars pulls up, and then… Kamran? In his incredibly slick car? She jumps in, only to find that his mother is in the backseat. She tells Kamala she’s wanted to meet her.

 

Cosmic Thoughts!

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

DON’T POSE UNTIL AFTER THE RESCUE! HUBRIS IS THE MOST BASIC

Sorry.

Of course Kamala, who has idolized superheroes all of her life, is going to get a little ahead of herself. But she had good instincts! Telling the kid to talk about his favorite things as she went to get him was A++ hero-ing. And why the heck was he leaning so far out the window?

But let’s back up a little. This episode was excellent, charming and funny throughout. Once again, I’m loving the way the writers focus about 85% on Kamala’s daily life, school time, family stuff, her friendship with Bruno, and now, more, her friendship with Nakia. Her new powers are an important thing, but they’re not the only thing. She gets a classic superhero test almost immediately when she has to watch Zoe gloat about being rescued, knowing that she can’t take credit for being the rescuer. Zoe’s the one whose Insta following has gone through the roof. Zoe’s the one who gets to host a celebratory party. I’m also excited that the show makes it clear that her powers are innate, and only enhanced by the armband, and that they seem to be so tangled up in her family history. I’m so excited to learn more about Aisha, and what exactly happened during Partition.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

The training montage on the roof is the cutest shit I’ve ever seen. All these years after Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker risked life and limb over Manhattan, here are Kamala and Bruno practicing a few feet above his roof, high enough to try stuff, not so high that anyone has to explain a broken leg later. The show also makes it clear that Kamala just has this one, energy shooting power—at least so far. There’s no super-strength or flight or invisibility to go with it, so she’s going to have to practice a lot to be able to use it effectively. As we see in the rescue attempt at the mosque. When the energy shorts out, and the kid falls, Kamala can’t just zoom down and catch him, or even catch him and trust her super-body to cushion the fall.

I also appreciated the twists and turns with Kamran. Having seen my fair share of teen comedies, I tend to assume that the hot boy is also going to be kind of a jerk, so learning that Kamran was a charming, polite British boy who seemed to genuinely like Kamala was really nice. But obviously it’s even more fun to find out that he and his mother have been watching Kamala for a while, presumably that’s why they move around a lot, and maybe that, too, ties in with the Aisha situation? But so does he actually like her, or was all this a scam to get close to a new hero?

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

I am so so happy that the show is digging into cultural stuff in such a direct way. First of all, showing wuḍūʾ and the Eid al-Adha celebration and talking about Bollywood films and just expecting everyone to keep up. It makes my heart swell. But then including Bruno’s translation of “Mashalla” but not so much to explain it to non-Arabic speakers as to highlight Kamran’s off-the-charts pool-emergence, and show Bruno’s increasing unhappiness with Kamran as a concept. And how much fun was the tutorial on the various cliques at the Eid carnival? Mosque Bros, Pious Bros, Converts, Reverts, Illumin-Aunties—it’s a perfect way to bounce people through all the different groups there. And of course the constant, pointed references to the way Persia and Byzantium are overshadowed by Greek and Roman history, the throwaway acknowledgement of the FBI’s surveillance of Muslim communities, the moment when that shithead kid tricks the Muslim girl into drinking alcohol—the writers are doing a great job of weaving these sorts of things into the show’s action, so we see the external pressures on the community without it turning into a TedTalk.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

And as for internal pressures: I think my favorite aspect of this week’s episode was the increase in Nakia time. She’s the best? Her annoyance at the the women’s sections of the masjid being ignored in favor of the men’s, her frustration with her parents treating her like an alien for hitting puberty, and her obvious worry about her status within her community all come through in a few elegant, pointed scenes. Her decision to run for the board is maybe my favorite plot twist so far, and I really hope that the show gives it a lot of screentime.

I was startled that Damage Control shows up so soon—not in terms of coming in after the rescue, but so early in the season. I hoped Kamala would get a few more weeks of unfettered practice time before bureaucracy came crashing down. But this twist with Kamran and his mom is promising.

Now about timing: the Eid everyone’s celebrating is Eid al-Adha, which honors the day Ibrahim nearly sacrificed Ismail until Allah gave him a lamb to sacrifice instead. Thus the day focuses on the idea of being willing to make sacrifices for Allah…which ties in pretty well to Kamala’s first true outing as a superhero I think. If she stays on this path she’ll be able to help people, but she’s going to have to keep giving up bits of her personal life. She’s going to have to sacrifice her desire for fame, for popularity, for coolness, for actually putting in the work to control her powers. She’s gonna have to make sure she finishes the rescue before she basks in he glory—if she gets to bask at all.

Favorite Quotes 

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Bruno: Why do you think you have Ant-Man powers?
Kamala: Because we’re both charming, and look younger than we are!

***

Bruno: That’s amazing! How does it feel?
Kamala: Like an idea come to life.

***

Nakia: budget Captain Marvel
Kamala: Thank you

***

Two girls taking a selfie in the masjid: “#Maslight!”
Auntie (snatching the phone away): “No Snapchatting in the masjid!”
Girls (in unison): “It’s Insta!”

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Nakia: Six weeks on Ancient Rome and six weeks on Ancient Greece. Six minutes on Ancient Persia and Byzantium. History is written by the oppressors, that’s all I’m gonna say.

***

Nakia (offering Kamala a tampon): I know how weird your mom can get about tampons.

***

Mr. Wilson to Bruno: You’re the lead character. I’m Meryl Streep.

***

Ammi: If it wasn’t for Slippery When Wet your father and I might never have met.

***

Bruno (dressed up for Eid): It’s not too…bright?
Ammi: I don’t understand the question?

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Kid dangling from mosque window: Ice cream pizza!

Leah Schnelbach would’ve absolutely gone for the heroic pose too soon when they were Kamala’s age. Luckily their only tru superpower is sarcasm, and that probably can’t kill anyone. Come join them in the ice cream pizza buffet that is Twitter!

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