This week’s episode, “Destined,” was directed by Meera Menon and written by Freddy Syborn and A. C. Bradley & Matthew Chauncey, from a story by Freddy Syborn. It was a little rushed, and a little cluttered, but features an incredible wedding that I desperately want to attend.
That dance number! Aaahhh!
We begin, as I thought we might, in British-Occupied India in 1942. It’s time for an origin story, people! In a crumbling temple, three people uncover the bangle that will eventually enhance Kamala’s powers. (It’s on a severed arm. I’m sure it’s fine.) We hear commotion and fighting outside as another person runs in: Aisha, Kamala’s great-grandmother. And, wait, one of the women is Kamran’s mother, Najma!
Ohhhkay, Kamran’s not completely human. That explains some things.
They need two bangles to do whatever it is they’re trying to do, but Aisha thinks they should make do with the one they have. The group decides to split up, and Aisha takes the bangle and bolts as more of the temple caves in.
Now we cut to Najma in a nice-looking suburban kitchen. As she talks to Kamala, the other people from the flashback wander in, and she explains that they’re all from another dimension, as was Aisha. They’ve been on Earth for hundreds of years, and hoped the bangle could get them home, but when they were separated from Aisha they were doomed to stay longer.
Their home is called “Noor”, which means light. They’re called the Clandestines, and they have many names—one of which is Djinn.
And they’re going to need her help, and the bangle, to finally get back home.
Naturally, Kamala turns to Bruno (“You’re good at math, do you know anything about interdimensional travel?”) and of course Bruno might actually be able to help (“…there’s a paper by Dr. Erik Selvig…”) but there are far more important things to deal with, like the fact that “Night Light” is trending.
Meanwhile, at the Masjid, Damage Control want to sweep the place to search for “Night Light”, but Nakia tells them they need a signed warrant for that. The Imam, Sheikh Abdullah agrees, and they back off… for now.
Kamala’s watching a clip of herself saving Ice Cream Pizza Kid when Nakia walks in and throws herself on Kamala’s bed. She wants to tell Nakia, but… Nakia won the election! She’s on the board! Which is great! But as a board member, she’s already complaining about how Night Light is going to stir up trouble and attract attention to their community.
So much for Kamala sharing her secret identity.
But still, Nakia won!!!
Kamala has to switch back to family mode for the Mehndi, where most of the family has gathered for a pre-wedding celebration. Tyesha is having her hands and feet hennaed, which looks luxurious but also means she can’t move and has to let people feed her.
There is talk of Sana not showing up to her grandson’s wedding, and talk of “Night Light”. Kamala retreats to the front porch, where Sheikh Abdullah finds her. I have just a slight suspicion that he knows who Night Light is—they talk a bit about being good versus doing good, and Kamala seems a little less rattled.
Not so for Bruno. He had to miss the party to work a shift at Circle Q (Does his family own it? Where are this boy’s parents?) and Mr. Khan comes in for a terrible/delicious pre-packaged fruit pie, strictly forbidden by Mrs. Khan. He noticed Bruno trying to read an article in Urdu, and inadvertently translates a story about the Clandestines that doesn’t sound too flattering. They were banished to Earth—but why? What did they do back in Noor?
When he and Kamala meet up later, Bruno explains that interdimensional-travel-via-bangle is going to be incredibly dangerous. But Kamala wants to help the Clandestines. Even after her talk with Sheikh Abdullah, she’s beginning to think she isn’t good enough to wield her powers. Maybe the bangle’s real purpose is to help these lost Djinn? Maybe she’s ridiculous to think she can make it as a superhero? Bruno, obviously, disagrees on that last point. He finally tells her that he got into CalTech, and wants to go, but he doesn’t want to leave until he’s sure she’s OK.
May we all have a Bruno in our lives, holy crap.
Later on, Ammi finds Kamala in the bathroom tending to her Damage Controlled knee. They have a really lovely conversation, where it finally becomes clear just how abandoned Ammi felt when she was younger. They didn’t have much money when she and Abbu first married, her English wasn’t good, coming to America seemed like it might have been a mistake. But then she found the mosque, and the larger community. “I found my family, and I let them love me,” she says, kissing Kamala on the forehead.
Whatever went on with Sana back in Pakistan it left some serious scars.
Kamala texts Kamran that it might take longer for her to figure out how to help the Clandestines, and he tells her to focus on the wedding. So maybe they’re not so—but wait, now it’s time for the wedding!
How often do we see an iconic hero shot of a mosque on U.S.-ian TV? Let’s just look at it for a sec and appreciate it.
Now—wait! First we have to have a complementary lovely conversation between Abbu and Aamir. Aamir is worried because he doesn’t even have a thousand dollars in his bank account. But as Abbu tells him, a man has one fundamental choice in life: to live a life in fear, or in love. And since Aamir has chosen love, passion, faith, and to dedicate his life to a partnership with Tyesha, Abbu knows he’ll find his way.
May we all have an Ammi and an Abbu in our lives, holy crap.
Now, finally, Aamir and Tyesha’s wedding!
The ceremony itself is warm and funny, but the reception is amazing. Guest line up to gently knock the newlyweds’ heads together as kind of a blessing/reminder not to get too mad at each other when things get tough. Then the families join together in a Bollywood-style dance routine that they’ve clearly been rehearsing in secret, before everyone hits the dance floor. It’s so nice to have a break from superhero-ing, and to see Kamala in the context of her family on a great day.
Even better? Ammi, Abbu, and Tyesha have found the perfect wedding band ever, and it’s Brown Jovi.
But nothing freaking rad can stay, and just as Kamala’s about to dance with Bruno, Kamran runs in. His family is on the way to the banquet hall—they’re not willing to wait for Kamala to figure out a safe way to help them, and if she doesn’t get out of here everyone’s going to die.
Kamala thinks fast and pulls the fire alarm. As people flee, she leads the Clandestines on a chase through the kitchens and back halls, trying to fight as she goes. It kind of turns into Jurassic Park for a few minutes, with the Djinn as raptors hunting Kamala around distressingly shiny, clangy aluminum cabinets. She leads them back into the banquet hall, still making a strong showing given how little time she’s had to practice, and then somehow Bruno gets back in and starts throwing wedding presents at them. Naturally one of the Djinn knocks him across the room, which leads to…
The first real Kamala punch! She flattens the Djinn (at least for a second) and Kamran is able to run interference while she drags Bruno back out. This only lasts so long—Kamran is knocked over a railing, and the Djinn are closing in. Najma grabs Kamala’s bangle, and suddenly both of them are staring at a vision of a steam engine pulling into a Karachi station—
Which is when Damage Control shows up! For once I’m glad to see them. They start taking the Clandestine down while Kamala’s thrown clear and able to get poor wounded Bruno outside… just in time for Nakia to find them and see Kamala use her powers. There’s no time to explain, Nakia is livid and hurt, but she’s going to have to take Bruno to a doctor while Kamala escapes before Damage Control finds her. Back at home, she faces more furious people. Aamir and Tyesha’s wedding was ruined, an Auntie saw Kamala pull the fire alarm, they saw the Clandestines—her family wants to know the truth, but she can’t tell them. When she says this they all seem to deflate.
But they leave her alone to go up to her room. And now Nani’s calling, telling Kamala she saw the train, and that she and her mother need to come to Karachi.
I’m sure this is gonna be an easy sell.
I thought this one was a little thinner than the last two episodes! Still really good, but there was a bit more capital-P Plot happening, and I got a little dizzy as Kamala ran between friends, family, and Clandestines trying to work out what to do.
This also may be the first time ever that I’m rooting for a hero to tell her family her secret. Although… obviously something happened with Nani and Ammi. Did Nani take up Aisha’s work? Did Ammi refuse to be a superhero? But if that’s the case, wouldn’t she suspect what’s up with Kamala by now?
I’m also a bit disappointed that Nakia won the election offscreen! I wanted that to be an ongoing arc, or maybe its own episode, or something. More Nakia, is what I’m getting at. But still, watching her face off with Damage Control was pretty amazing.
Can I talk for a moment about the use of light in this show? Just as Moon Knight did some excellent work with mirrors, this show is doing fantastic things with different kinds of light: the soul-crushing fluorescent/neon combo in the Circle Q, the deceptively warm lighting of the Clandestines’ house, the beautiful soft light streaming into the masjid, the purplish semi-darkness of Kamala’s room.
The battle scenes were pretty good, showcasing the fact that Kamala is severely outmatched, but doing her scrappy best.
But really the highlight of this episode was the wedding. So vibrant and exciting, especially with the payoff of somewhat stuffy Aamir getting up to dance for his bride. It was so refreshing to get a moment of pure joy like this in the middle of a superhero show. I have to say Ms. Marvel is doing incredible work with weaving Kamala’s life and family into her superhero origin. The writers are showing us her struggles, but they’re not vilifying her family or presenting them as obstacles—they’re all real people with their own lives. Especially now that Ammi’s getting a bit more shaded in.
And speaking of that. Are we going to Karachi? Is it possible that Kamala will tell her mother the truth, and the two will go over there to deal with whatever the vision of the train means?
A Note on Djinn!
So Kamala might be part-otherworldly-Djinn? Or Kamran’s mom might be lying. Why were the Clandestines banished? Where is Noor? Are we going to Noor? This episode opened up so many possibilities!
My understanding of Djinn is that they are pre-Muslim spirits who are not innately evil. This is not a “demon coming up from Hell as a pawn in a battle between God and the Devil” situation, (In Islam, Iblis or Shaytan is either a disobedient angel or the father of the djinn, and while he’s an adversary to humans, a force of temptation and bad vibes, he’s not in any kind of battle with God—and if he was it would be a very short battle) or a “resentful dead person locked in a cycle beyond their understanding” haunting situation—Djinn can choose whether to be practice good or evil like anyone else. Thus, these particular Djinn are jerks.
Kamala: I’m a Djinn!
Bruno: …and tonic?
Kamala: I’m the stuff of my childhood nightmares!
Bruno: I’m not sure how I can help a group of ghosts and their average-looking son.
Sheikh Abdullah: Excuse me, Ms. Agent. Next time remove your shoes.
Sheikh Abdullah: Good is not a thing you are. Its a thing you do.
Ammi: I found my family and I let them love me.
Abbu: A man has one fundamental choice in life: to live a life in fear, or in love.