Ms. Marvel Sticks the Landing and Blows Our Minds in “No Normal”

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure they could do it, but I think Ms. Marvel pulled off a finale that brought most of the threads together, introduced some new ones, and made me joy punch the air on several occasions. (They also dropped a couple of giant ideas into the final moments, but I’ll get to those further down.)

“No Normal” was written by Will Dunn and A. C. Bradley & Matthew Chauncey from a story by Dunn, and  directed by Adil & Bilall—let’s talk about it!

Recap

Bruno and Kamran are on the lam. As they run through a train, Kamran’s powers begin to manifest again, and Damage Control catches up. Luckily, Kamran’s powers “manifest” by exploding a hole in the side of the train, and the boys escape.

Meanwhile, Ammi is giving the family the gifts she brought back from Pakistan, and Kamala is gathering up her courage to make an announcement. She is…the Light Girl. Night Light. Aamir and Abbu are shocked!

A little too shocked.

You told you told them already?” Kamala wails at her mother, who protests that she only told Abbu, but then Aamir and Tyesha overheard it because Abbu was on speaker.

UGH, speaker.

They’re all bursting with pride at their superhero, although Abbu has to admit he’s worried she’ll go running into danger. She reminds him that he didn’t raise her to stand aside when people need help, and it’s so sweet I don’t even know where to look, but there’s no time to be overwhelmed with emotion because Nakia’s Facetiming Aamir to get to Kamala to tell her that the Circle Q exploded.

The Khans are going to have to get used to having a working superhero in the family.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

But wait! We’re not out of the emotion woods yet. As Kamala’s getting ready to rescue Bruno, Ammi comes in with a gift. It’s Kamala’s final outfit. Once she fits Bruno’s domino mask over her face, she finally fully looks like Ms. Marvel, even if she doesn’t quite have the name locked down yet.

UGH, AMMI.

Bruno brings Kamran meets Nakia at the mosque. He thinks they can seek sanctuary, but as Nakia reminds him, they’re in America—they’re going to need a better plan if they want to hide from a shadowy government agency. Maybe the school? No one’s there on a Saturday. The umma stalls the DODC when they arrive, offering cookies, wisdom, and diversions, with Nakia even inventing a secret boyfriend to throw Agent Deever off.

Sheikh Abdullah stops the boys before they leave to remind them “Just because someone treats you as their enemy, doesn’t give you the right to treat them as yours.” And then he gives them a perfect update to the patented MCU “I’m in disguise” disguise: a pair of baseball caps, one for Bruno labelled “Haram”, and one for Kamran labelled “Halal”.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Kamala finds them in the alley and hugs the crap out of Bruno. She thought the worst when she heard Nakia’s news. (Speaking of, how did they escape?) Kamran has another attack, and tells her he feels like he’s “being crushed from the inside”, but they have to bolt before the DODC catches up. Kamala calls Kimo, pleads with him to offer Kamran shelter, and he reluctantly agrees. Now they just have to get Kamran to the harbor by midnight.

But it’s not going to be that simple, because they’ve barely reached the school before the DODC gets there. Kamala has just enough time to apologize to Nakia for hiding her powers before Zoe Zimmer shows up. She was filming a video in the theater (it has good lighting!) and she wants to help. After all, Kamala saved her life. The show does a fun quasi-Assembled-Avengers spin around the group, and then Kamala outlines her plan!

Except then Aamir shows up to keep an eye on Kamala!

Ammi insisted!

I love you, Ammi.

The plan involves softballs, fire extinguishers, Bruno’s chemistry skillz, skeletons (???), and all of them wearing school hoodies to confuse the agents. And it works! For a while. One of the agents even thinks the target can duplicate himself because of all the be-hoodied kids running around. Kamala tells Bruno that Kamran’s mom died back in Pakistan, and Bruno makes her promise not to tell him until after they’re safe.

I love you, Bruno.

Zoe posts that they’re under attack, and asks her followers to come help. Agent Cleary, who seems to actually understand what the words “damage control” mean, calls Deever to tell her to stand down before they hurt a bunch of kids, but Deever ignores him and escalates. Soon the agents are surrounded by people: Zoe’s crew, the Khans, people from the mosque, the Gyro King, everybody. Inside the school Kamala and Kamran almost kiss, Bruno walks in on them and basically walks into a bunch of agents as a distraction but probably also because he’s got some feelings. Everyone except Kamala and Kamran are caught.

Kamran, of course, figures out about his mother, he and Kamala fight a little bit, and in the swirl of grief and anger he walks out of the school to face off with Damage Control.

Oh, no.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Of course he lashes out and uses his power—which he can barely control—to knock cars over and throw people. And of course Kamala comes out and creates shields, catches the cars, and protects him when DODC agents blast him. She whispers “Embiggen”, grows to a great height, knocks a lot of the weaponry out, and creates a bubble around her and Kamran. Kamran asks what he can possibly do now—he’s not normal, he’ll never be accepted, and he can’t go back to his mother’s world. But Kamala tells him that his mother used her last moments to save this world for him, rather than going back by herself. “She chose you.”

And as far as “normal”? “There is no normal. There’s just us, and what we’ve been given.”

Kamran considers this. Kamala says she’ll distract everyone so he can head for the harbor, and punches a hole in the ground. (Not sure how that’ll work, but I’ll go with it.)

Once the bubble starts to crumble around her, the DODC moves in again, but the community has had enough. They surround Kamala to give her time to escape with her secret identity safe. Even the police join in, and when Agent Deever gets another furious call from Agent Cleary it’s all over.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

We cut to a series of TikToks of people who were at the battle. Ice Cream Pizza kid wonders if maybe he was a beta test, and that’s why Kamala broke his leg when she dropped him. The Real Gyro King is happy to demonstrate some of Kamala’s moves. Sheikh Abdullah is excited that his community has their own superhero, but also wants to remind everyone to come for prayer at the mosque. Zoe includes Nakia in her videos now. Kamala gets to watch her community celebrate her, and ugh, I think we’re back in the land of emotion again. We see Bruno drop a note into her locker—he’s wearing a CalTech sweatshirt, so I think he’s made a decision. And Kamran’s tentatively walking into ABC Chinese, where The Red Dagger awaits. And…ah, crap. Kamala and Abbu are gonna have a quiet talk on the roof. I’m doomed.

Abbu just wants to tell her how proud he is of her. He and Ammi didn’t think they’d have a second child, and then she happened, and she was perfect. That’s why they named her Kamala: it means “perfect” in Arabic, but in Urdu it’s more like…”wonder”? Or maybe… “marvel”. She’s their “Miss Marvel.”

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

And yes, she has the same name as Carol frickin’ Danvers.

We cut to “One Week Later”. Bruno pulls up in Kamran’s sweet ride. He has Nakia with him, and a brief argument breaks out between the three besties over whether the car should stay in its true home, Jersey City, or accompany Bruno to CalTech. But Bruno also has something important to tell Kamala. He looked at her DNA again (nerd!) because Aamir wanted to know if he also had powers (awww, Aamir!) and, well, he discovered something. Kamala’s DNA appears to be…mutated.

And then the classic 90s X-Men theme plays.

AAAAHHHHHH—

But Kamala brushes it off as just another label. Nakia has somehow swiped Bruno’s keys, and leans out of the driver’s side window and says: “Get in losers, we’re getting shawarma”, and reader if the MCU ended right there I’d be fine with it.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

But of course it doesn’t—there’s an after-credits. Kamala’s back in her room. Her bangle glows, and as she stares at it she’s sucked through her closet door. And who steps through the Kamala-shaped hole? Carol frickin’ Danvers! Who stares around at what is, essentially, a shrine to her, muttering, “Ohhh, no. No no no no…” until the screen cuts to black and informs us that Ms. Marvel will return in The Marvels.

 

Cosmic Thoughts!

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

After going maybe a little too big with the flight to Karachi/battle with the Clandestines, Ms. Marvel brings it all back home this week. We’re back in Jersey City, on the street, watching a bunch of kids work together to help each other, with some help from a loving and supportive community. A lot of this episode was pure fun, especially the Home Alone-esque plan to hold Damage Control at bay, until we were watching Bruno get cold-cocked by a federal agent.

I have to say watching the agents invade first a mosque and then a school, guns blazing, shouting orders—it was a lot.

But until that I thought this episode held an amazing balance of warmth between the Khans, deadpan humor, some more serious moments, and action that felt appropriately BIG without ever overpowering the story. Giving Bruno a scene to tell Kamala not to tall Kamran about his mom was a great choice—again, the show hasn’t made it clear what happened with Bruno’s family, but I liked that after everything he’s looking out for someone who’s just become an orphan. I loved that the writers took time for Kamala to apologize to Nakia, and for Zoe to come back into the fold.

Speaking of Zoe. Softball team, hm? And you think Kamala should be able to talk about her identity only once she’s ready? Noted.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Probably my favorite scene was the gentle standoff between Sheikh Abdullah and Agent Deever. The image of a white U.S. official snapping orders in the face of a brown Muslim is already going to be fraught, and the way the writers kept playing with Agent Deever as an exasperated Karen frustrated by the imam’s quiet moral authority was perfection. And the cookies? How can you turn down Uncle Rasheed’s cookies? They have nutmeg! I love how the writers are completely matter-of-fact about the way a mosque would be treated in the U.S., and they expect all the non-Muslim viewers to keep up.

But OK let me get to the bit I have to yell about: Kamala Khan is a mutant??? An X-Person??? Is THIS how they’re bringing them in??? Is this like the MCU soft-launching a mutant gf on Instagram? What???

AND USING THE THEME SONG????????

Again, AAAAHHHHHHHHH

But of course, Kamala’s right. It will just be another label. I’ve been so taken with Iman Vellani’s performance, and everything she brings to Kamala, that I don’t really care how they define her powers, or how they veer away from the comics, as long as they give her good scripts.

And in the midst of everything else, thanks for the “My Body, My Choice” poster, Ms. Marvel.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

OK now about that shawarma thing—a few years ago I wrote a (lengthy!) piece about how everything the MCU has done is an attempt to undo 9/11/01 and heal New York. One of my points was that the Avengers’ choice to go get shawarma as a celebratory post-battle meal was significant, because it read as a pop cultural attempt to push back on the wave of horrific anti-Arabic and anti-Muslim crap of that era. After all, it’s New York, and Stark was paying—they could have gotten any kind of food they wanted. (And, Stark was paying, so seriously they could have gotten any food they wanted, but his whole arc in Iron Man is about being an arms dealer supplying wars in the Middle East, no? Which he renounces and puts into being a force for world peace and sustainable energy?) So, for this show, with its Pakistani-American superhero, with her Arabic name, and her Muslim family, for that show to end with her and her freaking mosque board member bff driving off for a post-battle shawarma feast? Did I yell into my hands a little? Reader I did. Apologies to my neighbors.

As ever the acting here was uniformly excellent. Matt Lintz’s Bruno remains my favorite, with Saagar Shaikh’s Aamir almost bumping him out of the top spot. Wait, what the hell am I saying, Mohan Kapur’s Abbu is my favorite. Or Zenobia Shroff’s Ammi? Or maybe Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia.

UGH. Who am I kidding, I love them all.

But special shout to the way the writers put Abbu in center stage this week, since Ammi got so much time last week.

I have to say I was worried about how they were going to fit everything into six episodes, and I do think trying to weave the Clandestines, and Partition, and a trip to Karachi, and the Red Dagger all into a story about a Jersey girl coming to terms with her superpowers was a little too much. It would have been nice to stay in Jersey City the entire time, and save the Clandestines and Kamran for season two. But I guess if they’re trying to get Ms. Marvel established before The Marvels they needed to rush a bit, and I really enjoyed what we got.

 

Favorite Quotes

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Bruno: It’s Kamala. She stress-ate a gyro

***

Kamala: You told them already!
Ammi: I only told Abbu!

***

Abbu: Speaker is just very convenient!

***

Nakia: You crazy? You can’t hide in a mosque!
Bruno: Houses of worship are supposed to offer sanctuary!
Nakia: This is a mosque in America!

***

Uncle Rasheed: The secret ingredient is nutmeg.

***

Sheikh Abdullah: I don’t need anyone on my side. I’m not even concerned if God is on my side as long as I am on His side. God is always right.
Agent Deever: I don’t have time for Quranic quotes. Excuse me.
Sheikh Abdullah: Actually, that was Abraham Lincoln?

***

Kamala: Superheroes don’t need chaperones!

***

Kamala: Zoe, you’re on the softball team, right? You and Nakia grab as many balls as you can.

***

Zoe: I think Kamala should be able to tell the world when she’s ready.

***

Kamala: There is no normal. There’s just us and what we’ve been given.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Sheikh Abdullah: Looks like I am now a hot dog! Let us hope this hot dog is halal.

***

Sheikh Abdullah: Come celebrate our own superhero! Free ice cream pizza! …after salah of course.

***

Kamala: I have the same name as Carol frickin’ Danvers???!!!
Abbu: I don’t know who that is.

***

Nakia: Get in losers, were getting shawarma.

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