Ms. Marvel: Crushed

And now a cafeteria scene. How many cliche high school moments are we trying to work in here?

After what seemed like a long wait, Ms. Marvel finally debuted on Disney+. I’ve been enjoying the character since she first showed up in the comics, and I think they did a great job of capturing the spirit of the young heroine. After the events at AvengersCon, Kamala’s life is going to change, and they lead off with some obvious differences as “Crushed” begins.

Kamala goes to school, and there’s an echo of her first entrance, but she’s certainly gotten a lot more confidence with the emergence of her powers. Bruno finds her and we get a rundown of what any comic book/superhero geek would have done on finding out they have powers. Kamala’s attention gets split over the next few minutes between the arrival of her friend Nakia and the ranting of mean girl Zoe about her encounter with the new hero. Ala “Night-Monkey” in Spider-Man: No Way Home, there’s some confusion about what the new hero is called, and Kamala isn’t happy that Zoe is benefiting more than she is from her debut. Bruno rightly points out the importance of something most of the MCU is ignoring, and they move on with their day. We also meet a new student and hear about a big party, checking off several boxes on the “teen drama” list.

Later, Bruno and Kamala meet up and run through some tests of her new abilities, finding more success at what she can’t do. Kamala is also pushing to go to the party, which Bruno wisely isn’t interested in. Back up on the roof of the Circle Q, strange things are indeed afoot as they do some more practicing with Kamala’s powers. It’s an amusing little training/”How does this work?” montage that they do a fun job with.

A big part of Kamala’s character has been her Pakistani heritage and Muslim faith. That’s where we go next, and Kamala and Nakia go to worship, and there are a lot of interesting little details. We get introduced to a new mystery subplot, and Kamala encourages Nakia to reach for something new. Once she’s home, Kamala has a good moment with her mother, and we see that the older woman does have a sense of humor, as well as some kindness. Parental permission attained, it’s off to the big party, where we get cliches like underage drinking, handsome new guy, and at least one complete dick. However, aside from him, no one is really mean to Kamala and her friends, so that was a nice touch. The party has gotten too big, and as the cops show up to shut it down, new guy Kamran shows up to give everyone a ride and get them out of there. What this means for Bruno’s bike is never cleared up.

The car ride is awkward, with Kamala clearly smitten with Kamran and Bruno just as clearly not happy about it. They get dropped off, Bruno gets a kind of snub, and Kamala’s imagination leaps into overdrive when she gets home (how’d she get there from the Circle Q?) and goes into a musical dance number. It’s a great scene, including a quick break in the middle of it to for a small chat with Mom. The next day, Kamala’s love-sick doodling in class gets interrupted as her powers start causing her some unique problems. Nakia does her best to be a good friend, they talk about the difficulties of dealing with parents dealing with kids growing up, and Nakia confirms she’s going ahead with something they talked about. While they chat, it’s Bruno’s turn to get called to the guidance counselor’s office, and Bruno gets presented with a wonderful opportunity that has some serious potential drawbacks.

After school, Kamala kind of blows off Bruno to go hang with Kamran, although she invites Bruno to a big celebration first. Kamala’s failing her driving test in the first episode apparently wasn’t a fluke, judging by what we see of her careering around the streets. Kamran proves to have boundless patience and humor, and they do get an entertaining scene at a café. Aamir, Kamala’s brother, shows up with his fiancé, and Kamran proves to be remarkably adaptable with some impressive skills. At home, there’s a very amusing family scene, with Aamir getting teased, some surprising musical preferences, and then Kamala gets some interesting side effects from her new acquisition, which worries everyone and leaves Kamala confused.

Learning a tiny bit, Kamala makes a call and tries to do some research, but gets some frustrating half-answers. The next day is the big religious celebration, and there’s some more family hijinks before they go. I have to say, they writers and actors do a great job showing the loving, if not wholly functional, family that is so important in the comics. At the big Eid celebration, Nakia is in full wheeler-dealer mode, and there are some very entertaining asides that show why she and Kamala are such good friends, as well as some great names for assorted cliques. We also see that Nakia is amazingly persuasive.

It’s not all a big party for everyone. Zoe, mean girl and wannabe social media star, has been pulled in for questioning by Agent Cleary, who we saw at the end of the last episode. Cleary, who we saw in Spider-Man: No Way Home, has a good way of manipulating people, and he’s well on his way to get Zoe saying whatever he wants when annoying Agent Deever seriously breaks his flow. The two Agents form a plan, although I’m not clear on why they’re so gung-ho on apprehending the new hero. I’d think it might be fallout from the Sokovia Accords, but they never mention them. Zoe also seems to realize she’s screwed up, and actually seems to care at least a bit about the mystery hero that saved her life. Back at the party, Kamala keeps trying to pursue her slim lead, and not really getting anywhere despite her best efforts.

The episode has been a bit lacking in action for a superhero show, so they decide to fix that near the end. A staple of the superhero genre is someone doing something foolish and endangering themselves, and that’s what we get. There really isn’t a way for anyone else to help, so Kamala leaps into action, pushing her powers to the limits to save a life, and getting a lot more attention from the ubiquitous cell phones everyone carries. Kamala manages to more or less do something heroic, but is clearly still suffering from being a newbie. In short order, she plays hero, strikes a dramatic pose, gets attacked by the forces of Damage Control (at least I’m pretty sure that’s who Cleary and Deever work for), makes a great escape, gets some unexpected help, and then ends the episode on a big surprise. I’m really curious to see how this plays out.

What I Liked: Kamala is a fun character, not driven by tragedy, loss, or revenge. She’s not an orphan, or living up to a dead mentor’s legacy. She’s a geeky kid who has her dreams come true and is wresting with what that means. Iman Vellani is doing fantastically in the role, and I hope she has a bright future ahead of her. Bruno and Nakia are great as well, and each get their own stories instead of just being extensions of our hero. Her family is vastly entertaining and clearly keeping some secrets. I’m really intrigued by that final scene.

What I Didn’t: Deever just seems to be annoying, rather than as skilled as Cleary. Mama Khan is going to need to face reality soon, because repression and denial are clearly failing her. Kamala is wrapped up in a lot, but she’s really not treating Bruno well.

Marvel is great at completely changing genres within the big field of superheroes. Ms. Marvel is a great addition to the MCU. I’ll give this a high 4 out of 5, and am really looking forward to seeing what comes next.