‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 4 Review: Chaos and ClanDestines Come to Karachi


The Khans are headed to Karachi! Well, two of them are anyway. Following last week’s Ms. Marvel, where Sana (Samina Ahmad) told her granddaughter Kamala (Iman Vellani) to come visit her in Pakistan with her mother (Zenobia Shroff) to solve the mystery of the bangle, the episode opens with the two of them on a plane, Karachi-bound. But just because they’re flying halfway around the world together does not mean all is forgiven after the stunt Kamala pulled at Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding. Though Kamala is more than willing to explain to Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) what happened, it seems she doesn’t seem quite as willing to share with her mother.

They arrive in Karachi in a scene familiar to anyone who has ever flown to visit family in that part of the world, where the airport is packed with more family than can possibly be needed to convey the travelers to where they’re staying. In Kamala’s case, her grandmother is accompanied by her cousins Zainab (Vardah Aziz) and Owais (Asfandyar Khan), who are around Kamala’s age and are eager to show her around.

Before they can do that, Kamala and Muneeba head back to Sana’s house, where she and Kamala get down to the real reason for their visit. While Muneeba remains under the impression that Sana wanted them to visit because her mother isn’t getting any younger, Kamala and her grandmother set about trying to solve the mystery of the bracelet, of the ClanDestines who want to take it, and of why they both shared a vision of the train Sana took from India to Karachi. Sana repeats information Kamala already has: that they’re genetically djinn and that as a child she found her father at the train station by “following a trail of stars.” But the firsthand account seems much more matter-of-fact, and less the wistfulness of a daydreaming woman Kamala’s family seemed to think it was.

While out with her cousins, Kamala is determined to investigate the train vision further and begs off the coffee shop excursion to make her own way to the train station instead. There, her search is interrupted by Kareem (Aramis Knight), a member of the underground group known as the Red Daggers. When he realizes who Kamala is, he brings her to the Red Dagger headquarters where their leader Waleed (Farhan Akhtar) gives Kamala some added context for the ClanDestines.

He assures her that they are not the djinn she’s heard of from legends or religious texts, and explains that the nickname is merely a by-product of where they happened to arrive when crossing from their dimension into Kamala’s. This is a relief, to say the least, as it would be very disappointing if the MCU’s first Muslim superhero was also genetically linked to a group of beings often misused and misunderstood by Western storytellers. By making the ClanDestine’s djinn alias more of a nickname used by those who didn’t know better, it nominally ties them to the part of the world where they appeared while clearly marking them as separate.

Waleed then goes on to tell Kamala that if the ClanDestines get their hands on the bangle, and use it to open the veil of Noor that separates the two dimensions, the hidden dimension they came from will spill over and devour Kamala’s, making it essential that she keep the bracelet away from them. That, however, is proving to be more and more difficult as Najma (Nimra Bucha) and the other ClanDestines break out of the Department of Damage Control’s custody and head to Karachi. The only one who does not accompany them is Kamran (Rish Shah), as Najma feels she can’t trust him in this.

In and around the exposition and the lore that spills out in this episode, writers Sabir Pirzada, A. C. Bradley and Matthew Chauncey, and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy make plenty of space to examine not only the diaspora experience, but also the experience of those growing up in the shadow of generational trauma. While Sana spends the bulk of her time in her home, surrounded by memories of all that she lost, both during Partition and when her daughter left for America, Kamala’s cousins are not so similarly haunted by the past. They know their history, of course, but while their grandmother lives with the memories and consequences of choices made by British colonizers, Zainab and Owais are proud members of a yacht club, which is a colonialist institution if I ever saw one. True, it’s frequented by locals, but locals who still uphold a certain idea of class and social hierarchy. Neither Sana nor Zainab and Owais are wrong for the way they live. Generational differences are a tale as old as time. But to those whose families lived through a major upheaval in their way of life, there is familiarity in the dichotomy between those who live for the memory of what was, and those who live looking to make the best of what is.

The one major downside to this episode is the prolonged chase scene with the ClanDestines tracking down Kamala and Kareem. It’s true this is a feature of superhero shows, and Ms. Marvel is no exception, but there are only so many alleys to run down, trucks to dodge, and stalls to trip over before the whole thing starts to feel repetitive. The action scenes in previous episodes benefited from either being short or containing some kind of tension beyond Kamala’s immediate survival. In the third episode, when a fight breaks out at the wedding, there is the constant worry that someone will see her powers — a tension that paid off when Nakia caught Kamala using them. But here, the people of Karachi are simply too calm at the sudden influx of flying trucks and teenagers being chased by dagger-wielding assassins.

The sequence does end with another wild cliffhanger, however, something this show does especially well. Najma stabs Kamala’s bangle and opens what appears to be a hole in space-time, dropping the 21st-century girl from New Jersey smack in the middle of a train station in Partition-era India. If they’re really going the time-travel route, it’s possible Kamala might be the source of the “trail of stars” that reunites her grandmother with her father and therefore ensures Kamala’s own existence. But I suppose time will tell.

Rating: B+

The first four episodes of Ms. Marvel are streaming now on Disney+.

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