blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Ms. Marvel (2022) s01e03 – Destined

This episode feels oddly short like they knew they needed to keep the big action finale, so they cut material from before it. It’s a good episode—much better than I’d have been expecting had I known A.C. Bradley’s name was on the writing credits (she wrote a lot of “What If,” which is a very poorly written show). But it’s uneven. The episode gets away with it thanks to director Meera Menon, who got a fabulous grounding for the big action sequence.

But does everything need to do a Jurassic Park raptors-in-the-kitchen reference now?

Anyway. The too-short episode.

The episode opens with a flashback to 1940s India and the discovery of the bangle bracelet, along with a Captain Mar-Vell nod (I figured the blue arm was a nod, I didn’t realize to who, thanks IMDb trivia). It’s an Indiana Jones-ish archeology scene with a diverse, affable cast. First, it made me worried they were going to tie in “Moon Knight,” then I realized no one was thinking hard enough on “Moon Knight” for them to do it.

In addition to the Norse Gods and the Egyptian Gods being real, we’ll find out some supernatural creatures from Muslim mythology are real too. In the comics, Ms. Marvel is an Inhuman. In the MCU, “Inhumans” was a major flop and the last gasp of the pre-Disney+ TV unit. It seemed unlikely the origin would carry; the replacement is solid. Though, again, the MCU’s going to run out of gods to literalize at some point.

Cute and apparently very good guy Rish Shah’s mom, Nimra Bucha, knows all about lead Iman Vellani’s origin. Including Vellani’s great-grandmother, played by Mehwish Hayat in the flashback. Vellani’s only got so much time to process her secret origin before Bucha asks her to magic her and her friends into their home dimension. Did they know Peter Parker was Spider-Man from somewhere across the Spider-Verse and got dumped in the Tri-State Region? Probably not. Wouldn’t be terrible, though.

Okay, so. Vellani’s best (non-Muslim) friend Matt Lintz is jealous of Shah and worried about Vellani after her first public night out as a superhero, but still very interested in the origin and the don’t-call-them-Eternals Vellani’s pals with now.

He’s going to start researching Islamic mythology and running experiments on Vellani’s power vectors or something, but he also—apropos of maybe a cut scene—makes her a Robin mask. It’s a good scene when Vellani gets the mask because she’s about to talk about superheroing with her understanding mosque sheikh Laith Nakli, but it makes as much sense in the moment as Lintz getting her a sandwich.

They never talk about the mask for the rest of the episode. It’s like something got shuffled and never fixed. Because Lintz and Vellani have big scenes together. Lintz tells her he’s going away to Cal-Tech, he tells her helping Bucha will destroy the fabric of the space-time continuum, but he doesn’t tell her how or why on the mask.

Of course, Vellani’s also very busy getting ready for brother Saagar Shaikh’s wedding, which will be the backdrop for the main plot. Important subplots include Vellani’s best friend Yasmeen Fletcher winning her mosque council campaign and dealing with racist federal agent Alysia Reiner. That plot at least lasts a few scenes; there’s another subplot about ace YouTube video producer Vellani going viral with her first night out fiascos. It goes nowhere.

It’s seriously like they had an episode, cut half of it, and tacked it on to another episode. Destined’s only got about forty minutes of actual content. So it’s short by all metrics.

So, the wedding preparation, then the wedding. There’s a big action sequence at the wedding, with the don’t-call-them-The Old Guard attacking Vellani, which has significant repercussions for Lintz and Fletcher as well. Not to mention Shaikh and Travina Springer’s wedding getting interrupted.

It’s a great tone shift. Like, the wedding preparation stuff is strong. Good material for Vellani, Fletcher, and mom Zenobia Shroff. It fudges the first act being truncated. And the wedding, with some great dance sequences and very nice, light, lovable family drama, comes out of that preparation run-up.

But the public attack and superhero fight in the reception hall? It’s a sharp turn. And very well-executed.

The resolution’s a little less complicated than it ought to be but still good—the show knows to just focus on Vellani, and it’ll get through—with an intriguing, albeit seat-of-its-pants cliffhanger.

This episode should’ve been the longest, not the shortest.

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