While director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy continues to have action scene problems, the rest of the episode’s direction is so spectacular it doesn’t matter. There are only a couple minutes of superhero action, with the rest being child-missing-in-crowd stuff. Obaid-Chinoy’s perfectly fine with the latter; it’s just the superhero stuff.
Last episode left Iman Vellani stranded in the past; the cute boy she likes has an evil mom, Nimra Bucha, who tracked Vellani to Pakistan to force her to open a rift between worlds. Vellani didn’t want to destroy the space-time continuum and refused; they tussled; Vellani ended up in 1947 India, witnessing her grandmother (as a child) trying to make it on the last train out during the partitioning.
All of that setup will be important for Vellani, but she doesn’t start the episode. Instead, it follows her great-grandmother, Mehwish Hayat, from her arrival in a small Indian village to the train station action event. Hayat’s an otherworldly magical being, but once she meets local Muslim farmer Fawad Khan, she’s delighted to settle into a human role.
The episode tracks their meet-cute, which is cute, and the salad days of their marriage. Right up until Bucha arrives, vaguely threatening Hayat. It just happens to coincide with the partitioning, making now the time to run.
The show’s been talking about Hayat for ages, so there’s built-in curiosity to see her story realized. Especially once her path crosses with visiting Vellani, it gets very emotional, with some interesting contrasts (Vellani’s emotional because she knows she’s Marty McFlyed into family history, and Hayat’s emotional because she’s scared of losing her family). It’s a beautiful protagonist hand-off.
Then comes the two-part action sequence, past and present, where the punchline involves Vellani’s mom, Zenobia Shroff, and grandma, Samina Ahmed, tracking her down during her big superhero origin battle. Then, after a potentially too brief farewell to Aramis Knight, the local superhero who’d been helping Vellani, the episode focuses on the three generations of women, Vellani, Shroff, and Ahmed, for bonding.
They’ve got regular stuff to bond over—Vellani not knowing mom’s teenage rebellious years—the historical stuff to bond over—Ahmed finding closure with her past–and the fantastical stuff to bond over—Vellani is, after all, literally magic. It’s beautifully paced, with gentle timing from Obaid-Chinoy, and fantastic performances from the three stars.
Fatimah Asghar gets the script credit. It’s outstanding.
The only place the episode slips—besides, obviously, the superhero action—is the end setup. Once again, the MCU is the easiest place to travel around the literal globe, in this case setting up Matt Lintz and Rish Shah for next episode’s action thrills. Shah seemingly takes four hours to get from Pakistan to New Jersey. It’s a good scene for Lintz and Shah, arguably long overdue, but it’s a functional tack-on compared to the otherwise sublime episode.