'Ms. Marvel' Episode 1 Recap: Easter Eggs and Post-Credits
What was up with that post-credits scene?
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Finally, the moment everyone has been waiting for… new Disney Plus series Ms. Marvel brings an animated intro courtesy of Marvel superfan Kamala Khan, establishing her love for superheroes and Captain Marvel in particular. This new Marvel Cinematic Universe hero's got a lot going on in her life, but things are about to get complicated for this teenaged daydreamer when she suddenly develops cosmic superpowers…
The first of the show's six episodes is available on Disney's streaming service now, with more to follow each Wednesday until July 13. Let's dive into an in-depth recap of Episode 1, including character arcs, Marvel Easter eggs and post-credits scene (and lots of SPOILERS!)
The first thing we learn about Kamala (played by Iman Vellani) is that she's a huge fan of the superheroes of the MCU. Under the name Sloth Baby, this New Jersey teenager even created an animated 10-part series about Captain Marvel, which teaches us someone can come out of nowhere and do something amazing (like punch Thanos in the face).
The premiere episode focuses on Kamala's efforts to go to fan event AvengerCon. As a sort of fictional version of an MCU stan, Kamala gives Marvel a chance to turn the lens back on fans. The show celebrates the passion and creativity of fans like Kamala, but there are some hints at the dark side of fandom.
Among Kamala's Youtube suggestions are a video titled "Bitten by a radioactive feminist?" -- a subtle reference to the many misogynistic and racist rants appearing on YouTube. And while the show clearly sets up Zoe as a possible antagonist, Kamala and Bruno are guilty of gatekeeping against their glamorous classmate when they spot her at AvengerCon. Who's to say Zoe's fandom is less authentic just because she has way more followers?
Still, at least Kamala saves Zoe's life, even if it was kinda her fault Zoe got clobbered by Thor's hammer in the first place.
In the show, Ms. Marvel's powers allow her to shoot strange crystalline light from her hands, strong enough to decapitate Ant-Man before shattering into pieces. When her power first manifests, she's flipped into an upside-down realm of shadowy forms with purple glowing eyes.
This is different from her powers in the comics, where she has the power to stretch and distort her body. The show nods to her bendy-extendy powers with the giant glowing hand that stretches out and catches Zoe as she falls.
The source of her power is different too. In the comics, Kamala got her superpowers from exposure to Terrigen Mists that awakened her dormant Inhuman powers. The Inhumans have appeared on screen -- their silent leader Black Bolt, played by Anson Mount, showed up in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness -- but the Inhumans TV show was a rare MCU misfire. So the new Disney Plus show refines both Kamala's powers and their source to fit in with the MCU's aesthetics and storylines.
The cool thing about Kamala's adjusted powers is that they stem from a family heirloom. Mysterious objects often appear in superhero origin stories, but the key thing is that Kamala didn't just stumble upon this powerful object: it's explicitly linked to her background and heritage.
Bara Hulk and Choti Hulk
One of the many ways in which Ms. Marvel feels fresh is in its representation of a young Muslim girl on screen. The series presents a rounded, nuanced portrayal of a Pakistani American family. Kamala, while conflicted about her role in her family and culture, isn't a one-dimensional character struggling with oppression, and her overbearing mother is more than a stereotype.
The show depicts microaggressions that people of color face every day, like teachers blithely mispronouncing Kamala's name, as well as the social pressures exerted on youngsters such as aunties gossiping disapprovingly about women who choose not to get married or even socialize with people outside their culture.
"We're the first show that showcases religion, school-life balance," Pakistani Canadian star Vellani told The Guardian. "I went to a very diverse school, and it's so important to showcase a child of immigrant parents who is proud of their culture, doesn't neglect it, and doesn't feel that they need to separate themselves from religion, their family or their culture to become their own person."
For CNET's Abrar Al-Heeti, Ms. Marvel is part of a long-overdue movement away from decades of portraying Muslim characters as terrorists and bad guys.
"In recent years, more shows have incorporated authentic representation," she writes in an exploration of Ms. Marvel's cultural significance, "like Hulu's Ramy and NBC's Transplant. But Ms. Marvel takes that to the next level by introducing the world to a young, ambitious superhero whose most powerful attribute will undoubtedly be her ability to shatter stereotypes and to show how teenage struggles can be relatable regardless of our background."
After all, the timeless power of the superhero myth isn't just about city-smashing punch-ups between dudes in tights: The secret identities, the great powers and great responsibilities inspire youngsters of every generation.
Kamala, Bruno and Nakia attend Coles Academic High School, established 1979. The school sign lists several writers and artists who were instrumental in creating Ms. Marvel comics since her debut in 2013. They include the people who created Ms. Marvel: writer G. Willow Wilson, editor Stephen Wacker, artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, as well as artists Ian Herring, Nico Leon, Takeshi Miyazawa and letterer Joe Caramagna.
Strangely, there's no mention of Sana Amanat, the Pakistani American Marvel editor who also co-created Ms. Marvel. She's an executive producer on the show, however.
Wilson is also referenced in the school's Mulan-quoting guidance counselor, Mr. Wilson, whose initials appear to be GWW.
At the end of the episode we see some agents of the US Department of Damage Control, Cleary and Deever. You may recognize Cleary as one of the agents who questions Peter Parker in Spider-Man: No Way Home, played by Arian Moayed from Succession and Inventing Anna. Deever is played by Alysia Reiner from Orange is the New Black.
Annoyingly, this isn't actually a bonus or tease, it's literally the introduction of some main characters. Anyone who turns off the show when the credits roll will have no idea who these important people are when they show up in the next episode. This isn't what post-credits scenes are for!
Kamala's notes include a list of Captain Marvel sightings (Tokyo, Sandy Beaches, a dark alley and an arena?)
Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man, has a podcast called Big Me Little Me. He also takes romantic breaks in Paris with Wasp, apparently.
Genius inventor Bruno has built his own Alexa-style home automation system called Zuzu. Perfect for updating the old Ferris Bueller trick keeping parents out of bedrooms.
Let's take a moment to appreciate that cool shot in the guidance counselor's office where a single frame turns into two cameras moving in different directions.
The Guardians of the Galaxy are apparently as well known as any homegrown superhero, which seems a bit weird. How does everyone on Earth know about this ragtag band of spacefarers? It's possible they became famous after helping to defeat Thanos in Avengers: Endgame.
You actually should check your mirrors more than every 15 seconds. And definitely stop at stop signs, guys, c'mon.
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