Last we left Ms. Marvel’s burgeoning young hero, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), she found herself transported back in time to Partition-era India at a train station after the leader of the Clandestine, Najma (Nimra Bucha) accidentally struck her family bangle. Has the bangle actually sent Kamala back in time? What will she discover?
But instead of starting with Kamala, this episode starts with her great-grandmother Aisha (Mewish Hayat). We begin the episode with an old video of British news video in 1947, proclaiming how “India will awake to light and freedom” and the creation of Pakistan would now be the home for Muslims. But we learn immediately about how riots and violent outbreak occurred across the region. This is Partition-era India, the largest mass migration in history, created by nearly a century of British Imperialism, persecution of Muslims that spurred Muslim leaders to ask for their own independent nation, and political incompetence that resulted in mass death, displacement, and family separation. The lingering effects of that generational trauma continue to this day across South Asia. I’ve heard from multiple South Asian colleagues and friends that “everyone has a Partition story” that has affected their families—and in this episode, we view that of Kamala’s family.
We then cut to 1942 where we see Aisha run from and kill a British soldier chasing her. We see her husband future Hasan (Fawad Khan) give a rousing speech to his community for independence before the British colonizers come to disperse the crowd. We then see the blossoming of their romance as Hasan offers Aisha a place to stay for the night. These are intimate and lovely scenes as we see Kamala’s great-grandparents’ story. “I like your roses,” Aisha says as she proceeds to tell Hasan her name, which means “She who lives.”
We cut ahead in time to see that Aisha has settled down with Hasan, and is now pregnant with their child. We then see Aisha singing to baby Sana in Urdu as Hasan overlooks them. We then cut to several years later when Sana is a child and Hasan listens to the British radio propaganda, calling out its hypocrisy. Their (presumably Hindu) neighbor Rohan then comes, offering them milk and vegetables for free. While Aisha graciously accepts his charity, Hasan refuses, prompting their neighbor to say he’s “playing right into the hands of the British” for not accepting. In particularly searing scene, Hasan points out the prejudices he and presumably Aisha have faced: he’s been pushed out of his home, no one is willing to buy flowers from him, and no one will sell milk to his wife. Simply because they’re Muslim. The realities of the intra-community divisions the British exploited and exacerbated are shown to us here.
Just then, Aisha sees someone out in the field. It’s Najma, and she goes out to meet her. Najma embraces her presumed friend, while Aisha looks uncertain at their reunion, and Najma mentions wanting to put their “plan into action.” Namely, the same plan she has in Kamala’s time, to use the bangle to open the door to the Noor dimension. Aisha has until sundown tomorrow, but will she comply?
We cut to the family making a plan to go to Pakistan as the riots are spreading. While Hasan expresses doubt about leaving his home, Aisha convinces him that no matter where they are it’ll be home, and very curiously reminds Hasan that he was the one who taught her “What you seek is seeking you.” (It’s the same phrase by the famous Persian poet Rumi that appears on Kamala’s bangle.) She then gives the bangle to Sana for safekeeping. We then cut to Aisha and Hasan in the crowds going towards the train, but Hasan calls her out for wanting to run away from Najma. She then finally reveals the truth about the bangle’s “magic” to Hasan. He reveals to her that while he did suspect something, he “never cared” because she chose them and that’s what mattered. Aisha then has Hasan promise he’ll get Sana on the last train to Karachi.
We cut to the train station, where Aisha sees Najma go after them, leaving Hasan and a crying Sana to board the train. Najma accuses Aisha of turning their back on them, and immediately stabs Aisha in the stomach, as she yells after her that “It won’t work!” It all happens so quickly in the midst of the chaos of the mass migration. In a very sad scene, we see Sana jump off the train as she calls out crying for her Ammi. Aisha hears her daughter, looks at their photo together, and calls out “What you seek is seeking you.” Her eyes glow purple, the bangle falls to the floor from Sana, and we immediately cut back to where we left Kamala at the end of the last episode.
Kamala almost immediately finds her great-grandmother, who’s lying down in a cart dying. She tells Kamala (whom she thinks is Sana) to “get Sana on the train and protect that bangle.” It appears that she used the bangle in an attempt to get a future Sana to save herself, but got Kamala instead. Aisha then passes away, having confidence that Kamala will achieve it because “she is here.” Kamala finds and carries Sana to safety. She uses the bangle to give Sana hard light platforms to step on through the crowd, which she then sees as the “trail of stars” from her story. It’s an incredibly beautiful and emotional scene as Hasan finds his daughter. Kamala realizes it was she who saved her family as she watches Sana and Hasan travel safely away on the last train.
As you might imagine, there are a large number of changes to this particular story from the comics. During the Ms. Marvel comics set during the Civil War II arc, we got a few scenes of Kamala’s great-grandparents Aisha (who is pregnant with Kamala’s grandmother on the journey) and Kareem (his name was changed to “Hasan” in the show) as they start to undertake the journey to Pakistan from Mumbai. The bangle is never supernatural, but is extremely important to the couple, as it is her wedding bangle where Aisha hid the money she got from selling her jewelry, ensuring the family has enough to start a new life in Pakistan. The show, in attempting to tie Kamala’s powers more closely to her family rather than them just happening to be Inhuman, decided to extrapolate more out of this storyline and have it be part of the origins for Kamala’s heroism.
As presented quite simply in this episode, this is where this approach has worked best. No discussion of “Djinn,” barely any mention of another dimension, only a family working their way to survive, and being there for one another in truly compelling ways. Just as Kamala’s family has always been. Once again, this is where Ms. Marvel tends to work best—and if we should get a season two after next week’s season one finale on Disney+, hopefully the show will continue to focus on that.
The head writer of the episode, Pakistani-American poet and screenwriter Fatimah Asghar, brought so much gracefully to the fore in her writing. While dealing with supernatural elements that might seem initially out of place for Ms. Marvel, she, along with the writing team, kept this Partition story grounded and focused on family, community, and poignant struggles and love. The MCU’s Ms. Marvel is consistently at its best when it’s a show focused on family and their love for each other, and Aisha, Hasan, and Sana’s story, with the involvement of their descendant Kamala, shows that in spades.
We then cut immediately back to Kamala returning to the present-day in Karachi, her apparent purpose fulfilled. All the Clandestine and Kareem (Aramis Knight) wake up with her, and we see a door to the Noor Dimension! Or, as Najma says, “the veil.” We then cut to Sana’s house where Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), Sana (Samina Ahmad), and the cousins Zainab (Vardah Aziz) and Owais (Asfandyar Khan) are (finally) shown worrying about where Kamala has been and are attempting to call her. And Muneeba finally learns about the “find my phone” feature on their family account. As Muneeba aptly says, “Spyware for parents!”
We cut back again to the Bazaar, as the Clandestine then attempt to go home, but when one of them attempts to pass through, dark crystals enrapture her body (Terrigenesis?) and her body crumbles to dust. Ouch. Also, this thankfully appears to put the nail in the coffin about any of these people being “Djinn,” as a being such as that should presumably be able to pass through.
The Veil then pulses out destructive waves, and Kamala gets Kareem to get out civilians. As Najma attempts to walk through despite what she just saw, Kamala begs her not to. But she proclaims that she, apparently, can make it. Kamala invokes Kamran’s name to implore her to stay for her son, but this inspires another plan for Najma (uh-oh).
She then walks to the veil, says “Kamran” and dark crystals enrapture her and she crumbles away as well. Um, bye Najma, I guess? Najma, even with Bucha giving her best in the role, was unfortunately a consistently weak villain along with the rest of the Clandestine, and I’m not too upset seeing her go. We then see Kamran receive a wave of the veil’s energy, as he makes a crystal fist like Kamala’s. Again, uh-oh. Muneeba and Sana then arrive, and her mother finally realizes the truth that Kamala is the “light girl.” Kamala then gives Sana the picture of her family that Aisha had given her in the past. She then bids goodbye and thank you to Kareem, who lets her know he’s just a call away in case she ever needs, and he gives her his red sash.
While she’s doing this, Muneeba finds Kamala’s necklace that spells her name in Arabic on the ground, broken, but forming the lightning bolt that will be her iconic symbol. We then cut back to the house where Sana, Muneeba, and Kamala reminisce over family photos, bonding in a way they haven’t before as she Muneeba tells her about her and her father’s “past adventures” and how none is as “thrilling” as being her mother. Sana also tells Muneeba that she didn’t “hold her tight enough,” but her daughter reassures her that she simply didn’t see what she needed to, and that she’s sorry. “Perhaps this was the journey I was intended to take,” Sana says, “One that would take me back to you.” They then do a group hug, leaving the Karachi journey on a lovely note.
We then cut to the Circle Q where we see Kamran approach Bruno asking for help as he hides from Damage Control, but he’s been followed by a Stark drone! He then shoots out a crystal blast (again like Kamala), and the drone shoots an explosive into the Circle Q, destroying the building with Bruno and Kamran inside. My money is that Kamran will protect them both, just in time for the finale. It seems like the final villain should be the Department of Damage Control, but we’ll have to wait and see.
“Time and Again” is the best episode of the MCU’s Ms. Marvel so far. In keeping the emotional journey grounded and resonant with Kamala’s family, and showing with both grace and realism of the tragedy of Partition, it takes viewers on a poignant journey to appreciate caring family and what they sacrifice for us. In taking the specific Pakistani family experience and history, the show succeeds here at doing what the Ms. Marvel comics do best, taking the specific for Pakistani Muslims and showing how it is universal. With a more nuanced display of the supernatural elements (which, judging by this episode’s clues, may in fact be more tied to the Inhumans of which Kamala truly is), and tight focus on family, I’m more excited going into the finale, and for where Kamala Khan will go next.
Ms. Marvel streams Wednesdays on Disney+.
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