Ms. Marvel season 1, episode 1 recap – “Generation Why”

June 8, 2022
Jonathon Wilson 0
Disney+, Streaming Service, TV, Weekly TV
3.5

Summary

“Generation Why” is a lovely, charming introduction to Kamala Khan, her family, and her story.

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3.5

Summary

“Generation Why” is a lovely, charming introduction to Kamala Khan, her family, and her story.

This recap of Ms. Marvel season 1, episode 1, “Generation Why”, contains spoilers.


The final word of the Ms. Marvel premiere is “cosmic”, which incidentally is the word that this entire phase of Marvel storytelling seems to be built around. The Earth isn’t enough, after all – we’ve already had a battle for that, and the good guys won, as they tend to.

It’s Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) who says that word while staring at her newly morphing hand, imbued with mysterious powers through her grandmother’s bracelet. But she’s repeating something her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), accused her of wanting to be: “Some cosmic, head-in-the-clouds person.” It’s an insult. Cosmic is synonymous with not of this Earth; in other words, unfocused and aimless and unsure of who one wants to be. This is Kamala’s problem.

Ms. Marvel season 1, episode 1 recap

Kamala wants, in no uncertain terms, to be Captain Marvel, or at least a superhero of some kind. She’s a new(ish) kind of character in the MCU, one who can only exist because the prior movies and TV shows did. She has grown up idolizing the Avengers the way kids now grow up idolizing YouTube and TikTok stars. Her YouTube channel, Sloth Baby Productions, is dedicated to superheroes and retellings of their exploits, and often “Generation Why” lets her narration or animation and other visual elements bleed into the show itself, scrawling text across walls or dividing the screen into panels. There is always a persistent theme of mockery online when it comes to the MCU’s visuals, particularly its outsourced CGI, but it’d be hard to argue against Ms. Marvel’s clear, colourful visual identity.

But Kamala lacks an identity, so she tries to mimic others she’s fascinated with. She spends much of the premiere plotting an ill-advised trip to AvengerCon, a first-of-its-kind convention featuring a Captain Marvel cosplay contest she’s adamant about winning. But getting there proves a problem, since her protective parents Muneeba and Yusuf aren’t keen on her hobbies, and her “perfect” older brother Aamir is getting married. So, she hatches a plan with her best friend Bruno, who obviously has a crush on her, to get there and back without her absence being noticed. And, naturally, it goes badly wrong.

But “Generation Why” deliberately takes a while to get there, instead letting us essentially spend some time with Kamala among her family, a well-observed clan of Pakistani immigrants who are exactly like every Pakistani family I knew growing up in a mill town in the North of England. This is where almost all the episode’s comedy is, but it’s also where a lot of poignancy and authenticity are too. It’s almost a shame that Kamala is so adamant about disappearing into larger-than-life characters when her own family are so richly detailed and interesting. This, though, is kind of the point.

Kamala feels isolated, after all, which is a natural thing for someone from an immigrant family to feel. Her culture and religion aren’t unheard of, but they’re just uncommon enough to position her as slightly apart from her peers such as cool girl Zoe and even Bruno, understanding as he might be. Kamala’s fascination with superheroes seems, at least in part, a fascination with not having to care about such petty concerns, to be “different” in a way that is magical and glamorous and important. Kamala’s mortification at seeing her father cosplay as the Incredible Hulk in a shalwar kameez isn’t shame about her heritage, but a lamentation that her heritage must even factor into her idea of superheroism. She can’t escape it. And it really does seem like the overall sweep of the season is going to be about how she doesn’t need to and shouldn’t want to.

So, she doesn’t attend AvengerCon in a shalwar kameez, but she does attend it wearing a bangle send by her grandmother from Pakistan which turns out to lend her rather incredible and still quite nebulous powers. They’re not the same powers from the comics, although there are some similarities in the elongated and enlarged hand that springs from her arm. It’s pointless judging one way or another until we’ve seen the full extent.

But the point is that it’s the most Pakistani aspect of Kamala’s cobbled-together outfit that makes her powerful; the closeness to her culture that will, presumably, allow her to find out who she really is, and in which ways she matters.

You can stream Ms. Marvel season 1, episode 1, “Generation Why”, exclusively on Disney+.

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