Disney Plus’ Ms. Marvel series needed to shift gears drastically if it wanted to complete Kamala Khan’s transformation into a bona fide superhero and wrap up all of its different subplots within the span of its season 1 finale. Ms. Marvel had already provided plenty of clues about how Kamala might end up joining the big leagues and working alongside her idol in The Marvels. But Ms. Marvel’s season 1 finale, “No Normal,” single-handedly turned Kamala into one of the MCU’s most important characters by featuring a very particular word and instantly recognizable musical cue.
This review contains spoilers for the first season of Ms. Marvel. For our initial review, go here.
Though Ms. Marvel started out with its feet planted firmly on the ground, the show quickly started taking steps up above street level once it began teasing out that Kamala might actually be magical. After sending Kamala to Pakistan — and the distant past — to learn more about her family and their roots in another dimension, Ms. Marvel brought her back to the present just in time to come clean to her mother about her powers after using them to narrowly prevent a massive disaster.
“No Normal” checks off all of the boxes we’ve come to expect from Marvel’s overstuffed, VFX-heavy final acts. But the episode also plays like Ms. Marvel’s way of reminding everyone that live action comic book adaptations don’t have to stick to the source material to be interesting. Unsurprisingly, Ms. Marvel’s Kamala doesn’t suddenly discover that she can shape-shift the way her counterpart in the comics sometimes can. But recreating some of the most memorable moments from Kamala’s first solo outing in 2014’s Ms. Marvel #1 is part of how the show’s able to sell its wild new spin on who and what she is.
Were it not for Kamala coming across her grandmother’s mysterious bangle in Ms. Marvel’s first episode, she never would have discovered her power to make hard light constructs or how her family’s history intertwined with that of a group of djinn-like beings called Clan Destines from another plane of existence. Both of those plot points have worked as interesting ways of making Kamala’s MCU story one about a young person figuring out how she fits into her family’s legacy. But they’ve also helped Ms. Marvel sidestep some of the budgetary and narrative complications that would come with directly adapting the powers and Inhuman origins Kamala typically has in Marvel’s comic books.
In the books, Kamala develops her polymorphic ability to alter her body’s mass after being exposed to a gas that causes people with dormant Inhuman (think X-Men but weirder and usually lurking on the Moon) genes to undergo sudden evolutionary transformations. Connecting Kamala — Carol Danvers’ biggest fan — to the Inhumans established a number of complex power dynamics between some of Marvel’s most important legacy heroes. But the MCU hasn’t exactly been in a position to touch upon those aspects of Kamala’s lore, mainly due to the fact that the Inhumans seemingly vanished from the franchise following the cancellation of ABC’s short-lived Inhumans series after its first season.
Even after Black Bolt’s recent cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, it felt reasonable to assume that the Inhumans’ time in the MCU was over and to go along with Ms. Marvel’s framing of Kamala as a special kind of magic user. That’s the idea everyone’s already accepted in “No Normal” as Kamala sits down the rest of her family in a botched attempt to be the first to tell them that she’s the vigilante known as Nightlight. While Kamala’s parents, brother, and sister-in-law are all understandably curious about how her powers work, no one bats an eye at her news — not just because they already know but also because none of it makes them see Kamala as all that different of a person.
“No Normal” does underscore how Kamala has been changing, though — evolving and growing more and more capable of taking on the increasingly dangerous challenges that come with wearing her family’s bangle. Just by gifting Kamala a bespoke superhero costume tailored in Pakistan, Muneeba’s (Zenobia Shroff) able to share with her daughter how, on a certain level, she understands some of what Kamala’s feeling and wants nothing more than for her to be safe as she fulfills her destiny. Like Kamala’s costume, the way “No Normal” brings Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Kamran (Rish Shah) back into the picture only bears the slightest resemblance to what takes place in Marvel’s comics, but the show’s handling of the characters gets at the heart of one of the Ms. Marvel books’ most important ideas.
The moment Kamran developed powers similar to Kamala’s earlier this season, his life became even more endangered than it already was when his mother and the other exiles from the Noor Dimension abandoned him. What little Ms. Marvel’s revealed about the Department of Damage Control made clear that agent Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner) could and would use the agency’s power to harass Jersey City’s Muslim population in her hunt for the city’s new enhanced vigilante.
Ms. Marvel #1 tackled one manifestation of Islamophobia by having Kamala’s polymorphic powers cause her to spontaneously transform into Carol Danvers because some part of her mind thought less of brown, Muslim girls like herself. “No Normal” takes a somewhat different approach as it puts Kamran and Bruno on the run from Damage Control after the agency destroys the corner store where the boys have been staying. By pitting Kamran against external Islamophobia rather than focusing on internalized bigotry, Ms. Marvel’s able to frame the community taking collective action as an effective way to combat hatred.
It isn’t until basically everyone in town has said, in no uncertain terms, that they won’t help Damage Control find anybody that the agency begins closing in on both Kamala and Kamran and their friends in a school building where they mean to capture the children. It also isn’t until it seems like Damage Control might actually kill Kamran and Kamala in front of a massive crowd of civilians that she taps into a whole new level of strength to will her powers into something akin to her comics self’s embiggened form.
Though it’s immensely satisfying to see Kamala stomping around on the screen and catching cars with her hands, you can immediately see why Marvel was hesitant about trying to create shots of her doing these sorts of things with her actual flesh. VFX heavy as Kamala’s final showdowns with Kamran and Damage Control are, they’re a fun change of pace that sell the idea of her taking on more formidable foes down the line. But what really makes the final few scenes that end “No Normal” so beautiful is the very Spider-Man-like way that everyone rallies around Kamala when presented with the opportunity to claim her as their hero.
“No Normal” closes Ms. Marvel’s first chapter on an upbeat note with an emphasis on valuing the communities we come from that nurture us. But what’s most likely to jump out about the episode to most people — even more so than the cameo who pops up during the mid-credits scene — is the short conversation Kamala and Bruno have before he leaves Jersey for Caltech’s gifted and talented immersion program.
It was almost a given that Carol Danvers (Brie Larson) was going to show up in Ms. Marvel’s finale, presumably by way of the other missing bangle that Kamala’s great-grandmother could never find. Carol appears to be confused and alarmed after seemingly switching places in Ms. Marvel’s mid-credits sequence that teases their next adventure together in The Marvels.
But Kamala seems much more at ease during her conversation with Bruno just before the mid-credits sequence in which he casually shares a new working theory of his about why she developed superpowers when no one else in her family did. Though Kamala’s non-human heritage is partially responsible for her light-controlling powers, as best as Bruno can tell, she’s unique in her family because of a specific mutation that makes her genes a little different than theirs.
Under any other circumstances, offhanded mentions about mutations might not raise many eyebrows. But the way a few notes from the X-Men animated series from the ‘90s swells as Kamala listens to Bruno strongly suggest that she might be one of the MCU’s first mutants is certainly notable. For understandable reasons, many people thought that Wanda Maximoff’s mental breakdown in WandaVision and Multiverse of Madness might pave the way for the X-Men to finally join the MCU. But there would be a similar kind of poetry to Kamala becoming a mutant in her journey from Marvel’s comics to its live-action cinematic universe — if that’s really what’s going on here.
After years of trying to breathe new life into the Inhumans properties by treating those characters like they’re deathly allergic to the X-Men, Ms. Marvel makes it seem like the company’s ready to try something a bit different with its newest hero. “No Normal” doesn’t say whether the presence of an X-Gene’s going to factor at all into Kamala’s future in the MCU, but Ms. Marvel leaves little doubt that its heroine’s going to be a much bigger deal the next time we see her.
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