Like a lot of people who watch and like movies, these days I have mixed feelings about Marvel. Yeah, sure, there were people who hated it from the start, and that’s fine. Or the people who warned us that, soon, we’d be saturated by these stories – you know, what’s pretty much happening now – and, yeah, they weren’t necessarily wrong. Though, not to get too into how economics work (my college degree finally coming in handy), there’s really no way to just purge consumer demand. Disney is a company that wants to make money and as long as people like this product, they are going to keep making more and more of it.
Anyway, back to my original point: my mixed feelings. It’s weird, because when I watch a new entry in the MCU, I still find myself enjoying that specific entry in the moment (though, lately, then forgetting about it pretty quickly). For instance, Thor: Love and Thunder seems to be a breaking point for a lot of critics, but, while watching, I had some laughs and, for the most part, had a pleasant enough time. But when I think of the MCU overall right now, yeah, I feel somewhat overwhelmed. In its current state, with multiple movies, the Disney+ shows, and even whatever it is Sony is trying to do with its MCU adjacent universe, it’s … a lot. (I’m sure there’s a grand plan, but it also does kind of feel like, since the MCU has lost some of its most popular actors lately (both by design and also tragically), there is some flooding the market here to see what works and what doesn’t. To the point I’m wondering if viewers are starting to pick and choose.
Which brings us to Ms. Marvel, which just aired its fifth show on Disney+ and for the last couple weeks has seen a lot of “lowest watched MCU show” headlines. So here’s the thing about Ms. Marvel: this is not the one to skip.
There are probably a thousand reasons for the viewership issue. A lot of people on Twitter have pointed out that it’s the first of the MCU shows to not feature either an already established character or, like with Moon Knight, feature a famous actor as the lead. Speaking of Moon Knight, I do think Ms. Marvel following so closely behind didn’t help things. Look, I liked Moon Knight because it was trying to do something different. But I also totally get why everyone wouldn’t be into it. And it did suffer a bit from “doing something different for the sake of doing something different.” I respected that the attempt was being made, but it was clear the attitude was clearly to make something weird. Ms. Marvel is more organically something different. It’s not trying to be different, it’s just different.
I also think some people got it in their heads this show is only for teens. And, to be fair, it was pretty much marketed that way. And the first couple episodes, which I enjoyed, but they also made me feel a little old. But I chalked this up to being a feature. Ms. Marvel, at least at first, is there to cultivate “the youths,” because look at the issues Star Wars is having in that department. This whole “people love the Prequels now” phenomenon is because between 1999 and 2005, George Lucas made three movies that spoke to kids. (I am not a “Star Wars was always for kids,” person. Yes, kids loved the Original Trilogy – I speak from experience – but so did everyone else, including Oscar voters who nominated the first movie for Best Picture.) And my friends who have kids, I hear it over and over, “Yeah they just aren’t into Star Wars like we used to be.”
But starting with the third episode of Ms. Marvel – and especially the fourth, when Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani, who is terrific and plays this role with the confidence of someone who has been plying this character for a decade) and her family travel to Pakistan – there’s a noticeable tonal shift in the series. It’s no longer so much about another day at high school, it now becomes about geopolitical ramifications of the British rule of India and then the subsequent Partition of India and Pakistan. Ms. Marvel provides a history lesson in the way Gandhi does. (A movie I just watched recently when I watched every Best Picture winner and, you know, is pretty good.) In the latest episode, Kamala is whisked through time to the events of Partition, which involved her great grandparents and then very young grandmother. It’s a stark departure from how this series started and kind of bucks the trend of these series starting strong, then just becoming energy beam battles. Ms. Marvel is gaining momentum as she heads toward her finish line.
So, look, I’m not here to scold you for not watching Ms. Marvel. After the initial two episodes I got sent as screeners, I thought the characters were a lot of fun and the show, overall, was fine. Then once they started streaming I fell behind a couple weeks (I think this had to do with Obi-Wan Kenobi overlapping, this hadn’t happened before with Star Wars and the MCU). Anyway, last week I decided to catch up with Ms. Marvel and, my goodness, I’m glad I did. The episode that aired this week, week five, was absolutely incredible. I was missing out. And there’s a good chance you are, too.
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