Plot summary: Kamala tries to juggle learning more about her new powers and her blossoming feelings towards a new boy in town.
Episode Title: ‘Crushed’
Air Date: June 15th, 2022
Directed: Meera Menon (1)
Written: Kate Gritmon (1)
Kamala’s grandmother is named after Sana Amanat, co-creator of Kamala Khan.
In the comics Kamran gains powers similar to Gambit. He also explicitly works for a villainous character, albeit a very different one than we see here.
Speaking of the comics, Bruno and Kamala sit in front of a sign for Edison Electronics. This is a reference to Kamala’s first major adversary, The Inventor… an anthropomorphic cockatoo cloned from Thomas Edison. A little wacky for this show, but not the first reference, as there was a little bird sketch in episode 1.
Kamala and Bruno do their best to learn more about the limits of her new powers, training together.
Nakia expresses her frustrations with their male-dominated mosque, so Kamala convinces her to run for chair of the board.
The friends attend a party thrown by Zoe, who is enjoying minor fame after her close encounter with the new masked hero ‘Night Light’.
At the party, they meet Kamran, a new kid in town who immediately takes to Kamala.
Kamala tries to probe her family for information about her grandmother, but they are reluctant to talk about it all due to controversial ties to the Partition of India in 1947.
Zoe is later questioned by Damage Control, who learn that ‘Night Light’ is South Asian.
At an Eid celebration, Nakia campaigns for votes, and Kamala is forced to spring into action to save a little boy who falls from a tower.
Damage Control arrive to chase her down shortly after, but she escapes thanks to Kamran, who introduces her to his mother, who Kamala previously saw in a vision.
This show is the anti-Moon Knight. It’s fun! There’s a deep, interesting supporting cast! It seems to care exclusively about entertaining us and will get to the superhero antics later, and I am 1000% okay with that.
Treating us to two charming musical sequences is a quick way to my heart. The first saw Kamala repeating her trip through the school hallway with a new sense of confidence set to Ma$e’s ‘Feel So Good’, again allowing Iman Vellani to show off her charisma, but it was somehow outdone by Kamala returning from meeting Kamran and dancing around her house to ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes. I loved the minor interruptions when she had to stop to interact with her family before returning to her performance. Just truly lovely stuff. The soundtrack has been great in general, actually.
Making sure the peripheral characters have meaningful things to do is a huge part of crafting quality television, and something Moon Knight spectacularly failed to manage. Conversely, we have Bruno here wrestling with his decision to possibly leave New Jersey while trying to process his jealousy towards Kamran – and what that might mean about his feelings about Kamala – while still helping Kamala try to figure out her powers. I love that he has enthusiastically tried to learn about Muslim culture, which was evident in the first episode as well, and here manifests with him attending an Eid celebration and some debate to the degree to which he had gotten the dress code right. Muneeba loves it, Aamir dunks on him. Just good stuff!
More importantly, Nakia’s mission to close the gender gap by running for chair of their mosque is an excellent story, and I was pleasantly surprised by the inclusion of her struggles being caught between two cultures and her decision to wear a hijab. It’s messed up that this kind of thing feels revelatory, but that’s where we’re at. Regardless, it made me smile, and they arrived at it from a starting point of conflating malfunctioning superpowers with period issues, and even that was written in performed touchingly. Nakia was ‘the other friend’ in episode one, and is now one of my favourite characters.
Nakia’s subplot weaved organically back into the A-story, with her campaigning (also fun!) leading to Kamala’s first act of heroism, and then a chase scene and the big reveal at the end with Kamran’s mother, and their ongoing teases of the true nature of the bangle.
My prediction is the bangle is one of two, and they’re either the Nega Bands or the Quantum Bands – functionally identical cosmic McGuffins that would almost certainly attract the attention of the Kree and Captain Marvel. Furthermore, I think Kamran’s mother has the other one, and once Kamala wins the fight to complete the set, her powers will ‘stabilise’ and we’ll see more of the stretchy stuff.
All of this and it still managed to give The Eternals’ Kingo a shout-out.
Most Marvellous Player
In both Hawkeye and Moon Knight, I was convinced I was going to give this honour to the lead actor but didn’t. Oscar Isaac got close with 5 out of 6. Iman Vellani may be the first to run the board.
I still can’t quite believe she’d never acted in anything before (she’s credited in a couple of short films), because she has such range. The two very different takes on the hallway scene, her enormous crush on Kamran, her attempts to make good with her mother and learn about her family history and her little superhero montage and rescue mission were all fantastic.
But perhaps my favourite work from her this week was her bond with Nakia, and Yasmeen Fletcher certainly gave her a run for her money with the scenes at the mosque and in the bathroom. Their friendship is – like most things in the show – adorable, one defined by love, respect and mutual admiration. More of this, please.
Shoutout to Jordan Firstman as the movie-quoting teacher. He was good last week and even better here.
I think we can firmly remove Kamala’s mother from this section. They’re just different people.
Damage Control may not be glamorous as antagonists, but Big Government terrorising South Asian communities to try and find a teenager is terrifyingly believable, and Arian Moayed and Alysia Reiner make for an entertaining little double act, interrogating Zoe etc. I liked that Cleary (Moayed) is clearly less comfortable with the racial profiling aspect, evoking the very real targeting of mosques in recent years. Damage Control appear to be sticking around for She-Hulk too, and it seems they’re using tech confiscated from various superhero incidents, such as the Stark-like drones here. This is ironic, because that was Vulture’s deal in Homecoming, and Damage Control were the ones that forced him down that avenue by taking his salvage operation away.
But of course we have to have a more traditional adversary, and it appears Kamala’s nemesis will be Najma, Kamran’s mother, who appeared in a threatening vision and then got the mysterious person in a fancy car reveal at the end. I just pray the series doesn’t end with these two chucking different colours of hard-light objects at each other.
Katherine Singh wrote more about the Nakia plot of this episode and it’s worth a read.
My MCU podcast, Ben & Matt’s Marvellous Journey has already finished for another year, taking a look back at Marvel’s 2021 projects alongside Ben Phillips.
In its place, There Will Be Movies returns soon for its fourth volume, wherein Ben and I will look at 25 of our favourite films from the 1980s.