Plot summary: With her brother’s wedding fast approaching, Kamala’s enemies begin to make moves.
Episode Title: ‘Destined’
Air Date: June 22nd, 2022
Directed: Meera Menon (2)
Written: A.C. Bradley & Matthew Chauncey (1) and Freddy Syborn (1)
The ClanDestine are an intensely niche collection of characters created by Alan Davis in 1994. Their debut comic only lasted 12 issues, and they’ve only popped up sporadically since then.
In the temple, the group stand on the symbol of The Ten Rings, suggesting a direct connection between the Magical McGuffins from Shang-Chi and Ms. Marvel.
The wedding band, Brown Jovi (LOVE that name), allude back to the Khans’ love for Bon Jovi and particularly ‘Slippery When Wet’.
Najma reveals that she and Kamala’s great-grandmother, Aisha, are interlopers from another dimension, going by many names, including Djinn.
Believing the bangle could return them home, Aisha passed it down through the Khan family, and once Kamala put it on, it attracted Najma and her (slowly aging) kin.
Upon learning the dangers of helping the Djinn from Bruno, Kamala is torn, and instead tries to focus on her brother’s wedding.
Learning of her hesitation by reading Kamran’s phone, Najma and the Djinn storm the wedding with murderous intent.
Damage Control arrest the Djinn just before they can seize Kamala, who unwittingly reveals her secret to Nakia during her escape.
Kamala’s grandmother insists she and her mother journey to Karachi, following a shared vision triggered by Najma grabbing the bangle at the wedding.
Oh good, the What If…? crew are here! As if helming easily the worst MCU show to date wasn’t enough, they’re here to deliver a definite downturn in what had been shaping up as the best show to date. The Superhero Pantheon’s Jerome Cusson called it a show-killing episode, which I feel is an overstep, but it was certainly not as good as the first two.
I’ll start with what I didn’t like and then pivot back into positivity. Like almost all of the Marvel shows, this series has struggled with the superhero antics and shone when it’s just about well-written characters having conversations. Najma’s crew accelerate their plans from 0-100mph in under half an hour, initially coming to Kamala in peace… and then riding the murder train into Aamir’s wedding. Nobody was under the illusion they were on the side of the angels, but the sudden shift fell flat because it wasn’t earned, and the action wasn’t overly compelling anyway. I couldn’t help but think of the third act of Jurassic Park when Kamala was cowering in the kitchen, and nobody is going to come off favourably in that comparison.
It was cute when Najma made a sudden noise to panic Kamala into triggering a shield to give away her position, and I’m always going to be here for the Stretchy Girl stuff, but literally everything else in that 5-10 minute stretch was powerfully dull. Also, it’s unclear if they were intending to take her alive as only she can open a portal home, or if they were happy to kill her to take the bangle and do it themselves. If the former… bit heavy handed, lads.
Thankfully, all of this stuff occurs late on in what is otherwise still a good episode of television. The purity of the Kamala/Nakia friendship remains my North Star (“What’s up, squishy?”, “Dude!” “Bro” etc.), and I was really pleased with the little pockets of family bonding. Aamir confiding in his father about his financial struggles and Kamala expressing how lost and overwhelmed she feels while her mother holds and comforts her are nice touches that all superhero projects need to find more time for. The wedding was fun even if the dance number was a little disappointing in execution; it seems like they did one take from several angles and then chopped it to bits to cover for underwhelming choreography. It was still fun, and I liked the triplicate custom of the ceremony. Bruno getting stuck in walked the line perfectly between cringe and adorable, too. But I kept waiting for somebody to show out in big fashion and it never happened.
They set up some second half of the season tension between the friendship group, with Bruno revealing his intention to leave for California, and Nakia being none too thrilled to have been kept in the dark about ‘Night Light’. I have faith the writers can navigate these arguments and land us back in a place of love and respect, because this is the conflict I’m more interested in than who can throw the most shiny energy objects at the other.
One last point: In the last 12 months the MCU has deployed the terminology ‘timeline’, ‘universe’ and ‘dimension’, which feels a little… messy. Are they the same thing from different perspectives? Are they separate but interlinked concepts? Did the Loki finale facilitate a seemingly-instant multiverse? Is the Noor dimension just another place America Chavez could portal to? This all needs tidying up, IMO.
Most Marvellous Player
Iman Vellani’s work here didn’t live up to episodes one and two… but she set a very high bar for herself, and I still feel she’s easily the most engaging performer in the show, and not even for lack of competition.
The entire (friendly) supporting cast brought it here. Matt Lintz demonstrated exactly why he was on the shortlist to play Spider-Man, a cute little dork willing to get stuck in with Pakistani traditions and unsure how to navigate life altering decisions. Yasmeen Fletcher telling the feds to go screw was nice, and as mentioned above, she and Vellani continue to play their friendship beautifully. Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur and Saagar Shaikh put in their best shifts to date as Kamala’s loving family. Emphasis on the loving this week.
Finally, Laith Nakli was perfect as Sheikh Abdullah, both in performing the ceremony and offering Kamala some sage wisdom. He wasn’t bad teaming up with Nakia to get rid of Damage Control either.
But this remains the Iman Vellani show and that looks to be in no jeopardy of changing. It cannot be overstated how important it is to be able to play a goofball and still make dramatic scenes work. Her newcomer status helps, but she so embodies this role more wholly than 99% of superhero castings.
Just when it seemed we wouldn’t get a Mephisto-style fan speculation controversy in this series, The Clandestine/Djinn have arrived to set the rumour mill ablaze. Najma stated they’ve had many names and reeled off a few, but there’s a better than 50% chance one of those names is eventually revealed as Inhumans. That bangle was attached to a blue wrist in the flashback scene, and the blue-skinned Kree were behind the creation of The Inhumans, of which Kamala is a member in the comics, as well as having ties to Captain Marvel. Black Bolt has somehow fascinated a pocket of the internet after Multiverse of Madness after all…
Who they are aside, the Djinn are pretty dull so far. It’s cool to tie them into Kamala’s childhood fears from South Asian mythology, but they sure are a mostly-mute band of generic sociopaths happy to hurt bystanders to achieve their vague goals. Any subtlety that existed in Najma’s character at the start of the episode evaporated by the end of it, and the rest of the group were basically DOA. One of them likes dumb things. Cool…
Fending them off at the end were Damage Control, who attempted a full-on raid of a mosque without a warrant. Subtle? Episode 3 doesn’t know the meaning of the word! They’re still a fine and logical entity to deploy in a show lacking a charismatic central villain, and they continue to deploy what is clearly confiscated tech from superhero incidents. I’ll repeat that I find this funny given they forced Vulture down a path of doing exactly that in Homecoming.
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. We’ll cover this show and the rest of the 2022 fare early next year.
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.