Aaaand we’re back! Episode 3 gives us more of what worked so well in the premiere, with a vibrant world, great character moments and satisfying plot movement. Kamala finally gets to stretch (no pun intended) her new abilities, and I’m so here for the way they’ve decided to bring them to life.
As she escapes the fallout of her underwhelming rescue of Minaret Boy, Kamala in turn is saved by Kamran and his mother Najma—she’s the woman Kamala’s been seeing in her visions. They whisk her away to meet the rest of their group, who call themselves the Clan Destine. They knew Aisha, Kamala’s grandmother, back in 1942, when she discovered one bangle from a legendary matching set and disappeared. Najma tells Kamala’s power comes from noor (divine light in Islamic theology). Noor isn’t accessible to Clan Destine in this dimension, and they need Kamala’s help to return home—but Najma also admits that they’re all jinn. WHAT.
Kamala, understandably freaked out because jinn are the stuff of every Muslim child’s nightmares (and worse, as she says, because they’re real), asks Bruno to find out if the bracelet really can be used for interdimensional travel. He reads a paper by our old friend Dr. Eric Selvig about it, and tells her it’s possible, but also very dangerous, and she should wait for him to figure out a safe way to do it. Bruno finally tells Kamala he got into CalTech—but he can’t leave if he doesn’t know she’s safe.
The DODC are still on the lookout for “Night Light”, and they walk into the mosque with their shoes on, how dare, to try to intimidate Sheikh Abdullah into letting them search the place. Nakia, newly elected to the board, firmly tells them to get out if they don’t have a warrant, but Kamala is shaken and wonders if she’s doing more harm than good.
Meanwhile, Aamir’s wedding festivities are in full swing, and can I just say, the joy of seeing this multicultural Pakistani Jersey wedding just filled up my heart. Also revolutionary: seeing a group of Muslims happily shout “Allahu Akbar!” (God is Greater) in the way we normally do—in praise and celebration on special occasions. I felt like I was at a family friend’s wedding. Yusuf’s speech to Aamir about being a man who chooses love and family was so lovely. There’s a lesson here I’m sure we’ll come back to, about the power in having the courage to be yourself, even in a hostile world. And this scene underscores the theme of family that runs through this episode, and bumps up against Kamala’s need to keep her new life secret from her loved ones.
Unfortunately, that new life encroaches on Aamir’s wedding in an explosive way. Kamran was sympathetic to Kamala’s request for more time, but the rest of the Clan Destine aren’t having it—they burst into the wedding hall bent on getting the bangle from Kamala by any means necessary. Kamran warns Kamala and Bruno, and even helps them fight the rest of the group once the building is evacuated, but ultimately they surround Kamala. Najma touches the bangle, causing a portal to open and a train to emerge from it…until the DODC show up and arrest the Clan Destine, allowing Kamala and Bruno to escape.
We finally got some action in this episode (RIP Aamir’s wedding cake), and I loved to see Kamala wielding that fist of light that pays homage to her powers in the comics. They did a great job translating that here, and I liked seeing the little shields and steps she created for herself in a real fight.
And we got the moment I’ve been waiting for at Aamir and Tyesha’s mehndi—the birth of Kamala’s iconic catchphrase! She asks Sheikh Abdullah how Night Light can prove that she’s good, or as she says, “Someone who actually fights for us.” He responds, “Good isn’t a thing you are, Kamala, it’s a thing you do.” YES. Not only is it catchy, but as co-creator G. Willow Wilson told us about its genesis in our interview, this motto embodies the essence of the Islamic concepts of good and evil. The Qur’an teaches that no one is inherently good or bad, but we can do good or bad acts. Each soul is capable of both magnificent and horrific deeds, and the door of forgiveness remains open until the moment of death. So there is no single moment of salvation—instead, each day we have to make the choice, over and over, to be a force for justice and mercy in the world. This is the kind of representation I appreciate the most: writing that doesn’t just pick up surface aesthetics and in-group slang from the community, much as I love to see it, but which knows the ideas and experiences that shape our lives.
And Kamala’s catchphrase not only perfectly encapsulates this principle of choosing to do good, it’s also such a healthier idea of a superhero than metahumans as some kind of incorruptible higher beings. I feel like part of the reason we got the nihilistic downerism of the Snyder films and other grimdark properties of the 2010s was the flat and unrealistic goodness of early superheroes. That kind of black-and-white character works when the medium is actually two-dimensional, but it’s difficult to successfully translate to the screen without leaning into camp (as we saw with Batman from the 60s to the 80s). Sure, we’ve grown a bit bored of With great power comes great responsibility, but like Spider-Man, Kamala’s ethos is of a woman-of-the-people type. As Bruno points out, she’s not like Carol Danvers, who would probably punch first and ask questions later, and that’s part of what makes her special. (I honestly find Kamala’s intense fangirling of the remote, underwhelming Captain Marvel the one baffling thing about her character.)
One side note here about those jinn. Bringing jinn into fiction generally gives me the heebie-jeebies, but let’s leave that aside for now. The random Urdu scrolls that Bruno was looking at, and which Yusuf translated, call jinn “pre-Islamic mythical creatures” which, um, no? Jinn are one of the things that the Qur’an teaches about. They’re invisible to us unless they choose to make themselves known; like humans, they have free will and souls, and can choose goodness or corruption. And they’re made of a smokeless fire, which means that one guy who was panicking about his arm catching on fire in the kitchen? Also makes no sense. I appreciate that this show is creating an alternative lore for Kamala’s story that leans into her heritage, but the problem with using things that come from actual scripture held sacred by nearly 2 billion people is that you need to do some fact checking. Otherwise, why not make up something from whole cloth like they did with the bangle? These may seem like nitpicky details, but I gotta say I’m not a fan of this particular development.
This episode was all about Kamala’s relationship to her community. We saw how strong and joyful her bonds are with her family and friends, the beauty of the community they’ve built together, and the strength it provides everyone who is part of it. Muneeba’s character isn’t quite working for me, but I did appreciate that moment when Kamala admits she’s going through it, and Ammi told her that the people she found at the masjid and the bonds she built with her husband and kids were what saved her when she first came to America.
And yet that’s all being tested because of the very powers Kamala initially thought would make her life so easy. She’s been keeping secrets from Nakia and her family, who obviously know now that something serious is going on. I’m assuming next week that pressure will come to the breaking point. And also—OMG. Are Kamala and Ammi really heading to Karachi to meet Nani?!
Images courtesy of Marvel.