The series is, in typical Marvel Cinematic Universe fashion, exceptionally well-cast and its striking visual ingenuity has helped to separate it from many other superhero TV shows. Beyond that, Ms. Marvel’s dedication to fleshing out its characters and world has imbued it with a refreshing level of depth and specificity. Consequently, the show has also succeeded at making Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), as well as her various friends and family members, feel like real people with their own lives and histories.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Ms. Marvel’s lackluster group of supervillains.
Ms. Marvel has a villain problem
Ms. Marvel’s second episode ends with the introduction of Najma (Nimra Bucha), the mother of Kamran (Rish Shah) and the leader of a group of mysterious beings known as the Clandestines. In the show’s third episode, Najma explains to Kamala that, while she and her fellow Clandestines are all originally from the Noor Dimension, they have been stranded in the MCU’s prime reality for many years. According to Najma, Kamala’s bangle has the power they require to be able to return home.
Ms. Marvel Episode 3’s exploration of the Clandestines’ origins does a lot to explain why they’re so desperate to get their hands on Kamala’s bangle. However, Najma’s conversation with Kamala is essentially the last scene Ms. Marvel delivers before she and the Clandestines turn into full-fledged supervillains. By the end of Ms. Marvel’s third episode, the group has already crashed Kamala’s brother’s wedding and repeatedly attacked her in the hopes of stealing her bangle.
In other words, the series didn’t spend much time exploring the Clandestines before turning them all into villains. As a result, the group’s members, including Najma, have all ended up feeling disappointingly one-note. Unfortunately, Ms. Marvel’s fourth episode doesn’t do much to fix these issues with the Clandestines either.
The Clandestines have a fairly small presence in Ms. Marvel Episode 4. The episode briefly catches up with the group to show them escape ridiculously easily from the Department of Damage Control’s supermax prison. The Clandestines then aren’t seen again in Ms. Marvel Episode 4 until the moment when they ambush Kamala out of nowhere in Karachi.
From that point on, the episode’s final act essentially becomes one long, chaotically edited chase sequence between the Clandestines, Kamala, and her two Karachi allies, Waleed (Farhan Akhtar) and Kareem (Aramis Knight). The entire setpiece is technically flawed on a number of levels, but the biggest problem with the chase itself is that Ms. Marvel has yet to build the Clandestines up as villains that viewers should care about or be scared of.
Instead, the group is depicted even more cartoonishly in Ms. Marvel Episode 4 than they were in the series’ previous installment, a fact that has only made them feel even more thinly drawn than they already did. If Kamala’s confrontations with them were more technically impressive than they are, that might not be as much of a problem as it is, but that hasn’t been the case up to this point.
The Inverse Analysis — With a few notable exceptions, Marvel’s movies have long been plagued by lackluster villains. Unfortunately, the studio’s Disney+ series have so far similarly struggled to deliver consistently compelling villains. For every Agatha Harkness, there’s seemed to be a Karli Morgenthau or Tyler Hayward.
However, he flatness of the Clandestines particularly sticks out in Ms. Marvel because of how well-developed and thoughtfully drawn so many of the show’s other characters are. It may simply be a matter of which aspects of the show its creative team chose to invest most heavily in, but it’s undeniably odd to see every member of Kamala Khan’s family come alive with such specificity and depth while the Clandestines only seem to grow increasingly one-note the more time we spend with them.
Ms. Marvel is streaming now on Disney+.