The MCU is all about family. Biological family? Look no further than Tony Stark’s relationship with his daughter. Found family? That’s the Guardians of the Galaxy. Royal family? T’Challa and the Wakandans. Adoptive family? That’s Thor and Loki, for better or for worse. But all of these examples are about how male characters deal with an adjacent generation.
Ms. Marvel subverts this trend in two different ways and sets up a big change for Episode 5. Here’s how.
Ms. Marvel’s powers come from the Noor, or light, first harnessed by her great-grandmother Aisha, who Kamala sees in a vision. On a trip to Karachi, she learns about how the Partition of India affected her family and her grandmother’s powers, leading her to visit a train station that changed her family’s destiny and go back in time.
This is just the most recent example of Ms. Marvel’s exploration of trauma that ripples through the generations of a family. The Partition happened 75 years ago, but it’s still spoken about at the dinner table in the Khan household. “Every Pakistani family has a Partition story,” Kamala’s mom says in Episode 2, “none of them are good.”
Generational trauma is nothing new for Marvel. WandaVision explored how Wanda’s childhood and the loss of her parents affected her life and the lives of her children. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier dove into the racist treatment of Isaiah Bradley and the trauma that weighed on Sam Wilson as a Black man trying to step into the shoes of Captain America.
And you can’t ignore the many, many Marvel stories about a character trying to do good by their father. Tony Stark, Thor, Peter Quill, Nebula, Gamora, and T’Challa all use their relationship with their dad as a major emotional core to their narratives.
Kamala’s story, however, is different. It spans all the way back to her great-grandmother and is noticeably a female-led story, descending matrilineally through generations instead of being yet another story about a father and their child.
This is a first for the MCU, and it’s leading Kamala on a journey unlike any other. At the end of Episode 4, we see her transported back in time to the Partition. Could this episode be a full flashback, showing Kamala living the lives and struggles of her ancestors? It would be the best way to underline how Ms. Marvel is breaking new ground for the MCU.
Ms. Marvel is now streaming on Disney+.