Movies are easy to write. At least, they’re relatively easy to write. There are three acts, a conflict, a climax, and a resolution. Marvel Studios movies adjust this formula with their own unique brand of humor, action spectacles, visual set pieces, and attractive superheroes in cool costumes. More than a decade in, they’ve got it down to a science. But writing a TV show? That’s a horse of a different color, length, medium, and temperament. Ms. Marvel Episode 5 proves Marvel has honed in on a winning formula for its Disney+ TV shows, one that redefines and recontextualizes the entire narrative in a single episode: the fifth.
My hypothesis is that Episode 5 of every Marvel TV show contains a shocking twist that completely changes the context of the series, and usually involves a flashback of some sort. It goes back as far as the first-ever Disney+ Marvel series, WandaVision. Episode 5 featured a surprising appearance by Evan Peters as Pietro, completely changing our perspective on Westview. To quote Darcy Lewis, “She recast Pietro?”
Next came The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, which spent its fifth episode diving deep into Isaiah Bradley’s life and the racism he faced in the past. Sam Wilson listens to his story, which shifts his view on Captain America — it’s not a role he has to fill, but a role he needs to change to suit himself.
Then, there’s Loki. Loki Episode 5 was perhaps the most groundbreaking yet — it showed Loki waking up in the Void, surrounded by four alternate variants of himself, including an alligator. In this episode, we learned about what really happens when someone is “pruned,” and how the answer lies in the Void itself. It was pretty paradigm-shifting.
Hawkeye Episode 5 had two huge reveals: It established Yelena’s motivation within Kate Bishop’s mission, and in the last moments, it introduced Kingpin. Like WandaVision Episode 5, this changed everything by incorporating a huge chunk of the Marvel Universe that we never thought would work.
This leads us right back to Ms. Marvel Episode 5, which incorporates a long flashback showing just what went down between Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha and her fellow Djinn. It completely changes how we see Kamala and how she sees herself. It even gives us more elusive lore behind her mysterious bangle.
What does this mean for the future of the MCU? Well, two years in, it seems like the Disney+ TV formula is finally getting solidified for better or for worse. It’s making these TV shows seem more like long versions of the movies than television episodes on their own, but perhaps that will simply become the MCU TV brand. It’s working well so far.
Ms. Marvel is now streaming on Disney+.