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Mehwish Hayat as Aisha, Fawad Kahn as Hasan, and Zion Usman as Young Sana in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL
Image: Disney

Culture

Ms. Marvel Hits Hard with “Time and Again”

Ms. Marvel Season 1, Episode 5: “Time and Again”

Episode 5 reminds us why the series is so special!

“Time and Again,” the strangely short fifth episode of Disney’s Ms. Marvel, clocks in at under 35 minutes, not counting the end credits. Nevertheless, writer Fatimah Asghar and director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy manage to infuse more heart, beauty, and emotional impact into the first half of the episode’s runtime than many of Marvel’s big-name films have accomplished in two or more hours.

The episode is truly stunning, and it serves as a promise that MCU TV can be a platform for extremely compelling and gripping storytelling that even comes close to modern classics of the superhero genre like HBO’s recent Watchmen. Ms. Marvel hasn’t quite hit the masterpiece level of something like Watchmen yet, but it certainly stands out as something truly remarkable and more than worth watching. If you aren’t watching Ms. Marvel, you’re really missing out on one of the most exciting things happening on TV right now.

My previous reviews have expressed concern about Disney’s ability to handle a traumatic and deadly historical event like the India-Pakistan Partition. Considering that the artists involved have explicitly discussed the mindfulness and care that they’re taking in approaching the subject, it is clear that this is not something that they are taking lightly, which is a good sign. “Time and Again” is the much-anticipated episode that actually portrays the Partition story that is mentioned throughout the rest of the series, and it is absolutely phenomenal.

Mehwish Hayat as Aisha, Fawad Kahn as Hasan, and Zion Usman as Young Sana in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL episode time and again
Image: Disney

“Time and Again” chooses to take a step back from the high-octane superheroics to tell a story that is closer to magic realism than full-on superhero fiction. Considering magic realism’s history with political commentary and postcolonial critique, it seems like a very effective approach for a superhero TV show trying to deal with a sensitive political topic, particularly one like partition that is directly related to colonialism. The supernatural elements are lightly sprinkled in, and the episode feels more like a conventional drama with some magical elements, rather than a full-on fantasy.

The episode flashes back in time to the story of Kamala Khan’s (Iman Vellani) great-grandparents, Hasan (Fawad Khan) and Aisha (Mehwish Hayat). The two meet shortly before Partition and fall in love; because they are a Muslim family, they have to flee India to escape violence and danger. The large-scale tragedy of Partition is conveyed through an intimate story of one family’s journey through love, loss, hope, and pain. Hayat and Khan are breathtaking; their chemistry with each other enhances their already-outstanding performances, and they both absolutely shine.

“Time and Again” uses its supernatural elements absolutely beautifully, bringing them in just when needed to provide emotional gut punches without letting them overpower the story. It is hard to say too much about how the magic is used in the episode without major spoilers, but rest assured that they perfectly accent the episode’s emotional journey. A recurring phrase in the episode, and the series more generally, is the Rumi-attributed quote “what you seek is seeking you,” and the episode powerfully explores the possibilities of this quote.

Sana and Muneeba in Ms Marvel Time and Again
Image: Disney

The flashback part of the episode is powerful, beautiful, and heart-wrenching – guaranteed to make even the biggest Marvel cynic sob. However, this power unfortunately doesn’t quite translate to the entirety of the episode once the action returns to modern day. Najma (Nimra Bucha) has some strangely-paced character development that doesn’t quite do justice to the character: in general, she seems to be biggest victim of the series’ pacing issues, and her development always seems rushed.

The climax of the modern-day segment of the episode similarly feels a bit rushed and underdeveloped: either the episode needed a longer runtime, or (more likely) Ms. Marvel would have been better off with an extra episode or two to give the other episodes more time to breathe. Disney’s 6-episode format is a bit too limiting for a show with the scope and potential of Ms. Marvel, and it deserves more time.

As always, though, Ms. Marvel makes up for its shortcomings with a stellar episode ending. The episode culminates with major character development for Kamala’s mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), who continues to be more compelling with each episode. After some masterfully written and performed family moments, the attention then shifts back to New Jersey, where the episode ends on a note that should have fans absolutely hyped for the finale next week!

Written By

Steven Greenwood is a Montreal-based writer & director, and the Artistic Director of Home Theatre Productions. He holds a PhD from McGill University with a focus on queer cultural history, and he teaches university courses in film, theatre, and popular culture. His work is influenced by his passion for queer history & culture, and he is a fan of all things geeky, pulpy, campy & queer. You can find him on Twitter @steven_c_g or on Instagram @steven.c.greenwood.

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