Who is the big bad in “Ms. Marvel?”
That hasn’t been fully answered as of Episode 3, “Destined,” but the latest installment introduces the Clandestines, and they’re here to make life a lot harder for Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani).
Viewers last saw Kamala (as “Night Light,” a moniker she instantly regrets) saving a child who fell from great height during the local Eid celebration. As she ran from drones and cars full of Damage Control agents, she’s rescued by Kamran (Rish Shah) and his mother Najma (Nimra Bucha).
It turns out Najma and her friends are a group known as the Clandestines, who hail from another dimension and have lived in exile on Earth for upward of 80 years. They’ve been searching for Kamala’s bangle, which is part of a pair — but using one without the other could be perilous, as the cold open suggests. Back in 1942, they found one in British-occupied India, and Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat) used it anyway.
Marvel comics have a group known as Clan Destine, which barely ties in with this “Ms. Marvel” development except for one thing: The Djinn. They are borne of Adam of Destine and a Djinn called Elalyth, then pop up throughout human history, mostly to fight in wars. The group crosses paths with the X-Men, Doctor Strange, Daredevil, and the Inhumans — who gave Kamala her superpowers in the comics. The “Ms. Marvel” connection is a loose one, but in line with Phase 4’s tendency to use the comic books as mere outline or inspiration rather than explicit blueprints for the MCU.
Najma uses the word Djinn, which comes up in previous episodes and which Kamala knows well. The Djinn are ghosts, ghouls, or other spirits in Arabic culture. They aren’t necessarily evil, but Bruno (Matt Lintz) takes this link and runs with it, learning more later in the episode. Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) translates old Urdu text which reads as follows:
Legend tells of a group of hidden Djinn, exiled from their home world and damned to live out their days trapped in our own. They move in shadows, searching for the key that will help them get home, but to unlock such an ancient barrier will require a primordial power.
The wording is notably more sinister than anything Najma told Kamala (the word “demon” makes an appearance), and that’s because the Clandestine is manipulating her. She asked for Kamala’s help, making her feel comforted and protected. (The Clandestines also clarify that Kamran is not an ancient inter-dimensional being, but a totally age-appropriate human crush.) They got separated from Aisha during the India’s Partition and thought she and the bangle were lost until Kamala started using it. Najma describes its power as Noor, the power that exists within all the Clandestines but which they can’t tap into from this dimension. She claims the bangle and its power brought them together, and that Kamala will be fulfilling her great-grandmother’s wishes by helping them get home. There’s a heavy element of gaslighting to this, since the return will be highly dangerous and Najma knows this. She’s using Kamala for her own agenda and doesn’t care what happens to her.
“Those people out there just see you as a kid playing dress up, but I know that you’ve inherited greatness,” she tells Kamala. “It was Aisha’s wish to bring us all home, and now you must finish what you started.”
Her words hit home with Kamala, who shares every superhero’s innate desire to help others. But the words also sow doubt: Kamala still doesn’t believe she’s worthy of superpowers, and after what happened at Eid she’s afraid of endangering her community by drawing Damage Control’s attention. It seems wiser — certainly easier — to give the interdimensional magic bangle to a grown up who actually wants it, to go back to thinking about school and AvengerCon and crushes.
By episode’s end, Najma has revealed her true colors after the Clandestines attack Kamala at her brother’s wedding. This doesn’t mean she lied to Kamala earlier when explaining their origins and Noor, but it means Kamala has to use her limited knowledge to stop them, and she’s back on her own (with Bruno, of course). To do that, she’s going to have to believe in herself, and no amount of Noor can do it for her.
New episodes of “Ms. Marvel” air Wednesdays on Disney+.