All That Matters is that Ms. Marvel’s Powers Come from Within

Inhuman no more.
Ms Marvel Episode Ending Mutants

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores Ms. Marvel Episode 6 and considers how the show’s ending recontextualizes the character. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

From its announcement, fan anxiety swirled around Ms. Marvel. Kamala Khan first appeared on comic book pages in 2013. She’s Marvel’s first Pakistani-American superhero, a character with polymorphic abilities that allow her to shift shape and size. These skills extend from her Inhuman genetic makeup, only unleashed after suffering Terrigen Mist exposure. Terrigen, what-now?

Honestly, as far as the television series is concerned, it doesn’t matter. The Terrigen Mists are a vaporized mutagen that alters the biology of Inhuman individuals. Inhumans are the offspring of a genetic experiment conducted on Earth millions of years ago by the Kree alien race (seen in the first Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain Marvel).

Kamala was exposed in the aftermath of a Marvel Comics event called Inhumanity. Her earliest comic book adventures focus on Kamala adapting to her new skills while navigating family and friend relationships. Basically, a modern spin on the Peter Parker set-up.

However, when Marvel Studios decided to adapt Kamala to the Disney+ screen, they ditched the Inhuman connection and the polymorphic powers. Instead, as we witnessed through Ms. Marvel‘s first season, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) can project “hard light,” a gift unlocked by a bangle passed down to her by her grandmother. She’s not the result of Kree experimentation; she’s related to an interdimensional immortal species called Clandestines.

Inhuman No More

Then, in Ms. Marvel Episode 6, as the plot starts wrapping up and the characters go their separate ways, Kamala’s friend-zone buddy Bruno (Matt Lintz) drops a bomb. In his attempt to understand Kamala’s superpowers, he’s discovered something funky about her DNA. There’s a mutation present. The episode underscores this revelation with a musical cue lifted from the 90s XMen theme.

For some, this alteration is a bridge too far. For others, it perfectly aligns with the original intentionality behind the character. Kamala Khan’s co-creator and Ms. Marvel Executive Producer, Sana Amanattold Empire, “Here’s a really important thing that people do not know – when we were thinking about the character of Kamala back, back, back in the day in 2012, 2013 when [G.] Willow [Wilson, comic book writer] and myself were ideating, we originally wanted to make her a mutant.”

So, why didn’t they? Speculation revolves around former Marvel Entertainment CEO Ike Perlmutter demanding Marvel Comics pull back the lever on Mutants since, at the time, those characters were licensed out to 20th Century Fox. Perlmutter wanted to promote their new Inhumans TV series and reduce the X-Men’s importance in the greater Marvel Comics universe. Storylines like Infinity, Inhumanity, and Ms. Marvel were used to bolster Inhuman importance.

As we now know, the Inhumans series was a colossal flop, and Kevin Feige became Chief Creative Officer of Marvel Entertainment in 2019. The ABC shows went away, or more likely; the best aspects will be folded into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Disney absorbed 20th Century Fox and the XMen and Fantastic Four licenses with it. Kamala Khan is now free to be a mutant.

Is Ms. Marvel a Mutant?

But is she really, though? In the same interview with Empire, Amanat refuses to verify what the XMen theme music seemingly confirmed in Ms. Marvel Episode 6. “Is she a mutant, question mark?” she asks. “I don’t know. I don’t know, guys! All I know is that we use the word ‘mutation,’ and that’s all I can say.”

Yeah, but we know. “Mutant” is not the official word, but we can safely assume it will be very soon. Marvel Studios is gearing up for a massive presentation at this year’s San Diego International Comic-Con. We’ll learn a lot about Phase 4’s conclusion and what’s coming next. If we’re placing bets, I will drop a large fortune on hearing some word about The Uncanny XMen making their MCU debut.

Whether or not Kamala Khan will play in that franchise is still up in the air, but her genetic connection to them is definite. Like Sana Amanat, the character is not terribly concerned about the how and why of her powers. She’s making it work, but she will have some serious challenges to face in The Marvels next July, making her cinematic debut alongside her idol Carol Danvers (Brie Larson).

A Marvelous Switcheroo

Ms. Marvel‘s end-credits scene pulls a switcheroo. Just as Kamala plops down on her bed, her bangle mysteriously activates. A cosmic mini-bang hurls her to parts unknown, and Captain Marvel appears in her place. The superhero who gave the Avengers their name looks puzzled and runs immediately offscreen. Uh, oh. Trouble is on its way.

Earlier in the season, we saw how the bangle could yank Kamala Khan across time. Jumping space is even easier. It is a little trickier to consider why it flipped her with Carol, but I’d argue that, like her powers, the hows and whys are less interesting.

Fans tend to get caught in the details, often distracting us from the core emotional value behind our favorite stories. What her powers are and how she got them is not what makes Ms. Marvel unique. Once again, let’s return to Sana Amanat’s conversation with Empire when she dismisses our mutant concern.

“The bigger story really is the origin of Kamala,” she says, “and everyone has been just trying to pin down what she is. We leaned into that – it’s like, we’re not going to give you that answer, because when you’re telling a story about identity, everyone is obsessed with labeling people and putting them in a box. I think that’s the journey of this entire season – she’s been looking for that box, even though she doesn’t need it.”

Ms. Marvel Does Good

Inhuman, Clandestine, or Mutant doesn’t matter. Kamala Khan has an ability that stems from within, and here’s the big reveal – we all do. Each one of us has gifts. Those gifts don’t make us special. It’s what we do with them that does.

In Ms. Marvel Episode 3, Sheikh Abdullah (Laith Nakli) tells Kamala, “Good is not a thing you are…It is a thing you do.” This pearl of wisdom comes straight from the comics. It’s Kamala Khan’s version of “With great power, there must also come great responsibility,” and it’s a call for action. Every day we have to practice the person we want to be with the skills that we have. We can do good, but choosing to do so demands courage.

Ms. Marvel is a series about Kamala Khan finding herself and her capability for courage. When she stands in her bedroom mirror at the end, she sees a hero. She sees the same strength she sees in the Captain Marvel posters on her wall, a stance she thought only an Avenger could accomplish.

Mutant, Inhuman, or human? Whatever. She’s one of Earth’s mightiest.

Ms. Marvel Episode 6 is now streaming on Disney+.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)