Warning: This post contains spoilers for the season finale of Ms. Marvel.
Kamala Khan has finally stepped into her full power. In the season finale of Ms. Marvel, which dropped July 13 on Disney+, the teen superhero is able to draw on her ability to “embiggen” when she needs it most—stretching out her limbs to become a bigger, more powerful version of herself. After fighting to keep the world from collapsing in on itself—all while balancing the tensions of being the daughter in a Muslim immigrant household, sneaking out to attend Avenger Con, traveling to Pakistan, and learning about her family history—Kamala is ready to become Ms. Marvel.
Of course, the teen superhero’s story won’t end here. The character, played by Canadian Pakistani actor Iman Vellani, is set to appear in the upcoming film The Marvels, directed by Nia DaCosta and also starring Brie Larson in her role as Carol Danvers, a.k.a. Captain Marvel. That film isn’t scheduled to premiere for a year—its release date is in July of 2023—but the creative team behind Ms. Marvel left viewers plenty to chew on between now and then. In Wednesday’s season finale, there was a clear hint that Kamala’s story may have something to do with the X-Men, a mysterious cameo featuring Danvers herself, and more surprises.
Ms. Marvel creator and head writer Bisha Ali, who is British Pakistani, spoke to TIME about Kamala’s connections with Captain Marvel and the X-Men, her embiggening powers, and why it was important to her to incorporate a storyline about the traumatic 1947 partition between India and Pakistan into the show.
TIME: Let’s start with the very end. In a post-credits scene, we see Brie Larson, as a confused Carol Danvers, appear in Kamala’s bedroom. What’s going on there?
Ali: I can’t say a single thing about where it’s going to lead, but I’m really excited to see the collision of these two characters. When we think about the relationship we’ve seen in the comic books between the two, we can see that Kamala is such a big fan of Captain Marvel—to the extent that when the teenager first gets her powers, she transforms into a physical manifestation of her idol.
How will the show tie into the movie The Marvels?
I’m not involved in The Marvels, but they read our show in the process of writing their movie. I know that Nia DaCosta is aware of Kamala’s journey, because it’s really important to see a continuation of that. There are things we’re setting up in this show that will have wider implications in the MCU.
Speaking of: in the finale, we learn that Kamala has a mutation in her DNA. Many fans have drawn a connection to X-Men, theorizing that she’s a mutant. What can you reveal or confirm about that?
I will say: we weren’t pulling any punches. You can literally hear the soundtrack to X-Men playing in that moment, so I don’t know that we could be any more on the nose if we wanted to be.
Kamala’s powers have been a hot topic, as some fans have complained about them being different from how they manifest in the comics. But in one of the final scenes of the season, we hear her say “embiggen” before stretching her limbs to morph into a bigger version of herself—a key feature in the comics. Why wait until the end to showcase those powers?
It’s not as though Kamala was holding back on embiggening the whole time. When she finally says it, she doesn’t shout it. It’s almost like a prayer: I need to be bigger than myself in this moment to fight this, and I don’t know if I’ve been bigger than myself in the past. Her physical powers are connected to this internal, emotional journey. Also, it’s a six-hour TV show that’s an origin story; if she’s doing all the flashy stuff from the second or third episode then it’s like—what are we doing here?
Going back to the first episode, Kamala feels humiliated when her parents surprise her with a baggy, green, Hulk-inspired shalwar kameez. But in the finale, once the family has returned from Pakistan, her mother gives her another gift: a Ms. Marvel costume that feels a lot more like her. It comes full circle. What were you trying to get at there?
I love things being symmetrical. In both scenes, what Muneeba was giving her daughter is an expression of love, even when she felt humiliated. But there’s an evolution. Kamala understands Muneeba more and is more open to her love, and Muneeba understands Kamala more and knows how to love her in the way she needs.
Cultural and family history were a huge part of the season. In the first episode, a member of Kamala’s family says, “Every Pakistani family has a partition story.” Partition is a familiar and painful trauma for so many Indian and Pakistani families, and as the season unfolds, we learn more about their experience, albeit with a magical twist. Why was it important to tell this story?
It was incredibly important for us in the writers room. Of all the things I’ve worked on so far, this felt like such a personal excavation for us. When we unpack partition, it’s so personal on a visceral, generational level. I can’t speak for every household, but for many families, we don’t really talk about it much. We catch snippets of conversations or tiny pieces of stories that, if you start thinking about them too much, make you realize the scale of what happened and its impact. Those ripples happen across generations.
Something that’s important to me in storytelling is that when something feels personally dangerous—like I have fear around it or I’m coming up against this squishy wall of vulnerability that I’m scared to poke through—that’s where we have to go. We wanted to go there because Kamala had to go there.
In my experience, Muslim Pakistani families and immigrant families in general aren’t always the best at talking about their emotions. But in one episode, we see Kamala, her mother, and her grandmother talking openly about their pain—and healing intergenerational trauma. What went into crafting these scenes?
So much aspirational thinking. I’m so proud of Fatimah Asghar, who wrote that episode, bringing so much of her personal self and all our hopes and wishes onto the page. This is a moment in which Kamala bears witness to her mother and grandmother, and that really heals them together. It’s a TV show, so obviously it’s more complicated than that in the real world, but it’s shorthand for what that kind of honesty, sharing, and empathy can really do for a family.
In the finale, Kamala’s friend Kamran, whose mother was the villain of the season, learns of her death. It’s the first time we see him so full of pain, almost vengeful. What’s in the cards for him? Could he have his own villain arc?
For me, it was less about vengeance. There’s an element of it, certainly, when you have a thousand things running through your mind. But there’s so much more. We just watched Kamala heal her relationship with her line. He didn’t get any of that, and only gets a second-hand reporting of her death from Kamala. He has grief not only for the fact that his mother is gone but also over the version of the relationship he didn’t get to have with her. That’s what feels emotionally explosive.
I can talk about what my intentions and hopes are for the character, but I don’t know if Marvel will run with this. I always wanted Kamran to find a home with Kamala and her community—her friends, her family, and the Red Daggers. I never had any plans to write a young Muslim man as a villain. It just isn’t in my nature to write something like that, given the media landscape of the last 20 years.
There’s a poignant scene in the finale about how Kamala gets her Ms. Marvel name, as part of a conversation with her father. What was the background there?
That was part of my pitch to work on this show. I was like, guys, you know that kamaal means marvel? I thought I was just picking up on what the character’s name was, but they hadn’t clocked this little piece of it, maybe because it’s not a direct translation. Kamaal translates more literally to a wonder—something to be marveled at.
Do you know anything about a potential season 2?
Not that I’ve heard. If you find out, let me know.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
July 15, 2022 at 03:28AM Sanya Mansoor