REVIEW: ‘Ms. Marvel’ Episode 5—”Time and Again”

In typical penultimate episode fashion, Ms. Marvel’s “Time and Again” spends the thrust of its runtime in 1940s India following the mysterious Aisha. On some level, the episode did what was somewhat expected of it—the viewer got to see the entire “last train to Karachi” story that the series had been hinting at since the second episode. So much of Kamala’s story and super-origin rest on Aisha and her death, so watching it play out resonated on another level than dealing with it through exposition. While every moment of the episode had the potential to reveal an answer to a major question, it was almost surprising how little the audience’s understanding has changed by the end of Episode 5. The episode is another prime example of phenomenal storytelling by the series, but it is the first time it has felt somewhat frustrating in the lack of details and foundation. The rushed Clandestine demise also opened up the door for a very uncertain and unpersuasive final adversary for Kamala. Considering Marvel Studios’ Disney+ track record, the fact that so much is seemingly left for Ms. Marvel’s finale is as nerve-wracking as it is exciting.

And the larger flashback sequence was beautifully human, even with freckles of Najma and bangle treachery sprinkled in. It invoked pure warmth and love between Aisha and Hasan, and the family stronghold of Ms. Marvel has proven once more to be one of its most expertly crafted elements. Not only was the human element noteworthy, but Marvel Studios took a (relatively) bold step into depicting the real historical world events of Partition. While Captain America: The First Avenger certainly brought a campy, sanitized, and fantasized version of World War II to the table, Episode 5’s portrayal of Partition and the events surrounding it is a far cry from what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been willing to acknowledge before.

Even though “Time and Again” undoubtedly tread the path of resolving the underlying mystery of Kamala’s powers, it somehow left even more questions to be answered. Most significantly, Kamala clearly did some version of time traveling to lead Sana back to her father. Such an act has countless and far-reaching potential consequences in the MCU, yet it is not explicitly confirmed or further explained in the episode. It potentially answers the question as to where the second bangle is—Kamala brought her own into the past—but that still is far too uncertain. Sana’s comment that, while everyone would love to know what is going on, is simply just the product of two people in love making something bigger than themselves, is a bit concerning for those wanting answers. That note almost seems to signal that the finale does not intend to fully flesh out the inter-dimensional elephant in the room, which is frustrating.

The “veil” breakdown toward the end of the episode, unfortunately, fell a bit flat for a similar reason. The Noor Dimension had been built up as the driving plot device and, in a way, adversary. It seems to have come and gone quickly with little explanation for why it opened up a portal in the first place. Moreover, Najma having the ability to close it and transfer completely out-of-nowhere powers to Kamran also invokes far more questions in a series that previously felt like it carried just the right amount of secrets.

Still, the ups and downs of Episode 5 were genuinely entertaining. While Ms. Marvel has not reinvented the MCU wheel, the edge-of-your-seat feeling during the train station scenes and the longing for answers is a happy consequence of the series’ ability to tell a moving, gripping, and intriguing story. While this penultimate episode maybe did not provide the number of surprises expected or hoped for, the thrill of the ride thus far is, for the most part, unmatched in the MCU.

Overall, “Time and Again,” is immensely enjoyable as its own story, but it manages to be frustrating in how much it holds back. The MCU series are notorious for rushed and forced-feeling finales, and where this episode leaves off is not particularly encouraging in that context. It is unclear if the ultimate villain is supposed to be Damage Control (which we have not seen do anything of substance or character since Episode 2), or if Kamran will keep the Clandestine adversarial line afloat. Either way, neither of those two options make much sense going into the finale, particularly since Kamran’s status has been so consistently fluffy as to have no real impact. 

The Ms. Marvel finale certainly has a lot of work to do to wrap up what has so far been a very satisfying series. If a second season lingers, it would make sense that so much still feels unsettled. But if Kamala’s bangle and powers are not legitimately explained in the final episode, the series will be leaving itself a hole considering the gradual reveal has been the most enjoyable part of the series’ plot by far. 

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