Ms. Marvel’s 1×04 “Seeing Red” is the first episode set in Karachi, bringing us a different set and cultural intensity. However, the representation is seamless throughout.
While this episode was set in Karachi, Pakistan, the actual filming location was Bangkok, Thailand. This was because Pakistan’s political climate was too volatile, which is the case most days. Nevertheless, the set was well executed and looked similar to modern Karachi.
Fans get to see many cultural aspects, such as everyone’s favourite meal- Biryani, eaten out of bags, they hear beautiful melodies and authentic language, and they feel the heat from the food and the weather. Honestly, Kamala asking if the food is spicy is me.
Kamala turns out to be our favourite ABCD: American Born Confused Desi. For the record, this term is common for many non-native Pakistanis and Indians. I mean, I get called this ALL. THE. TIME. It doesn’t mean that we are any less culturally involved; it just means that we are more likely to have a cultural clash.
This episode also introduces us to the Red Daggers. The Red Daggers are an elite protection team that serves the world as they protect civilization from the unseen. The best part? They operate out of a Chinese restaurant.
This is the first episode set in Karachi and brings a very different form of Pakistani representation seen on mainstream TV. Typically, we consider ourselves lucky if we get a moment’s worth of representation because we are prone to seeing a fleeting conversation or an unnatural over-explained scene.
In this episode, we see Kamala undergo her culture shock as she revisits Karachi. From the minute she lands at the airport, we see her overwhelmed and floored by the vast number of people and the lack of industrialization. Initially, we see Kamala exploring her Nani’s home. Nani’s home is a very historical type of mansion common in Pakistan, with detailed tile flooring and oriental designs.
The view and “secret hideout,” aka balcony, are part of each home. Because the weather gets so hot, people will sleep on balconies and roofs in some houses that don’t have air conditioning.
Eventually, Kamala explores with her cousins and learns the careful art of bargaining with shopkeepers. A little tip, many of these shops and stand keepers can tell if you are coming in from a different country or, in their minds, a “richer country,” which will cost you more.
We even get to see high-society Karachi when Kamala attends a lunch party. High-society Karachi is lavish parties, big mansions, and exquisite food. Sometimes the food is so hot it rivals the heat, especially when you’re wearing jeans. It also includes many women and families with posh accents who look down upon the village people.
Karachi manages to be a building block for the series as it brings home many historical, cultural, and even supernatural aspects. We see the pilot speak Urdu and English on the flight to Karachi and we see the call to prayer that used to scare me as a kid because it was SO loud.
Karachi is a melting pot of cultures that stays true to itself. It’s not an extension of America or Kamala’s community; it is its own setting.
The train station sparks some interest as Kamala is seen to have flashbacks and visions of the train in the past couple of episodes. She asks Nani what it could mean and eventually decides to visit the train station and explore the historical site in her new identity-proofing mask.
The train station plays an integral role in this episode as it introduces us to the Red Daggers and even leaves us wondering what dimension Kamala has entered. Finally, Kamala seems to go back in time and witnesses the last departing train during the partition. Kamala sees the struggle of those around her firsthand in the end scene. Families are torn apart, the utter chaos and overcrowding of the train and station cause casualties, and the sheer number of injured and sick trying to get out.
Kamala sees the absolute mayhem of the partition and is stunned to find that this night is the one that will bring her answers. She nearly has tears at the pain of this historical event. Hopefully, in the coming episodes, we will have more answers and more history about the Partition.
Listen, to quote someone on Twitter: “Kamala is collecting boys like infinity stones.” The Red Daggers introduce us to Kareem, and I would like to say Bruno and Kamran. Who?
The Red Daggers offer us an elite protection squad that focuses on the salvation of Earth. They are fighting to ensure that the Noor does not expand their dimensions into our world. They even show Kamala the history of the Red Daggers and speak to her about the importance of the inscription.
Kareem and Kamala have immediate chemistry; from their fight scene to their witty banter, Kareem shows Kamala a softer side of Karachi culture- one her tastebuds can handle. On the other hand, Waleed is the educated, sacrificial adult that Kamala and Kareem rely on in the episode. He protects Kamala where he can and even sacrifices himself when Noor finds them.
Farhan Akhtar plays Waleed, and it’s nice to see Bollywood representation making its way to Hollywood. While I’m not sure if Farhan Akhtar’s character is Pakistani, casting an Indian actor to play him can be problematic, it’s nice to see Hollywood meshing with its South-Asian counterpart.
Kareem and Waleed don’t hesitate when saving others and protecting the bangle from the clandestine. They are some of Earth’s underrated heroes and the guiding light for Kamala.
We knew the Clandestines were intense. We didn’t know they were “leave my son in a D.O.D.C. SuperMax” intense. But, honestly, we feel for Kamran here. Karman only fights for what’s right, even if it means betraying his mom. I mean, even if his mom doesn’t want him involved anymore, she could get him out of prison at the very least.
When we see the Cladestines next, they have broken into the Red Daggers’ main hideout and begin fighting with Waleed, Kareem, and Kamala. After killing Waleed, they work tooth and nail to get to the bangle and eventually lose one of their own.
Many of the fight scenes are accurate in their skill level. However, while the Clandestines are super villains and have maximum power, Kamala still learns, fumbles, and has awkward moments when fighting. It proves that she didn’t go from human to superhero without challenges. Kamala also uses her brain power and finds resources such as large trucks that can save her and the Red Daggers. Overall, she is not your average superhero in battle but has an edge.
MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS
Most of the episode surrounded Kamala’s journey, the train, and the fight to protect the bangle. We also got to see an enriched cultural setting proper to our original ethnicity. But one significant aspect of the series is the relationship between mother and daughter.
While Muneeba tries to convince her mom to move to America, Sana knows that Karachi has always been her home. No matter how many fantasies she clings to, it will always keep her connections to her history. Little does Muneeba know that those fantasies are very much reality.
Mothers and daughters are tricky because moms focus on saving their kids and ensuring their daughters don’t go through the same heartache they did. Muneeba talks about how much she needed her mom; unfortunately, it never felt like enough. Daughters focus on building their own lives while trying to need their moms; sometimes, that doesn’t go over well. Sometimes they are too independent. The main problem is that they want freedom, but they also want protection, and how they go about attaining that is very different.
We also see a beautiful bonding moment between Muneeba and Kamala as they share some memories over some chewy toffee.
In the end, while this episode supplied more questions than answers, it also invited us into the cultural aspects and familial relations that are so important in desi culture. The ones at the heart of most ABCDs.