Marvel has released a lot of content this year. Moon Knight kickstarted the studio’s 2022 output, the Oscar Isaac-led series ending just as Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness reached cinemas. There was a slight reprieve before Ms. Marvel started on Disney Plus, while Thor: Love and Thunder arrived on the big screen a week before the season finale aired. Not to mention that, in the middle of all this, we were also treated to the Obi-Wan Kenobi series – and the Marvel and Star Wars universes share a fair few fans.
The unfortunate loser from the release strategy has been Ms. Marvel. The series launched to 775,000 US households tuning in (according to third-party analyst Samba), which puts it well under the 1.8 million who watched the Moon Knight premiere. That’s no statement of quality, as Ms. Marvel is arguably the best MCU series to date, plus the series drew a more diverse audience than any other show in the franchise.
There are instead a few other factors that came into play: Kamala Khan has limited name recognition outside of comic readers and gamers who played Square Enix’s Avengers; the cast’s not led by an A-list Hollywood actor; and – perhaps the biggest – there’s simply been an overabundance of MCU materials. However, everyone who missed Ms. Marvel is going to need to catch up, because the series just sent the MCU in a whole new direction.
Warning: the following contains spoilers for every episode of Ms. Marvel. Turn back now if you do not want the series’ biggest twists spoiled.
We can argue all day about the merits of Marvel requiring us to watch every Disney Plus series just to keep up with all the big events happening in the MCU. I’m not here to debate that point, though I do think the franchise has become somewhat unwieldy. It’s undeniable, though, that with one simple sentence, we’ve just seen the Marvel universe absolutely rocked.
“I went back and looked at your genetic make-up again,” Bruno tells Kamala during the Ms. Marvel finale’s last moments. He explains how he looked at how her DNA compared to the rest of her family, and found that she was an anomaly. “Kamala, there’s something different in your genes, like a mutation,” he concludes.
“Mutant” is a loaded word in the MCU. We’ve known since 2019 that the mutants – humans with the inner ability to develop superpowers – were coming. Kevin Feige mentioned the group during Marvel’s blow-out San Diego Comic-Con panel in 2019 but did not say when to expect them. Now, we have our first proper mutant (not to discount Professor X in Doctor Strange 2, but he was from an alternate universe). And if Bruno’s use of “mutation” wasn’t enough to confirm that actual mutants are coming, then it’s worth noting that, when Kamala blithely responds, “Whatever it is, it’s just going to be another label,” the theme song from the X-Men: The Animated Series can be heard. In other words: the X-Men are coming and Ms. Marvel’s leading the way.
Now, Marvel Phase 4 has been criticized for introducing a few too many plot points without having an obvious follow-up series or movie – just take the Doctor Strange 2 ending and Thor: Love and Thunder post-credits as examples. Unlike those, Ms. Marvel changes the MCU on a more fundamental level. Sure, the series’ post-credits lead directly into The Marvels, but the fact that we’re encountering our first confirmed mutant in the main MCU timeline is huge. How many more are there? How will everyone’s latent mutant abilities be set off? Not everyone can have a bangle. Could this be setting up a House of M-style scenario that sees the Scarlet Witch accidentally turns a bunch of seemingly-normal people into mutants? And will that lead to the X-Men?
Phase 4 has introduced extra-terrestrial threats, multi-dimensional villains, and third-eyes, but nothing has promised this sort of ground-breaking, long-lasting change to the MCU. Once the mutants are unlocked, there’s no going back. Like the Blip, it’s going to change everyday peoples’ lives. This could very well be the next major step in the MCU’s journey and is much more important than introducing alternate versions of characters from different universes. After all, we predominantly care about our timeline – the one where Steve Rodgers fought Thanos and Tony Stark sacrificed himself for the greater good. And now that the Spider-Men and Patrick Stewart’s Professor X have crossed over, there are not many major cameos left to mine in the multiverse.
Ms. Marvel’s mutant twist promises to shake up the main Marvel timeline as we know it, setting the MCU on a new course that brings in an all-new X-Men. It’s the best reveal Marvel’s done in a long time, and the one people will be talking about the most as we head into another San Diego Comic-Con, featuring another Marvel Studios panel. Tell all your friends: they need to catch up on Ms. Marvel, ASAP.
Ms. Marvel has concluded on Disney Plus – for more on the future of the MCU, check out our guide to Marvel Phase 4.