Ms. Marvel's fifth episode re-introduced time travel to the MCU for yet another time. Previous interactions include the Time Stone in Doctor Strange and Avengers: Infinity War, the Time Heist Machine in Avengers: Endgame, and the TemPad in Loki. Endgame in many ways introduced how time travel works for audiences. Many people may have had a similar thought when Scott Lang exclaimed, "So Back to the Future's a bunch of bullshit?"
Meaning, the Back to the Future logic is that when you use a time machine to travel to the past, you can affect the future. Alternatively, in Endgame, Dr. Bruce Banner explains, "If you go into the past, that past becomes your future, and your former present becomes the past, which can't now be changed by your new future!"
To simplify, thus far in the MCU between Endgame and Loki, time-traveling meant creating alternate branches of reality through the Multiverse. In Ms. Marvel, seemingly through the magic of the Noor Dimension, Kamala Khan was transported back to a non-branched reality of 1947. This seemingly goes against the established MCU time travel rules, but there are plenty of different interpretations at this point.
A Multiversal Domino Effect
In Loki Season 1, the TVA explain that the events of Avengers: Endgame - traveling through time to defeat Thanos - was ultimately supposed to happen. That is why they didn't interfere with their Time Heist. Similarly, throughout the first season, audiences only see the TVA interfere and prune a branch if it doesn't fall under the Sacred Timeline. Of course, by the end of Season 1, the Sacred Timeline is no more after Sylvie kills He Who Remains (a variant of Kang the Conqueror), which could once again change how time travel works in the future.
In Ms. Marvel, Kamala's journey back in time is sudden, under-explained, and seemingly magical. In Episode 4 viewers see Najma stab the Bangle and a tear in reality opens (similar to Clea cutting open a portal to the Dark Dimension) to the partition of India. Then, in Episode 5, audiences see the other side, where Aisha says, "What you seek is seeking you." This is subsequently followed by the Bangle lighting up, the colorful tears in reality appearing, and Kamala entering the past.
One theory that would go along with MCU logic is that this travel through time does utilize the Multiverse. If the Multiverse is needed for time travel within the MCU, then here's the solution:
What if on Earth-616 it was a Kamala from another universe that traveled back to help little Nani? Then Kamala of Earth-616 was brought to a different, alternate universe to help another version of Nani. Repeat that infinitely and it becomes a Multiversal domino effect that was fate, destiny, meant to be, or however one would like to phrase it. An event that possibly even a fully operational TVA would approve because it's "supposed to happen."
Of course, what if Ms. Marvel did introduce an entirely new way of perceiving time travel?
Magic Bangles, Time-Turners, and Flux Capacitors
What's been interesting so far within the MCU is that audiences only understand how time travel works through the characters. Are they reliable? Sure, Bruce Banner has his explanation, and the TVA travel through time and space pretty easily, but is the Multiverse the only way? Is Back to the Future truly a bunch of bullshit?
However Kamala gets to 1947, it is unlike anything fans have seen before. The most captivating part of how Ms. Marvel explains her arrival and helping Nani with a path of stars is that it was always Kamala. She was always who saved her grandmother.
This is very similar to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, where future Harry saves himself and Sirius Black in a perfect loop of time. This is one of the best ways to use time travel within a plot, and in both instances, Kamala and Harry have the realization that they are the hero.
A time loop indicates the direct cause and effect of the timeline one lives within. The Back to the Future rules are simple: if someone changes the past, the future will be affected. Most jarringly, in Back to the Future 2, there is an alternate, terrible version of 1985. Doc Brown and Marty McFly have actually traveled from the future year of 2015, back 30 years to this corrupt new world - doubling down on the fact that this is one timeline they're working within.
What if the time loop in Ms. Marvel works similarly? For example, what if Kamala had failed to get Nani safe in 1947? Is Kamala ever born? Does she start erasing from existence like Marty McFly at the end of Back to the Future?
Having a more traditional form of time travel is an interesting addition to the established MCU rules. However, as of right now, this is only speculation, as very little explanation is given about how Kamala made that destined journey to the past besides... magic.
Hopefully, as the Multiverse continues to expand and time travel is continually utilized, more explanation will come along with it.
The Ms. Marvel finale premieres on Disney+ on Wednesday, June 13.