While there’s a lot to praise about Ms. Marvel, many felt the series lacked in the villain department. In this case, those baddies were named the Clandestines, a group who were exiled from their home dimension. Led by Najma (Nimra Bucha), the outcasts needed Kamala Khan’s bangle in order to get home.
The Clandestines were introduced fairly suddenly in Episode 3 as potential allies for Iman Vellani’s lead character. By the end of the episode, they had pretty much gone bloody thirsty and were out to forcefully get what they wanted.
After sitting most of Episode 4 out, the group met their end when the veil between dimensions was cracked in Episode 5—not long after they were introduced. As it kills off a few of the family members, Najma ends up sacrificing herself to close the rift, thus ending the reign of the Clandestines.
For many viewers, all the emotional weight associated with that group fell flat. Now a writer of the show’s first season addressed these villain issues and what might have caused them.
Ms. Marvel Writer Addresses the Villains
In an interview with Variety, Ms. Marvel head writer Bisha K. Ali talked about how there was a lot about the Clandestines missing from the final series, while also stating definitely that Kamala Khan is not actually a djinn.
When asked if the show's finale was ever going to be something like the Noor dimension trying to overtake Earth-616, Ali noted that was never in contention, but that "a lot is missing" in the finale when it comes to the Clandestines.
Due to changes necessary thanks to COVID-19, the writer pointed out that "[audiences] miss[ed] out a lot on some of the parallels between two different kinds of families... [and] some of the character development for the ClanDestines:"
"No. I would say that a lot is missing. There are, like, essays we’ve written about the Clandestines, the Noor dimension, the Red Daggers and about how it’s all connected to everything else. There are huge swathes of character arcs that for the purpose of being able to make this in the time that we had, with the situation that changed [due to] COVID — I think we miss out a lot on some of the parallels between the two different kinds of families. I think we’ve missed out a lot on some of the character development for the Clandestines. I wish I could have shown you more of what we had."
Besides "that emotional climax [being[ about two woman [representing different families]," it was also meant to show "Kamala coming into her [defensive] fight[ing] style:"
"So that emotional climax was about two women, a different kind of mother and about Kamala representing her kind of family. And those two things completely smashing into each other. That moment was all about Kamala coming into her fight style, which is always defensive. She always talks people down first. Her goal is always, 'Hey, how are you feeling? Can we resolve this without anyone getting hurt?' You see that again in the finale as well. So it was always built that way, that this event where the universe gets subsumed by another universe, that wouldn’t happen."
Ali admitted that since "[Ms. Marvel was] a six-hour television show... [they were] never going to be able to have a universe completely subsumed another:"
"Also, we’re a six-hour television show. We’re never going to be able to have a universe completely subsumed by another. But the key function of that for me, emotionally for Kamala’s character, was figuring out how she’s going to deal with these difficult situations when things get spicy when she comes home."
The head writer did then go on to confirm that Kamala Khan "[is not a] djinn," and that in her Muslim background growing up, "when something weird happened... it was kind of allotted to [being] the work of the djinn:"
"It’s worth saying that they aren’t djinn. In Episode 4, they overtly say they aren’t djinn. I can’t speak for the entire Muslim world, but certainly from my background growing up, when something weird happened, it was always like, 'Oh, is it a djinn?' If someone’s behaving weirdly, it was kind of allotted to [being] the work of the djinn. Certainly in Pakistan, this is how we would talk about something that’s supernatural, beyond our explanation. That’s how it’s been for generations."
Ali pointed out that being called a djinn was "the worst possible thing [Kamala] could be... [because] it is, emotionally, a nightmare:"
"The other piece as well is in Episode 3, when Najma tells her that people call us the djinn — it’s the worst possible thing [Kamala] could be. It is, emotionally, a nightmare. That’s what takes her to the point where she says, 'Well, I can’t be a superhero.' Because there’s nothing worse that she could possibly imagine being, because of the negative connotation we have with djinn culturally. So that’s really what we’re chasing."
Disney+’s Villain Problem
Ms. Marvel is far from the only Marvel Studios Disney+ series to have issues when it comes to its antagonists. Many have complained about how most of the projects end up with underdeveloped villains. Not only are they undercooked, but the shows usually end up introducing a new threat at the last minute—something Kamala's show even ended up doing, in a way, with Kamran.
At least, based on the words of the show’s head writer, they anticipated having far more meat on the Clandestines’ metaphorical bones—if only the pandemic wasn’t around. COVID-19 has been responsible for many changes in the MCU, such as drastic adjustments to WandaVision’s finale, which nixed an entire scene with a demon.
Maybe had the situation been different, all the writer’s intentions would have been realized, and the Clandestines potentially could’ve gone on to be much more developed threats for Kamala to worry about.
Fingers crossed that fans are approaching the end of COVID-19’s negative impact on what some Marvel Studios projects have been able to do.
Ms. Marvel is now available to stream in its entirety on Disney+.