The Marvels proves that the MCU movies and shows can work together

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL.
Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL. /


The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) released its 33rd film last month, the Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels, and along with it being the definition of a fun space adventure team-up film, it’s proven to be the franchise’s best example of how their movies can successfully embrace the Disney+ shows.

It’s been almost three years since WandaVision, the MCU’s first foray into streaming television, and since then, Marvel has released a total of eight live-action shows, two animated series, and two Special Presentations on Disney+. Conversely, of their so far 10 movies that have come out in theatres since the Multiverse Saga began in 2021, only two — including The Marvels — have directly tied to the shows in any sort of meaningful way.

[Note: while Julia Louis Dreyfus’ Contessa Valentina Allegra de Fontaine did show up in both Black Widow (2021) and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022), after originating in the series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier (TFATWS), her role was far from substantial in either of those two films.]

The first true example of movie-show synergy was 2022’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, which was ostensibly a direct continuation of WandaVision. The movie featured that show’s lead character (Wanda), one of its prominent settings (Wanda and Vision’s house), two of its key supporting players (Wanda’s twins, Billy and Tommy), and a key item (the Darkhold).

However, one of the primary accusations lobbied at Multiverse of Madness was how, despite all that connective tissue, the movie didn’t work well as a follow-up to WandaVision. The film presented an exceptionally villainous Wanda/Scarlet Witch character whose behaviors seemed in direct opposition to the lessons she’d already learned throughout the nine episodes of her show. As well, her arc in the movie was repetitive and oddly reminiscent of the grief arc she’d already undergone in WandaVision. It’s therefore not an unpopular opinion to say that the Doctor Strange sequel was far from a shining example of Marvel having its movies and shows work in tandem.

Paul Bettany as Vision and Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff in Marvel Studios’ WandaVision. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2021 All Rights Reserved. /

The Marvels, by comparison, does an overall much better job of building off of pre-established canon from several Disney+ shows (with one exception, which I’ll get into shortly), and I would love for this movie to be the blueprint for Marvel going forward when it comes to achieving movie-show synergy. Within the span of only 1 hour and 45 minutes, The Marvels manages to incorporate characters, plot points, settings, relationship dynamics, and even a post-credits scene from four different Disney+ series — the aforementioned WandaVision (2021), plus 2022’s Ms. Marvel, 2023’s Secret Invasion, and even (spoilers!) 2021’s Hawkeye.

Up until now, the goings-on from the TV side of things in Marvel have been largely ignored by the films. Did Sylvie’s choice at the end of the Loki Season 1 finale allow multiversal villains to start bleeding into our reality when the spell went awry in Spider-Man: No Way Home? Who knows? Was that the same evil Doctor Strange from What If?… Season 1 that appeared in Multiverse of Madness? Beats me!

As someone who’s been in the (albeit small) camp of Marvel fans who’ve actually preferred the TV offerings from the franchise in the last few years, The Marvels essentially functioning as a love letter to some Disney+ stories was such a refreshing and validating surprise. This movie serves as a reminder that yes, quite a bit has been taking place on the small screen in the MCU, and yes, these events and these people are worth paying attention to, too.

To get it out of the way, I know I can’t speak on The Marvels’ ability to effectively integrate with the Disney+ shows without also acknowledging the ways in which this movie appears to directly contradict this summer’s Nick Fury-centric Secret Invasion series.

Sure, it’s a little head-scratching that, after Tarnax gets destroyed in this movie, Valkyrie seemingly brings a refugee colony of Skrulls back to New Asgard, when the American President just finished declaring all extraterrestrials as enemy combatants in the finale of Secret Invasion. Yeah, Fury and Carol never remarking on Fury’s recent discovery that James Rhodes/War Machine, a long-term Avenger and one of Carol’s compatriots during the Blip, has been ‘simmed’ by a Skrull for multiple pivotal years is, admittedly, a bit weird. And okay fine, it’s definitely perplexing that Fury fails to mention to Carol how their joint inability to find a new home for a million Skrulls 30 years prior resulted in the recent death of their mutual friend Talos and his wife Soren, as well as their grown-up Skrull daughter then gaining the abilities of basically all the Avengers – including Carol.

When it comes to the synergy (or lack thereof) between Secret Invasion and The Marvels, there’s no denying that my main argument, as presented in the rest of this article, basically falls to pieces. However, I’m very much willing to forgive these inconsistencies, because 1) both of these projects underwent release date shifts, and with its five official release dates, it remains unclear whether The Marvels was originally supposed to occur chronologically before or after Secret Invasion, 2) both projects endured reshoots and some behind-the-scenes changes – Secret Invasion especially, seeing as the show even brought on an entirely new head writer at one point, 3) I vastly prefer all the other shows over Secret Invasion, so I’m hardly bereft at it being largely contradicted here in this movie, and 4) in every other instance, as I’m about to outline below, The Marvels expertly acknowledges the relevant shows that came before it, which proves to me that the situation with Secret Invasion is the exception and not the rule.

So now, to shift our focus back to the other three shows mentioned earlier that tie to The Marvels, I’m going to start with WandaVision. Aside from being our first introduction to the adult version of Monica Rambeau, after having met her as an 11-year-old in 2019’s Captain Marvel, one of the biggest carryovers from WandaVision to The Marvels is Monica’s acquisition of superpowers of her own in Episode 7 of that show. (Note: this moment is expertly summarized to a confused Carol in one of my favorite lines of the movie: “I walked through a radiation-shielding barrier of a witch hex, and now I can manipulate and see all wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum.”) Monica’s current status as we catch up with her in this movie – she’s a S.A.B.E.R. astronaut working alongside Fury – was implied during the mid-credits scene of the WandaVision finale.

It was in Episode 4 that we first learned about the passing of Maria Rambeau, Monica’s mother and Carol’s lifelong best friend, and this is a loss that hangs over all of Carol and Monica’s present-day interactions in The Marvels. And, perhaps most critically, this duo’s decades-long tension, the primary interpersonal conflict in this movie, was first teased in Episode 5 of WandaVision (Monica’s “We are not talking about her.” has been playing on repeat in my mind for the last nearly three years, in case anyone’s wondering).

Given that Megan McDonnell, the original screenwriter hired for this movie (and one of three co-writers listed in the final credits), came from the WandaVision writers’ room (she wrote Episode 3 and co-wrote Episode 4), it’s hardly a surprise that Monica’s story continues so cohesively from that show into this movie.

Ms. Marvel
Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ MS. MARVEL. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved. /

However, something I didn’t necessarily expect when I walked into the theatre a month ago was just how perfectly this movie also works with the Ms. Marvel series, arguably even more so than WandaVision, as well as Carol’s first movie. Ever since opening weekend on November 10th, my primary takeaway has been that this movie was created by people who love Ms. Marvel (both the character and the show). In other words, The Marvels serves as the best possible follow-up to the first season of Kamala Khan’s solo series.

Think about it – one of the biggest unanswered questions at the end of that show had to do with Kamala’s bangle, and that’s addressed directly in this movie. Prior to arriving on the musical planet Aladna, Carol, Monica, and Kamala discover that the Khan family heirloom is actually a Quantum Band, and together with the other bangle, currently worn by the villainous Dar-Benn, it was used by the Kree to form the galaxy’s entire jump-point network. Suddenly, Kamala somehow ending up back in 1947 during the Partition of India (Episode 5 of Ms. Marvel) makes a lot more sense, as Kamala so aptly puts it when theorizing with Carol and Monica: “Also, it once travelled me through space and time, so that’s probably related.”

The Ms. Marvel finale’s post-credits scene – in which Kamala gets teleported out of her bedroom and a confused Carol shows up in her place – is also explained in this movie, given that it’s literally one of Kamala’s very first scenes. Plus, just in general, the idea of Kamala meeting and subsequently teaming up with her idol, Carol, is a very natural progression for her character, and something that was set up all the way back in the very first minute of the Ms. Marvel pilot episode.

Perhaps even more so than the show’s lingering plot threads being paid off here, it’s the pitch-perfect characterization of Kamala and the entire Khan family that convinces me that Ms. Marvel and The Marvels were always intended to go hand-in-hand (or, to quote Dar-Benn when she’s speaking about the bangles, “They were forged as a pair.”).

The growth Kamala underwent in her show, as well as the evolution of her relationship with her family, especially her mother, Muneeba, is on full display throughout this movie. Unlike Wanda in Multiverse of Madness, there’s no backsliding from Kamala or from any of the Khans here in The Marvels. Everyone appears in this movie fully-formed, the family bond is stronger than ever, and Kamala’s status as “the hero who saved Jersey City” is evident right from the outset.

Perhaps the best (and my personal favorite) encapsulation of the Khan family unit comes from a moment late in the film, when Kamala has to part ways with them once more in order for our trio of heroes to have a chance of finally stopping Dar-Benn. A subtle, more intimate version of Kamala’s main theme underscores this scene, which begins as her brother Aamir asks, “You’re leaving again?” What’s special about this interaction is the way each Khan family member’s personality, and their connection to Kamala, is so perfectly captured by how they respond to her imminent departure. After Kamala emotionally explains to her mother: “Ammi, the universe isn’t safe. And if the universe isn’t safe, that means you guys aren’t safe. And if you guys aren’t safe…”, her mother, Muneeba, responds, equally as emotionally: “Listen to me. You were chosen for a greater purpose, okay? So of course you must go now. But I will never ‘let you go.’ You understand that, right?”

For those of us who’ve watched Ms. Marvel, this sentiment wouldn’t have been possible for the Muneeba of Episode 1, who didn’t trust her teenage daughter and didn’t fully support or understand her less–than-traditional interests or pursuits. In fact, this entire interaction wouldn’t have happened – the Kamala of Episode 1 wouldn’t have told her family what she was doing, and she certainly wouldn’t have sought their permission before leaving. The very fact that we’re watching this scene play out perfectly demonstrates how far these two have come.

When Kamala’s father, Yusuf, bids her adieu, he does so with a simple but supportive: “Apna khayal rakhna [Urdu for “take care”]. Come back safely, beta.”, which makes sense. His relationship with Kamala and her heroics has never been nearly as complicated as his wife’s, but it has always been tinged with a mix of pride and understandable parental worry, all of which is palpable in his behavior here.

Finally, when Aamir tells Kamala: “You better [come back safely]. I don’t wanna be an only child. Not again. Not with these two.”, it not only exquisitely captures the type of sibling dynamic that Kamala and Aamir share (an older brother who’d never be caught dead directly admitting how much he loves his 11-years-younger little sister), but it’s also one of the best jokes in the movie, which is fitting, given Aamir’s primary function as comedic relief in this film.

Beyond that, though, Aamir’s portion of the goodbye becomes exceptional when you consider the undeniably best moment in the Ms. Marvel finale. Kamala and Yusuf are on the roof of their house, and Yusuf is describing to Kamala the Arabic and Urdu meanings behind her name, which was selected after he and Muneeba had tried for years to have a second child.  The Urdu translation of her name is actually what inspires Kamala to choose Ms. Marvel as her hero moniker.

The Marvels
(L-R): Brie Larson as Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios’ THE MARVELS. Photo by Laura Radford. © 2023 MARVEL. /

So now, in The Marvels, when Aamir sends Kamala off with a reminder that yeah, he’s done the whole only child thing before and has no interest in doing it again, it’s hilarious, yes, but it’s also subtly poignant in a way that only the most masterful of scenes can be. Aamir doesn’t want to be an only child again because he’s old enough to remember just how devastating that period of infertility was for his parents, and he’s forever grateful for the version of his family that exists now because Kamala is a part of it. This added context, and, therefore, added emotional resonance and significance, is all thanks to this movie honoring the show that came before it.

In addition to the overall portrayal of the Khan family, and the fact that their home is a major set piece in the first act of this movie, there are several more Ms. Marvel references that I very much appreciate, and so I’d like to take a moment to shout out a few of them here. There’s a close-up of framed photos of Kamala’s two best friends, Bruno and Nakia, in her bedroom, and Kamala namedrops Nakia when she’s about to experience a jump point for the first time. Aamir records a video for his wife, Tyesha, as they’re leaving Earth’s atmosphere in the space elevator, and Kamala confesses, much to Dar-Benn’s ire, that her bangle was sent to her in the mail by her grandmother. Kamala remembers to say “Bismillah” before using both bangles together in the climax (demonstrating her having learned since the driving test fiasco in Episode 1!), and the second track on Laura Karpman’s score for Ms. Marvel, “Figure Out Your Life,” is sampled during the very last scene of the film.

This final scene, in which Kamala travels to New York City to recruit a fellow “kid superhero,” a la Nick Fury at the end of Iron Man, segues us nicely into the fourth and final Disney+ show that The Marvels ties into – 2021’s Hawkeye. Kate Bishop, who fans have not seen in the two years since her show premiered, has seemingly caught the attention of Kamala, who’s been using Fury’s forgotten S.A.B.E.R. tablet to track down younger heroes (along with Scott Lang’s daughter, Cassie) to join what will presumably become a Young Avengers team. In this one simple scene, The Marvels manages to present a tantalizing future for not one, but two beloved TV show characters, and personally, I cannot wait to see what comes next for the MCU’s two biggest fangirls-turned-superheroes. For the movie that so successfully weaves together so many of the Disney+ story threads, this feels like as good a note as any for it to go out on.

I’m a massive fan of this type of integrated storytelling, and it’s what drew me to the MCU in the first place. Secret Invasion aside, The Marvels is emblematic of when the MCU’s interconnectivity is at its best, and as the Multiverse Saga continues, here’s hoping there’s plenty more where this came from!

The Marvels is currently playing in theatres worldwide. WandaVision, Ms. Marvel, Secret Invasion, and Hawkeye are all available to stream on Disney+.

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