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‘Moon Knight’ Turns the Marvel Formula on Its Head

Oscar Isaac deserves two Emmys: one for his role as Marc Spector and one for Steven Grant. Yes, 'Moon Knight' is that good.
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Many of Marvel’s shows on Disney+ have struggled to stick the landing. WandaVision stumbled in its final outing, and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier barrelled to its conclusion so rapidly that it ended before even getting its bearings. Loki did the best out of all its sibling shows, wrapping up its narrative while teasing fans about the upcoming second season. Even What If…? devolved into something of a convoluted mess in its final act. But have you seen Moon Knight yet?

Warning! Spoilers for all six episodes of Moon Knight follow after this!

How did Moon Knight manage? The Oscar Isaac-led solo outing went into its final episode with its heroes scattered across the Egyptian afterlife, Arthur Harrow ascendant, and Layla in the belly of the beast. The show managed to pull off the impossible and bring everything to a satisfactory end in just over 40 minutes. Between new hero reveals, a giant battle between gods, and some sly nods to classic comics storylines, this show is everything a Marvel fan could have asked for. 

Marc, Meet Steven

Moon Knight had a difficult job when it premiered on Disney+ back in March. First, it needed to introduce casual TV audiences to a hero who is arguably one of Marvel’s strangest protagonists. Second, it needed to tell a compelling story about an unreliable narrator, all while juggling a cast of real-world Egyptian deities.

Finally, the show had the unenviable task of doing all this while also telling a story about dissociative identity disorder without glossing over what makes it debilitating for some patients but a “superpower” for others. That Moon Knight succeeded in telling a gripping story through a house of mirrors and numerous mythical twists is nothing short of a minor miracle.

Oscar Isaac’s triple roles as Marc Spector, Steven Grant, and the enigmatic Jake Lockley stole the show. Isaac brought a unique energy and disposition to each iteration of the character, proving his considerable acting chops while delighting longtime fans of Moon Knight.

Embracing the Duality

In Episode 6, “Gods and Monsters,” we see Marc’s decision to abandon the idyllic Field of Reeds and go back to rescue Steven, who has been given his own body in the afterlife. He tearfully tells his alter-ego that he would never abandon him. In a moment that touched many viewers, Marc admitted that Steven was the only real superpower he ever had.

Some critics worried that Marvel wouldn’t handle Marc’s DID with the right sensitivity. However, the show expertly navigated Marc and Steven’s disorder, showing both how traumatic and disorienting it can be, while also emphasizing how accepting the disorder can lead some patients to peace. 

Critically, Moon Knight never suggests that Marc or Steven is “broken.” The one time a character describes Steven this way, it’s the villain, Arthur Harrow. Steven is quick to interject that he’s far from “broken,” but he might need professional help. This gentle touch and overall acceptance of characters with mental disorders are refreshing, especially in superhero media. 

It would have been easy for Marvel to show Marc as an unwell man who needed to “integrate” with his alters to achieve his goals. This trope is pervasive in fiction, and it follows storytellers’ instincts to “fix” characters. However, Marc and Steven are special in part due to their shared body and ability to “switch” places at will. 

Layla Doesn’t Need Saving

Speaking of deftly sidestepping tropes, “Gods and Monsters” also makes the most compelling case yet that Layla is a hero in her own right. Portrayed by the series’ breakout star May Calamawy, Marc’s estranged wife is far from a damsel in distress. It’s her quick-thinking and determined nature that leads to Khonshu’s escape from the ushabti the other gods imprisoned him in way back in Episode 4.

As Layla tackles Harrow’s henchmen and slips unseen through the Pyramid of Giza, she gets messages from Tawaret, the hippo goddess who shepherds Marc and Steven through the afterlife. Tawaret offers to make Layla her avatar, but the headstrong heroine turns her down. Likewise, when she frees Khonshu from his statuette prison, the old bird dryly notes that Marc must have died fighting in his name.

Khonshu wastes no time recruiting Layla, offering to make her his Fist of Vengeance. She flatly refuses, noting that Marc has spent years resenting the moon god and wanting nothing more than to be rid of him. She tells Khonshu to help her without signing her life away to his service and sets about taking the fight to Harrow.

Ammit is a Hypocrite

Tawaret might be a hippo, but Ammit, the Goddess of Judgment, is the biggest hypocrite. After Harrow frees her, she observes that his scales don’t balance. This is no problem, though, as he’ll make a fine avatar. This double standard underscores something eagle-eyed fans noticed earlier in the series: Ammit’s judgment seems harshest against people she deems unfit to serve her.

While the series never overtly states that Ammit’s judgment is skewed toward the young and healthy, it makes the most sense. After all, Loki flatly denounced any version of predestination in the Marvel universe, and Ammit’s claims to punish evildoers before they cause harm seems dubious at best. After all, if she could see the future, how would she allow Marc and Layla to bind her to Harrow later in the episode?

As Ammit is restored to life, Osiris allows Marc and Steven to return to the realm of the living. Khonshu’s protection allows him to survive the wounds he suffered in Episode 4, and the Moon Knight tells the god to let both Marc and Steven go after they defeat Ammit.

The MCU’s First Egyptian Superhero

Khonshu and Ammit aren’t the only gods who get an avatar in the final episode, either; Layla finally relents and decides to become Tawaret’s (temporary) avatar, becoming the superhero Scarlet Scarab from the Moon Knight comics. 

Her suit looks awesome, and the new set of superpowers make Layla a formidable opponent against Harrow’s lackeys. At one point, she even saves a little girl who asks her in awe if she’s an Egyptian superhero. Layla proudly proclaims that she is, in a moment that is a celebration of Marvel’s deepening on-screen diversity.

Marc, Steven, and Layla take the fight to Harrow one last time as the full moon rises over Cairo. The final fight holds some of the best shots of the entire series, including a breathtaking image of Moon Knight and Harrow clashing atop the Great Pyramid while silhouetted in front of the full moon.

Finally, audiences get one last teaser of the third alter hiding within Marc’s body. When all is lost and Harrow seems to be on the verge of victory, Marc blacks out and awakens to find Ammit’s followers slain and Harrow near death before him. Layla, clearly disturbed by the violent display that neither Marc nor the audience witnessed, asks “what was that?” This is the only aspect of the episode that I can find an issue with, as I would have preferred this to be the show’s introduction of Jake Lockley. 

Defeating Ammit

Marc and Layla perform a ritual to bind Ammit to a mortal body–in this case, her loyal avatar, Arthur Harrow. Khonshu commands Marc to kill Harrow to end Ammit’s reign of terror, but Layla reminds him that the choice is his alone. Marc tells Khonshu to do it himself if he wants them dead, and orders the moon deity to release him and Steven from servitude. Khonshu, clearly frustrated, agrees, and Harrow is left alive.

Marc and Steven awaken in the asylum mindscape that they navigated in the afterlife, with the therapist’s illusion of Arthur Harrow once again grilling Marc and Steven about their subjective reality. The pair notice that Harrow’s feet are bloody and remark that the illusion doesn’t know as much as it thinks it does, before awakening back in Steven’s bed. 

I think Ethan Hawke also deserves particular praise here: his rendition of Harrow is equal parts malicious zealot and charming cult leader. It’s easy to see why he’s so dangerous, as he’s got the charisma to inspire people and the determination to hurt others to get his way. Meanwhile, Hawke is a natural fit in the condescending role of “evil psychiatrist” in Marc’s asylum fantasy, playing things just straight enough to make audiences question which version of events is reality.

See Related: Meet the Many Faces of Moon Knight

Harrow’s Fate

Finally, we see Harrow sedated in a mental health hospital in London. He mutters about sand, clearly delirious after his encounter with Moon Knight. Suddenly, a strange figure appears and wheels him to a limo parked in front of the asylum. The camera slyly shows that the stranger has killed an orderly in order to access the hospital.

As Harrow gets his bearings, he sees Khonshu seated across from him in the limo, now dressed in a sharp white suit that resembles Mr. Knight’s. He confides in Harrow that Layla was never his next choice as an avatar, as Marc is “more troubled” than he realizes. The driver rolls down the partition window, revealing Marc’s other alter, Jake Lockley.

The streetwise cabbie wears his distinctive cap from the comics and speaks fluent Spanish, telling Harrow that his time is up. The show ends with Jake finishing what Marc started, ridding the world of Harrow and Ammit in one fell swoop.

Final Thoughts

Moon Knight functions as a near-perfect introduction to the complicated Marvel Comics character. My only real complaint is that the show could have introduced Jake a bit earlier, though this would have ruined the final surprise for casual viewers who didn’t realize a third alter was waiting below the surface in Marc’s mind.

The show’s stinger ending sets up the future for the character, too. With Jake still actively bound to Khonshu’s service, Marc and Steven might find themselves swept up in more caped crusading. Indeed, the character might appear in the upcoming Blade reboot, which will star Mahershala Ali, the breakout star of Luke Cage. 

Some fans would also love to see the MCU take on the Midnight Suns crimefighting group, a team comprised of Blade, Moon Knight, Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, and Ghost Rider. Of course, the Disney+ shows have proven extremely successful for Disney, so it’s really more a matter of “when” we see Moon Knight again, not “if.” And, given Isaac’s exemplary performance in the role, we can’t wait to see what the Fist of Vengeance does next!