Warning: The following review of Moon Knight's second episode contains full spoilers.
You can check out our spoiler-free review of last week's Moon Knight premiere, "The Goldfish Problem," here.
The second episode of Moon Knight fully introduced May Calamawy's Layla, sprinkled in some important intel, raised the stakes somewhat, and gave us a fresh-pressed look at this story's take on "Mr. Knight," the three-pieced suit variant of the "Fist of Khonshu." Oscar Isaac continued to dazzle as a brought-to-the-brink Steven, who found himself more at war with his Marc personality than ever, while Ethan Hawke delivered more of his softly sinister Arthur Harrow (including a better idea of his plan). The show is still gifting us with pronounced scenes between the two, but it was also here in the second episode that the Steven bewilderment element started to wear thin.
Steven Grant's confusion, living a half-life while also unknowingly serving as a vessel for an Egyptian God, helped last week's premiere episode crackle with slapstick mystery. Now, as the puzzle pieces begin to fall into place more, his utter delirium’s feeling like an anchor holding this show back. Granted, we still aren't being given the entire mosaic, since Marc never feels like clearly explaining everything to Steven, but questions are building up at an alarming rate and Episode 2 only let a little air out of the balloon, answer-wise. Even at only six episodes a show can dawdle when it should dash.
Okay, here's what we know-know. Marc Spector serves as an avatar for Khonshu, a deity that saved Marc's life out in the Egyptian desert. Marc doesn't like this role (at least he doesn't recently). Khonshu's a massive jerk (Harrow, Khonshu's former mark, even says as much) and now has eyes to turn Layla into his next vengeance-dealing servant. So the two heroic goals here are: to stop Harrow from unleashing Ammit and her lethal pre-crime wrath on the world and to protect Layla from Khonshu.
Ultimately, Ammit and Harrow aside, is the true adversary here... Moon Knight? Khonshu's avatar itself? If so (and let's say the Harrow stuff sort of gets sorted out in the next episode or two, leaving us with a different endgame), then this might be the first problematic superpower in the MCU since The Hulk -- meaning, the superhero who causes its alter-ego nothing but grief and turmoil. It may be good in a fight, but a living hell to endure otherwise. Anyone who gets powers develops a more complicated life, obviously, but Moon Knight seems to be doing no one any good. Heck, the main villain so far is the former Moon Knight.
And yes, you do have to wonder about who these Gods are. Are they actually Gods or aliens? This, among other things, makes Moon Knight: The Series feel even more disconnected from the MCU. It's easy enough to not mention any Avengers or The Blip but to also fly in the face of everything Thor taught us with Asgard -- or even what Eternals just told us about myths and gods in various ancient cultures -- seems like a lot. How are Ammit and Khonshu possible? Granted, this was never quite an issue in the comics, so maybe that's the mental route to take here.
The Man in the Moon
By the end of Episode 2, Marc the Merc's in control, but he also tells Steven that once he's done with this mission he's more than happy to vanish. Can Marc do that? We assume he's the dominant personality, right? One would have to be in order to actually become a mercenary and get married and do fully rounded life things. Of course, Marc could just be lying in order to get the job done, but that doesn't change the fact that we still don't know much about the Steven/Marc situation except that Steven was part of the package, so much so that Marc had previously assured Khonshu that Steven wouldn't get in the way.
Some things to wonder about, if you so choose:
- How did Marc and Steven normally switch places before this? At the end of this episode, we saw Steven experience his first time in the mind prison. It's sort of mentioned this week that what's happening now is unprecedented for them on a DID scale, but how much of this set up was an accident and how much was on purpose?
- It would appear Marc chose to purposefully hide out inside Steven. He set him up with a whole (partial) life, buying him new goldfish when needed, always making sure he made it back to his bed (and ankle strap), and asking out coworkers on Steven's behalf (which is still odd given that Marc is married and it would undoubtedly lead to an awkward moment for Steven). How much of a life has Steven had? Who is his mother? Layla mentions Marc being on the outs with his mom, but is Steven leaving messages for the same mom?
- How much of Steven's life is curated? Original Moon Knight character Crawley appears on this show as a living statue whom Steven confides in. Is this just an Easter egg or is this guy a hired actor for Steven's benefit? Steven yells at Marc in this episode for "eating away" parts of his life, preventing him from thriving, but Steven also acts like a simulation. He'll go right back to work, slapping price tags on gift shop toys, after being in a crazy car chase and gun battle, knowing that cult members work at his museum. He'll also go back into work the morning after being chased by a jackal monster (and before he knows other people don't see said jackal monster).
Steven and Mark continued their cerebral tug-o-war this week, though it wasn't until the end of the episode that things got resolved. A lot of fun was had with reflections here, as it was the way Marc could speak to Steven -- to try and convince him to got to sleep in a storage locker so Marc could take over, which was funny (maybe if I set him up with a comfy cot...) -- but the show easily reached its limit with a confused protagonist. Isaac is making a fine meal of this dynamic, but story-wise, there's really no more room for a main character who barely knows what's happening.
Harrow's Utopia, Layla, and Mr. Knight
Last week, we more or less knew what Harrow was up to. This week, Steven heard the sales pitch personally, only to immediate realize that it's nuts, removes free will, and will kill children in their cradles. Ammit's reign would sort of smush Loki's desire to rule Earth (peace through compliance) with Winter Soldier's Project Insight (eliminating perceived threats) with a handful of other ethically wonky versions of utopia. Does this mean we're not destined for a commune life of lentil soup and proficiency in multiple languages? Afraid so.
Steven's questioning of Harrow's idea chain was one of his best character moments so far. He's been perpetually afraid and aimless since we first met him, so to hear him actually vocalize the worst parts of this blissful crime-free dream felt important, and an indication that Steven has a hero's spirit buried down deep (that's not just Marc nagging him). The guy's a nesting doll of chaos, with both Marc and Khonshu's voices pecking at him, but he's decent enough to know right from wrong, and to want to protect Layla without really knowing her.
Layla as a character doesn't feel settled in on the series just yet since she entered the mix as yet another character designed to confound Steven. She also was immediately flummoxed, thinking that Steven was just a cover that Marc was using (does she not know about her husband's DID?) so it certainly feels like she'll resonate better when all the cards are on the table and she gets to interact with the world she knows and not a gentle nitwit. Things came to a thrilling head at the end, though, when Steven, not Marc, called upon the Moon Knight suit and did battle with Ammit's monster.
This version of Moon Knight, dubbed Mr. Knight, was created by Warren Ellis and artist Declan Shalvey as Moon Knight's public-facing persona. Basically, he repped himself in a less threatening form when doing police consultation. Here, Mr. Knight is brought about by Steven's misunderstanding of the word "suit" and the entire fight scene worked as a nice follow up to Steven's action shenanigans in the premiere because he had more agency and it blended all the mayhem in his head into one blow out.
Marc taking over fully, and becoming O.G. Moon Knight also felt rewarding, giving us a much better showing of Moon Knight than the off-screen antics of the first episode. In the end, we're dropped off on the doorstep of what looks to be a very different adventure, with Marc in solemn control, Steven relegated to mirrors, and Egypt as the backdrop. Episode 2 was good, but it definitely pushed Steven's perplexity about as far as it could go.
Part of the expanded television line of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Moon Knight tells the story of Marc Spector, a former solider of fortune left for dead in the Egyptian desert and saved by the moon god Khonshu. Even as Marc returns home and becomes a costumed crime-fighter, the series will explore whether he's truly empowered by Khonshu or simply insane.