Synopsis: Mild-mannered gift shop employee Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) is having trouble determining what is real and what is in his head. On the surface, he is a bumbling yet charming nobody with a dead end job and no friends or family to confide in. Yet, underneath lies something unknown and potentially sinister. Grant experiences lengthy bouts of what he calls sleep walking, often waking up days later in different parts of the world. One such trip sees him crossing paths with Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who appears to have the supernatural ability to judge people for past, present and future deeds, and wants something that Grant took during one of his sleepwalking episodes. Its up to Grant to piece together what he knows to try and stay alive, but how can he do that when he has no idea what he is doing half of the time?
Breakdown: Marvel’s Phase Four has been full of risky gambles. It’s featured their first true foray into television with their shows on Disney+; a sitcom homage in WandaVision, a time- and reality-bending adventure in Loki, a multiversal crossover in Spider-Man: No Way Home, and an animated anthology series in What If…?. Yet Moon Knight may just be the riskiest project yet. And it is all the better for it.
All of the Phase Four projects thus far (with the exception of The Eternals) have had the benefit of being very closely tied to previous characters or properties in the established MCU (and even Eternals had ties to Thanos). And while that fine-tuned interconnectedness is one of the reasons I love the MCU, Moon Knight‘s separation from the larger story thus far is an extremely welcome breath of fresh air. The audience doesn’t need to know which Marvel universe these characters come from or if there is an infinity stone hiding somewhere in the show; we can just sit back and watch a new corner of the MCU unfold.
This separation from the larger MCU also ties in thematically with Moon Knight‘s main narrative, at least in the first episode. We, the audience, and Steven Grant have no idea what is going on, and it is discombobulating to say the least. Its a smart way to introduce us to this character who has an increasingly limited grasp on reality by removing all of our known tethers to this universe, and gives us a glimpse into his very fractured mind. Isaac does a phenomenal job bringing Grant to life–he is instantly someone you root for and want to see succeed. There are brief appearances of Grant’s other identity, Marc Spector; not really enough to know who he is or even what he can do, but I’m eager to learn more. Isaac’s performance in the bathroom scene where he is both Grant and Spector is fantastic, and I can’t wait to see the different sides of his personality interact even more.
Hawke, who isn’t really given much to do in this first episode, comes across as the weaker aspect of the show, at least so far. He is a terrific actor, so I’m hoping that will change in the future, but right now he is a little too much ‘eccentric bad guy who thinks he is doing good’, which we honestly have seen enough of in the MCU. Time will tell how his character will turn out.
The setting is also a great change of pace, focusing on Egyptian mythology and a part of the world Marvel really hasn’t spent a lot of time in. I’m not as familiar with Egyptian mythology, so I am interested to learn more, specifically about Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham), the Egyptian God of the Moon who is seen pursuing Grant throughout the episode.
One of my favorite genres in film and television is fish out of water, and there are elements of that here with Grant finding himself in different situations and blacking out intermittently, winding up in even more precarious situations than he was in before. There is an air of humor to these proceedings, and it gives them a nice, light touch.
Verdict: 3.5/5 Stars
The first episode of Moon Knight does its job very well–it introduces us to this new corner of the MCU, establishes a compelling hero, presents a mystery that will unfold throughout the rest of the season, and gives us a taste of what’s to come. Its not a perfect pilot episode (they rarely are), but it is a promising start. I am curious how the rules work with Grant’s different personalities: how does one of them get in the driver’s seat, so to speak, and what does it take for another one to take over? What is Harrow up to and how does it relate to Grant/Spector? How did Moon Knight come to be? The answers are few and far between in this first episode, but I am absolutely hooked and can’t wait to find out more.
Mark Pereira is a senior writer for Boss Rush Network. He loves all video games, but his top three favorites are Skyward Sword, Super Mario 3D World and Batman: Arkham Asylum. You can find him on Twitter where he’s usually talking about Nintendo, video games, movies, and TV shows.
Featured image source: Natsegal