Director: Mohamed Diab
Cast: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke and May Calamawy
Streaming on: Disney+ Hotstar
The finale of Moon Knight is now out on DisneyPlus Hotstar and some major flaws aside, the show finally embraces its superhero origins to deliver an action-packed finale. For those who have been waiting to binge it all together, Moon Knight follows the story of Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), who discovers that he has dissociative identity disorder (DID) and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector, an avatar of Egyptian god Khonshu.
Episodes 1 to 3 focus on Steven coming to terms with his dual personalities, reconciling his status as the Moon Knight and discovering the limits of his bond with Khonshu. Meanwhile, antagonist Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), is hell bent on bringing Egyptian “devourer of the dead” God Ammit back to life, believing that only she can truly judge humanity and bring about its salvation.
With Moon Knight, if you’re looking for action or typical Marvel-style superhero antics, you will be disappointed. The first three episodes work as a long set up for Oscar’s journey that only begins coming together with some nuance in the fifth episode. It’s almost as if the writers expected strong performances from Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy as Mark’s wife Layla and F. Murray Abraham, who voices Khonshu, to carry the show. Given the acting pedigree at play here, that expectation may have been well-intended but doesn’t justify the razor-thin season storyline. Isaac, whether he’s playing Marc or Steven (even with that accent), delivers a committed performance.
In fact, Moon Knight is a super-committed show, committed to not being part of the larger MCU universe, committed to an authentic representation of culture, mythology, locales and mental health – and if the finale is any indication, also committed to driving home the point that jump-cut edits can overcome CGI budget constraints.
The last point is a shame, really, because when Moon Knight gets going and embraces its fantastical, mythological and superhero sides, it’s gorgeous to look at, and incredibly fun. But those instances are rare. From beautifully recreated Egyptian gods like Ammit and Tawaret, and Moon Knight’s (Marc) costume, to a comic book accurate Khonshu – the show gets a lot of things right, only to squander away the goodwill its earned later on.
However, I will admit that Moon Knight’s fifth episode ‘Asylum’, directed by Mohamad Diab, is perhaps one of the most compelling pieces of superhero storytelling I have seen onscreen in a long, long time. It’s a compassionate, empathetic look at Marc and Steven’s story, one that captures the impact of trauma at one end, and gorgeously straddles mythology, and philosophy on the other. Tight, emotional, and gorgeous, ‘Asylum’ is peak television – superhero or otherwise.
That’s why it’s somewhat disappointing that Moon Knight is so uneven in its six-episode run. It takes too long to get to where it needs to go, and doesn’t deliver meaningful justifications for its antagonist’s motives. It tries so hard to not be a superhero show and yet bear the MCU mantle, that it fails to justify both aspects of its nature. Perhaps it’s a victim of the ‘episode pacing for the streaming era’ problem, which is becoming increasingly visible in other shows such as Star Trek: Picard.
Or maybe it’s the annoying editing. A scene in the finale sees Arthur about to carry out a procedure to enhance his powers, but then jump cuts to the procedure already having been completed. At one point, one of best-kept secrets in the show, and the conclusion to Arthur’s storyline, is dealt with in a mid-credit sequence. A mid-credit sequence!
At the risk of sounding old fashioned, a mid-credits sequence is traditionally used to hint at future premises, or link to a grander scheme so that the audience is excited and comes back for more. I’m not so sure that concluding your main storyline in a mid-credits scene is an acceptable filmmaking device just yet, especially when there is no tease or a canonical link. That’s just plain old sloppy editing and storytelling. Put the damn conclusion in the episode, like a normal person.
Moon Knight is, no doubt, a unique MCU offering, one that walks its own righteous path, but not a path of balance. Whether the outcome of that path leads to the Field of Reeds is best left for the audiences and Ammit to judge. For the purposes of this review, Moon Knight for all its highs, and all its potential, remains stranded in the Duat.