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At long last, both Marc Spector and Steven Grant have a definitive MCU origin story. The Disney+ streaming adaptation of Moon Knight laid everything out clearly in Episode 5, titled “Asylum.” It’s an apt title, because a great deal of the episode takes place in the mind asylum that we were left in at the end of Episode 4.
Where do Marc Spector’s demons come from? Why does Steven Grant exist? How and when did Khonshu enter Marc’s life? Who was that hippopotamus deity? Did Mephisto appear? The answer to the last question is no. We got answers to everything else, too.
***WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for Moon Knight Episode 5. If you haven’t watched yet, laters gators.***
Are Marc and Steven (both Oscar Isaac) really in an asylum run by Dr. Harrow (Ethan Hawke), or are they on a boat in the realm of the Duat desperately trying to get their scales to balance? Is it sense, or nonsense?
The Harrow entity definitely tries to make them think it’s a real asylum, but this isn’t an episode of Legion. Marc/Steven are being guided through the Duat, the Egyptian underworld, by the goddess Tawaret (voiced by Antonia Salib). She is the deity with the head of a hippopotamus.
The Goddess of “women and children” (as Steven says) weighs their hearts and finds they are out of balance. If the hearts (which appear as crystal) stay out of balance, they will be lost. They must fix this before arriving at the Field of Reeds, so Marc and Steven have to go on a journey of self-discovery. We get to go with them!
They have access back to the asylum where every door leads to a different memory. There must be balance and understanding between Marc and Steven; balance for the audience will (and does) happen at the same time.
One room holds the many, many people that Marc has killed as Moon Knight. As he says, “they were criminals. Murderers. Predators. The worst of the worst. Khonshu wanted them punished.” These people came from New York, Dubai, and several other places. It was Moon Knight’s duty to protect “the travelers of the night” and so he did. This was a nice reference to a lot of Moon Knight’s comic history, and hopefully we’ll see some of it someday.
The Moon Knight guise allows him to heal, but he says it “ended up being a curse.” A child draws the attention of Steven and he follows despite Marc screaming for him to stop. He ends up discovering the hard truth of Marc Spector. When Marc was young, he and his brother Randall went for an adventure in a cave. Before leaving, Randall gives their mother Wendy (Fernanda Andrade) a “laters gators.” Randall drowns in the cave, and Wendy blames Marc. She becomes catatonic, but as the years and memories go on, she opens up to young Marc in a highly resentful way. She blames him for Randall’s death.
Switching to a night in the desert surrounded by bodies, Marc talks about some more recent history. After going AWOL from the military (fugue states didn’t help him very much) he went into mercenary work for a former CO named Bushman. A tomb raid went wrong, Layla’s father Dr. El-Faouly ended up dead, and Marc himself is about to end his own life when Khonshu speaks to him. In exchange for his life, Marc must become what Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham) wants him to be: his “final word against evildoers.” He chooses life and morphs into Moon Knight for the first time.
As the scales come close to balance, the Duat is suddenly thrown into chaos as Tawaret notes that unbalanced souls are becoming “condemned to the sands before their time.” This is Harrow’s doing, and Marc wants to stop it. Sending him back to a body riddled with bullets wouldn’t do much, so he has to get his healing powers back. The way forward, as he sees it, is for Layla to free the trapped Khonshu so he can become Moon Knight again. Steven questions whether he wants to be involved once more with the manipulative deity, but there’s no other way.
Tawaret swings the boat around, but they still have to get balanced. After “Dr. Harrow” the psychiatrist tries to sell them on the delusion stuff again, Steven learns his own origin. It’s behind a door that Marc did not want him to go through.
Marc’s mother, Wendy, grew to hate him so much that she became violent. As she pounds on young Marc’s door, we see Marc transform into Steven for the first time, adopting a British accent. Above him is a poster for the Tomb Buster movie we saw a little of in Episode 4. Steven Grant is the lead character. As the poster says, “When danger is near, Steven Grant has no fear.” Steven says to Marc, “you made me up.” Steven Grant is a coping mechanism.
Wendy busts in and starts to beat Marc with s belt, but Steven doesn’t get to see it. As Marc says, that was the point of him. Marc had a mother who beat him, but Steven grew up thinking his mother loved him… and is still alive. She's not. All of this is news to Steven. We see Marc outside Wendy’s shiva, and he doesn’t go inside. He breaks down in the street, and becomes Steven before our eyes. He tells Steven that was the moment their lives “started bleeding into each other.”
The boat arrives at the gates of Osiris, but because the scales are still unbalanced, the boat is swarmed by unbalanced souls. Marc fights them off, and then Steven does the same. He realizes he is capable of that when he says, “Marc, you’ve got this… but if I’m you, it means I’ve got this too.”
Steven goes overboard when he tries to save Marc. He freezes in the sand, seemingly dead (though we wouldn't bet on it) and only then do the scales balance. Marc finds himself in the Field of Reeds, and the episode ends.
What will happen next? Not even Tawaret knows.
Tomb Busting Details
-In Marvel Comics, Raul Armand Bushman is involved in Marc Spector's Moon Knight origin just as he is here. He's also involved with the death of Randall Spector, but the show has played that differently. Bushman himself could definitely show up to fight Moon Knight in the future, just like he does in the comics.
-The fictitious Tomb Buster movie is produced by “Timely Atlas.” In real life, Atlas Comics evolved out of Timely Comics in the 1950’s. Atlas Comics eventually became Marvel Comics.
-Tawaret makes one brief MCU reference. She says that the afterlife they are in is “an” afterlife, not “the” afterlife. There are many, and she makes reference to the Ancestral Plane from Black Panther. She says it is “just gorgeous.”
-In real life mythology, Tawaret is a household deity with the head of a hippopotamus and the limbs of a feline. She was a figure of nourishment and aid, and has completely different values from Ammit.
-It should be noted that Oscar Isaac continues to be an acting force of nature with this episode. The in-person conversations between Steven and Marc are seamless. A lot of this is thanks to some brilliant effects and direction, but none of it would work at all without Isaac playing off of himself perfectly. It's right out of the Orphan Black/Tatiana Maslany playbook, and yes we'll take any chance we can to mention her.
Moon Knight streams on Disney+ every Wednesday. The season finale arrives next week. Ethan Hawke walks on glass every weekend. Not really.