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'Moon Knight' reinvents itself for the MCU, and we’re all gonna have to figure it out as we go
Like Steven Grant, we’re all stuck in a shifting puzzle box.
Moon Knight has arisen, or at least Steven Grant has. Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues with its latest Disney+ streaming series, and everyone seems to know what’s going on except for the protagonist. Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) doesn’t know what is happening to him, and neither do we.
If series creator Jeremy Slater (The Umbrella Academy) wanted to make this show completely different from anything else in the MCU, then that mission has been accomplished. The first episode, “The Goldfish Problem”, is a Rubik’s Cube of weirdness. While there are definitely hints of Umbrella Academy (and some touches of Doom Patrol) present, this series really walks in its own glass-filled shoes.
***WARNING: Spoilers will follow for Episode 1 of Moon Knight. If you have not watched yet, then stop reading now. Laters, gators.***
Every run of Moon Knight from Marvel Comics has reinvented itself, so it is only natural that the character’s first depiction in live-action reinvents itself as well. Though the character began as Marvel’s version of Batman, that is very far away from where the character is now. That goes for the comics as well as this show. Aside from beatdowns (that we don’t see) and a mention of vengeance, there’s not a lot of Dark Knight happening here.
What do we have? A geeky Poe Dameron having visions of Duke Leto Atreides while being chased by one of the Dead Poets as the voice of Antonio Salieri yells in his head. Moon Knight’s alter-ego is a mercenary named Marc Spector, but that’s not who we first meet in this episode. Oscar Isaac is playing Steven Grant, a hapless museum gift shop clerk who talks in a floppy accent and has to latch himself to his own bed at night.
He wakes up every morning feeling like he has been hit by a bus. He leaves messages for his mother and talks to his goldfish Gus, who only has one fin. He’s always late and he has severe memory lapses. Comic readers know the name Steven Grant already; it is one of Moon Knight’s aliases/personalities. He’s usually portrayed as a playboy, not as a giant dork.
“Marc Spector” gets mentioned fairly quickly. Grant has several shifts in his perception, one of which finds him fighting to keep hold of a golden scarab. The Voice of Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham) talks within his head, saying, ”Oh, the idiot’s in control.” In pseudo-Fight Club fashion, Grant and Spector are the same. Spector is the ass-kicker, and he beats people up when Grant is in over his head.
When Spector takes charge, the show checks out along with Grant. We only see the aftermath, which usually comes with bodies on the floor. One sequence involving a stolen cupcake truck finds Grant coming out of the shift with a gun in his hand. Grant can’t explain any of this. He can’t explain how he thought a Sunday was a Friday. Most troubling of all, he can’t explain why, after one of his shifts, Gus now has two fins. He doesn’t think that it’s the real Gus.
Who knows what’s going on? The Voice of Khonshu does, and Moon Knight fans will know how important to the mythos Khonshu is. Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) also knows a great deal; he leads of a sect of people worshipping the Egyptian deity Ammit. He judges the souls of people, and he really wants that scarab. He probably wouldn't say no to pictures of Spider-Man, either. When he pulls his judgement act on Steven, the result shocks him. “There’s chaos in you,” he says.
That line sums up the entire episode. There’s chaos here. Only at the very end of the episode does a non-accented Marc Spector appeal for control of the body to Steven Grant via a bathroom mirror, and that’s because Grant is being chased through the museum by an Egyptian dog beast. Control is given, and when we re-enter the bathroom, we get our first and only glimpse of Moon Knight in the episode.
He finishes beating the crap out of the beast, and then he turns to the camera. He dares us to keep watching his chaotic show.
Field of Reeds
-There is no mention of anything MCU-related in this episode. At the moment, the show is completely self-contained. It reminds us a little of Eternals, though that movie had plenty of references to Thanos, the Blip, and Celestials were a big deal. We take back the comparison.
-There’s no mention of anything in the MCU, but Grant does reference Avatar, so that movie (and presumably James Cameron) exists in the MCU.
-Harrow opens the episode by breaking a glass with his weighing implement, shaking the broken glass into his shoes, and then stepping into the shoes with his bare feet. He walks around and we hear crunching. Is this Arthur Harrow, or is this BTS footage of Ethan Hawke? Time will tell.
-The deity Ammit, referred to often by Harrow and his followers, is referred to in Egyptian Mythology as the “eater of hearts.” She has the head of a crocodile, the midsection of a lion, and the back-section of a hippo. The hearts are weighed by Anubis; if a heart is judged to be lacking, then it is eaten by Ammit. The soul dies a second time, and is doomed to be forever restless. Ammit was not worshipped, she was feared. Some of this has obviously been tweaked for the series, but Harrow does mention how the voice in Grant’s head of “forever unsatisfied.” He also references Ammit as a “bogeyman” and mentions that she was betrayed by her “indolent fellow gods." Had she remained free, she could have averted all kinds of real-world catastrophes.
-Steven finds a hiding spot in his apartment, and within it is a key and a flip phone. The phone has many missed messages from someone named Layla, and one from “Duchamp.” He calls Layla (May Calamawy) and she asks about his accent. To her, he’s supposed to be a mercenary named Marc Spector. She’ll be showing up soon, and she’ll hopefully shed some light on everything.
-Moon Knight has multiple personalities, and in the comics they usually include the mercenary Marc Spector, a very different Steven Grant, and another named Jake Lockley. There have occasionally been more. The character has Dissociative Identity Disorder, but his life has also been touched by the being known as Khonshu. Will the show mention DID, or will they make it all supernatural? We don’t know what their exact approach is yet.
-Not that he cares what we think, but Oscar Isaac's performance in just this one episode is seriously impressive. The scene where Steven Grant's body physically refuses to give up the scarab is masterfully played.
-Both of our favorite lines came from Arthur Harrow. “Would you wait to weed a garden until after the roses are dead?” stands out, and it is full of “I’m a misunderstood antagonist who’s really trying to save everyone” energy.
-Our true favorite is much sillier: “Steven Grant of the Gift Shop, give me the scarab and you won’t be torn apart.”
Moon Knight streams new episodes on Disney+ every Wednesday.