Moon Knight was everything I hoped it’d be! But I don’t need convincing anymore, so read on for my thoughts about the show. Maybe you’ll wanna watch it too.
Steven Grant is a wannabe tour guide for Egyptian artifacts. He lives alone, and mostly talks with his mother, his goldfish, and human statues. Steven suffers from a mental illness for which he’s not been diagnosed. His life is interrupted by periods of unconsciousness– usually while he sleeps. And he sometimes wakes up in unfamiliar places.
But when a zealot named Arthur Harrow threatens to release an evil Egyptian Goddess from imprisonment, Steven must embrace what he really is: a servant to the Moon God Khonshu– chosen to protect the “travelers of the night” as Khonshu’s Moon Knight.
Off top, I want to say: someone who’s never watched a Marvel movie could understand this show. It’s disconnected enough from the greater MCU to be accessible. And I love that! Moon Knight‘s stand-alone nature is one of its greatest strengths.
Moon Knight had me hooked from scene one of Episode 1. There’s methodical build up to what’s really happening, which leaves you with questions right till the post-credits scene of EP 6. I’ll admit episodes 2 and 3 were weaker than the first. But episodes 4 and 5 are excellent (the later especially so)! And 6 was slightly disappointing, but stuck the landing better than Marvel’s other Disney+ shows.
I’ve always wished to learn Egyptian mythology, though never knew much about it. Moon Knight inspires me to dive deeper on the subject! This show is indebted to Egyptian culture, and uses it in cool ways.
Is said culture faithfully handled though? I should hope so! Marvel wished for this series to be as authentic as possible. That’s why they brought in Egyptian director Mohamed Diab to executive produce and direct most of the series.
Speaking of direction: Moon Knight had some great behind-the-scenes talent! Every shot feels intentional and dynamic. There’s excellent use of imagery and suspense, and general atmosphere.
I’m impressed with how efficiently the scripts blended character work with action and plot. Each scene is packed to the brim with worthwhile moments. Little, if anything, is filler. Each line tells you something important (as a tight script ought to do). And you’re always left curious to see what happens next: whether it’s the next shot, scene, or episode– but especially the later. Moon Knight has some great cliffhangers to cap off its episodes!
At its core, this is a show about mental illness (the specifics of which I’ll refrain from mentioning outright, for those of you who know nothing). It effectively breaks down how a certain illness can start, how it can manifest, when and why. The Moon Knight persona is a trauma which plagues Steven’s existence. He did not choose to be Moon Knight and does not wish to be a superhero. Khonshu cursed him to be an enforcer, and he must live with that. There’s more to it, but that’s part of the problem.
Moon Knight effectively handles a story about mental health crisis in a surprisingly down-to-earth way (for a superhero show about Egyptian gods). This is, without doubt, some of Marvel’s heaviest subject matter without being coddling or heavy-handed ala Falcon and the Winter Soldier. The conflict is very matter of fact and doesn’t sugarcoat the darker side of Steven’s struggle.
Steven Grant is maybe the MCU’s most ordinary, average protagonist. He reacts appropriately to the craziness around him, and is almost always out of his depth. He’s a good guy to his core who’s whose mental health condition makes his life recognizably harder (which I believe is relatable). You might think it’d be hard to sympathize with Steven if you’ve never had his illness, but Moon Knight brilliantly puts you into his head.
We experience the world as Steven does. So we’re always at his level of understanding, which makes him a perfect audience surrogate. It’s especially effective when Steven experiences things we don’t yet understand. This lets us be unsettled, jarred, and surprised.
Oscar Isaac turns in one of the MCU’s all-time best performances! What he did in this show was astounding. He really shows off his spectacular acting range! It’s hard for me to talk about exactly why Isaac is so impressive without spoilers– but he blew me away, and I need to see more of him in the MCU.
Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow is a scarily collected villain. He’s one of my favourite Marvel baddies now, because he’s actually got a point! Harrow’s “villainous” motivation is clear– both the how and the why. And, while his methodology was flawed, I completely understood where he came from. There’s a chance I’d follow this guy in real life if I didn’t realize his true purpose. He’s that charismatic.
My one criticism: I’m unclear as to where Harrow derives his power, or even what his powers are (mind control? Or just severe persuasion like Kilgrave?). It didn’t really matter because he was a strong character. But I was still left unclear by his abilities, and that bothered me.
Layla (May Calamawy) is a magnificent character, and Moon Knight’s biggest surprise for me! I had no expectations for her or her role, though she ultimately won me over (pretty quickly, actually). Layla is arguably the show’s anchor, ’cause she’s the only main human character who doesn’t suffer from serious mental illness. Therefore, she serves to keep Steven grounded and help him to not spiral out of control.
Not to say she doesn’t have her own demons with which she deals. Layla has a tragic backstory, and can be a brutal combatant! And her motivation is rooted in historical injustices towards Egyptian culture. I’m happy the series gives adequate time to explore Layla’s depths. All this to say Layla is better written than most women in the MCU. She’s not just another 2-dimensional love interest.
Then there’s the Moon God, Khonshu. I freaking love F. Murray Abraham’s vocal performance. It’s rich and imposing! His character design is also awesome. Khonshu serves both as a foil and ally to our heroes– acting as both a manipulative and supportive presence. The moral grays behind his motivation are fascinating! He and the villains’ ideals are not so far off from one another.
Moon Knight contains some fantastic action sequences! A lot of it was practical, with some impressive stunt work. Part of what I love about the action is that Steven is just a regular guy and not some trained badass. He panics, makes, dumb decisions, and improvises. Could he get a little goofy at times? Sure. But I always found him endearing. Moon Knight was mostly badass though. Don’t worry.
Also be warned. Moon Knight is more violent than most MCU properties (not made by Netflix). It’s not gory or bloody. But it’s pretty ruthless. And I’m here for it!
My biggest critique of the series is its wonky CGI. Much of it appeared weightless and rubbery. It’s definitely not up to Marvel’s usual standard.
I can look past these problems though, because some of the show’s other effects were mind-bogglingly good– especially in episodes 4 and 5. I have no idea how they pulled some of that stuff off… I’ve got a few guesses, but it still must have taken lots of effort. What got me was how they managed to film some things while the camera tracked character motions. If it had been still shots? That would have been easy. But adding movement was guaranteed to be trickier.
One last note before I wrap up: Moon Knight‘s costume design is excellent! It’s awesome how they adapted the Moon Knight costume to more resemble a mummy. It evokes classic horror films where the scary mummy punishes those who cross its path– only this time the mummy is a “good guy”. Also: the cape looks epic in motion (even though I know it’s often CGI)– like a comic-book panel come to life.
Moon Knight is one of my favourite MCU offerings to date! The writing and film-making are excellent, the subject matter is deep and powerfully rendered, and it’s good entertainment. You should watch it for Oscar Isaac’s performance alone!
For these reasons, I declare Moon Knight a Must See series.
What other lesser known characters should Marvel adapt next? What did you think of Moon Knight? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know. Also be sure to Like this article on Facebook and share if you enjoyed!
Till next time,
FOR MY SPOILER THOUGHTS ON MOON KNIGHT, CHECK OUT THIS EPISODE OF CLOSE UP WITH RYAN AND JOE! (43 minute mark)