Directed by: Mohamed Diab, Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, F. Murray Abraham.
Steven Grant is not alone in his own head. We know this now. When he sleeps, someone else takes over and they aren't that friendly. With a charismatic villain in Ethan Hawke, a true to form depiction of mental illness, and our first in-action look of Moon Knight, episode two of Marvel's new series picks up the pace while keeping us in just enough darkness that we pray for a sliver more of moonlight.
Moon Knight has always been a top hero of mine, though only now am I unraveling the interesting yet odd continuity this character boasts, just as the series finds its own perspective in such complexity. The back issues of Moon Knight’s history are often guilty of misrepresenting mental illness, equating mental illness as to the dialed up angst of an action here or “putting the ‘luna’ in ‘lunatic’”, so to speak; however, this is one of many issues from decades ago. I won’t cast stones at what is already done and gone, but I can throw praise at what is happening now. As someone who suffers from mental illness as well, Moon Knight has given me a character who’s similar suffering is so grounded in reality and empathy, that I can’t help but shed a tear at how I, and so many others, feel seen with this style of representation.
The second episode of Marvel’s Moon Knight sheds a bit more light on the enigmatic situation episode one dropped us into. Steven Grant has met Mark Spector and fought a werewolf, all of which he was unprepared for a mere 24 hours prior. The ludicrous nature of this show is exactly what makes it so refreshing. Just as episode one sets the bar at a doable level of weird, episode two raises that bar to new levels of lunacy. The horror elements inherent to this show definitely shine through brightest in the "unreliable narrator" bits. Steven tries so desperately to be heard, yet something always goes wrong to prevent others from helping him. This sense of isolation (something experienced by those with mental illnesses) combines with intense moments of Khonshu-inspired terror to paint a macabre picture of pseudo-realistic horror.
Moon Knight's second episode is not willing to give up all the answers. Those who are deep-cut fans of Moon Knight may be disappointed that, following the first episode, we don't just jump into the fully prepped, luminous boots of the titular hero. I rather like that we aren't given a full-fledged character yet. The focus is on Steven coming to grips with a crumbling life and reflections that yell at him and make demands. He didn't ask for any of this. Fans of the character may agree that Khonshu is an abusive presence to Marc, lingering in his mind to make demands. Reflecting the comics source material, episode two places us in the protagonist's multiple points of view as he learns to piece himself together to find identity and purpose.
It's interesting, and delightful, that the show establishes similarities between the Khonshu/Marc relationship and the Steven/Marc relationship. It presents a feedback loop of pain, desperation, and anxiety that tracks so well alongside Oscar Isaac's indelible performance. Coupled with the creepily charming Ethan Hawke, the themes of identity and purpose are revisited time and again; reflections are also used in multiple ways as Hawke's villain plays an intriguing reflection of Steven [Marc]. I hope we see the reveal of Jake Lockley as well in this series, though I'd understand if the juggling act that would ensue could cause problems by bloating the narrative. A lot of what we've seen reflects the Lemire/Smallwood run on Moon Knight, which excites me for what's to come, especially with the shared focus on Emmet.
I HIGHLY recommend you watch this show. With only four episodes to go and no promise of a season 2, Moon Knight is shaping up to be a brutal, street-level initiation into the more grounded Marvel properties. The acting and storytelling in this series will leave you begging for more. While waiting week to week for new episodes, fill the time by reading more on Moon Knight with this RECOMMENDED READING list! You can find these at your LOCAL COMIC BOOK SHOP, maybe even your LOCAL PUBLIC LIBRARY, or even still online at Amazon.
By Doug Moench & Bill Sienkiewicz
By Charlie Huston & David Finch
By Jeff Lemire & Greg Smallwood
By Jason Aaron & Gerardo Zaffino
For some RECOMMENDED VIEWING from Moon Knight's esteemed directors, check out:
Mohamed Diab's Amira (2021, available on Hulu) as well as Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead's Synchronic (2019, starring Anthony Mackie, available on Netflix) and The Endless (2017, available on Amazon Prime Video).
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.