‘Moon Knight’ Review: Ancient Egyptian Gods and Trauma
MCU’s Moon Knight miniseries, created by Jeremy Slater, centers around Marc Spector/Moon Knight (Oscar Issac), a superhero with a dissociative identity disorder. He has two distinct personalities British museum gift-shop employee Steven Grant/Mr. Knight (Oscar Issac) and the ruthless Spanish-speaking Jack Lockley (Oscar Issac). Marc is the avatar for the Egyptian moon god Khonsu (Karim El Hakim and F. Murray Abraham).
Issac masterfully creates three distinct personas through accent work and body movements. The miniseries generate a lot of suspense and mystery because the writers expertly keep back information from the audience by limiting the amount of exposure the distinct personalities have to one another.
If any prospective audience members expect a horror television series, they will be disappointed with Moon Knight. Instead, the miniseries wrestle with trauma and guilt stemming from loss.
Superhero with Dissociative Identity Disorder
Oscar Issac inhabits these three different personalities so deftly that Steven and Marc are easily recognizable. Issac uses his accent when depicting Marc, the “real” personality. Marc stays focused on seeking justice as Moon Knight to make up for his actions as a mercenary.
Marc is an adept fighter who can hold his own as a military veteran even without powers. As Moon Knight, he transforms into a powered individual who cannot die and usually takes down his combatant. The veteran carries a lot of trauma and guilt from his childhood. Marc, the primary personality, doesn’t speak about his feelings or past. The other two personas protect his psyche.
The secondary personality is Steven, the British gift-shop worker who’s the considerate and intellectual one. He has a bizarre British accent that young Steven created from his favorite film Tomb Busters (An Indiana Jones rip-off). Issac says the accent is based on several famous British comedians.
Like Marc’s ex-wife Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy), Steven adores studying Ancient Egyptian mythology and has become an expert. For most of the miniseries, he can’t throw a punch. Mr. Knight only masters hand-to-hand combat when Steven embraces Marc as part of him.
Steven is socially awkward but takes care of the people and animals around him. Oscar Issac succeeds in appearing small when he performs as the shy British gift shop worker. Steven hates violence, making him the opposite of Marc, leading the two to clash at the beginning of the miniseries.
Jack remains largely a mystery because we only meet him at the end of the series. The writers in the miniseries strongly imply that Jack was inhabiting “the body” whenever Steven or Marc woke up from a blackout surrounded by dead people.
In episode six, “Gods and Monsters,” he drives Khonsu around town. Jack wears a nice coat, silk scarf, and a flat cap. He speaks flawless Spanish, then shoots the main antagonist of the miniseries Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) several times off-screen.
The third personality grins when he points the gun at Harrow’s head. Issac does an excellent job of projecting confidence and arrogance when performing as Jack. Neither Steven nor Marc know of his existence, leaving room for another miniseries or movie featuring Moon Knight.
Not Horror & Weaving Suspense
Moon Knight has been billed as the first horror MCU television series, but the miniseries do not fit that genre. Instead, the miniseries is more of a psychological thriller. There are no gory fight scenes or any intense jump scares.
The closest thing to anything horrifying in Moon Knight is in “The Goldfish Problem,” when Steven hears Khonsu’s voice, runs through the shadowed halls of the museum, and notices Marc in the mirror right before the jackals attack him in the bathroom. Children may find some of these scenes terrifying, but adults will only find them suspenseful.
The miniseries create a lot of suspense and mystery by slowly doling out information. At first, the audience witnesses everything through Steven’s eyes, who knows nothing. The museum gift shop worker believes he is suffering from some bizarre type of sleepwalking.
He slowly learns about Marc by investigating the mercenary’s storage locker, talking to him through reflections, and meeting Layla. Marc doesn’t speak much about his past, so the audience is constantly surprised by every new revelation.
The mercenary’s backstory remains a mystery until the last two episodes when Steven realizes that he is one of Marc’s personalities. Jack’s presence in the miniseries isn’t confirmed before the end credits leaving the audience on the edge of their seats.
Wrestling with Trauma
Like all the other MCU television series, Moon Knight explores themes of trauma. From Marc, who has a mental disorder, to Harrow, a cult leader grieving his past powers, all the characters deal with emotional pain. The series utilizes visuals to reveal the characters’ trauma.
For example, Harrow fills his sandals with broken glass. He walks on the glass all day long, living with literal and metaphorical pain. Harrow grieves the loss after Khonsu stops letting him be the god’s avatar. He desperately schemes and fights to become Ammit’s vessel.
In the final episodes, Marc and Steven flash between traveling on a longboat sailing through Duat (Ancient Egyptian Land of the Dead) with a hippopotamus-headed Ancient Egyptian goddess Tawerert and attending a therapy session with Dr. Harrow in this surreal mental hospital that resembles the museum where Steven works. Marc doesn’t know which reality is part of his delusions because both options seem like hallucinations. Slater doesn’t paint Layla (who lost her father), Marc, or Steven as broken people.
The main protagonists deal with severe mental and emotional anguish but choose to do the right thing. Marc and Steven are compassionate beings who just haven’t faced their pain. Society tells them that they are not worthy of trust or agency because they have a mental illness.
However, the minute Marc and Steven love each other and, therefore, themselves, together, they can defeat beings with Egyptian God-level abilities. Moon Knight teaches us that trauma or mental illness doesn’t make anybody unworthy of love.
Last Thoughts on the Moon Knight Miniseries
Some MCU fans may complain that there is not enough “Moon Knight” action scenes, but Moon Knight is a compelling character study and solid superhero origin story. Watch the whole miniseries on Disney Plus. Then, let us know what you think in the comments below.
Great article. I have not seen this (don’t have Disney+) but it actually sounds pretty interesting. MCU really leans into the idea of a “flawed” superhero. It’s not the perfect, law-abiding citizen anymore. They have issues that other people have. Though, I guess if you dress up as any superhero and fight crime there is probably something deeper going on there.