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Moon Knight Episode 1 Review

Posted by Stephen Corston on

At long last, Moon Knight has joined the ever-expanding MCU. The debut episode was released Wednesday on Disney+ and I found it really enjoyable. It looks like it will be an exciting change from the usual Marvel fare.

In “The Goldfish Problem” we meet the meek Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a bumbling gift shop worker, in London. Steven spends most of his time alone talking to his mother’s voicemail, his one-finned gold fish, or a park statue. Steven seems to have issues with sleepwalking and has put up all sorts of barriers in his flat to keep his body from walking off each night. One day, however, these self-imposed obstacles fail and Steven wakes up in a field outside a small Alpine village. He has a dislocated jaw (that he painlessly resets, to his own befuddlement), a golden scarab in his pocket, and he’s being pursued by gun-wielding thugs. Frozen with anxiety, Steven follows a loud voice in his head telling him to run. During the chase, he hides in a cult meeting led by Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). Harrow spots Steven and demands the scarab, but when Steven tries to hand it over, his body resists and starts running off on its own. The chase continues until, suddenly, Steven wakes up back in his flat in London, seemingly unharmed. Soon he realizes that he has been “asleep” for two days. Later, Steven finds a hidden cellphone and a set of keys in his flat. The cellphone gets called by a woman named Layla who calls him Marc, only confusing poor Steven more. The next day, Steven is confronted by Harrow at the museum. Harrow explains that he serves the Egyptian Goddess Ammit and that Steven has “chaos” inside him. That night, while Steven is at the museum doing inventory, Harrow summons a Jackal-monster to attack Steven so that he hands over the scarab. Steven flees into a bathroom where his reflection, who speaks with an American accent, tells him to hand over control. Steven agrees, transforms into Moon Knight, and kills the monster.

I’ve been a fan of Moon Knight since the 2006 Charlie Huston/David Finch run that I read when I was 14. I’ve been eagerly waiting for his introduction to the MCU for as long as the concept has existed. I always found the character inherently cinematic and a lot more interesting than his “Marvel’s Batman” reputation suggests.

As with any page-to-screen adaptation, the show’s Head Writer Jeremy Slater, director Mohamed Diab, and Kevin Feige saw fit to make some aesthetic and story changes to the character. Partly to make the character fit into the Marvel Cinematic Universe more neatly and, I’m sure, to distance the character from that Batman comparison. While there is a history of Moon Knight having super powers in comics, it’s much more common for him to be armored-up, flying in his Moon-Plane, and tossing his Moon-arangs. From what we’ve seen so far, the show has given the character a magical costume - reminiscent of Mummy wrappings - and some form of supernatural power. The Steven Grant persona in the comics is more of a billboard playboy type, not a humble shopkeep; while Arthur Harrow is more of a mad scientist in his appearances, and less of a David Koresh-but-magic cult leader. These changes don’t feel like they’re betraying the mythos of Moon Knight; they’re simply making him a more unique character.

The series leans heavily into the Egyptian lore of the character and that seems to be the primary focus of the show. I’m happy to see a part of the world we haven’t seen yet in the MCU. Head writer Jeremy Slater and director Mohamed Diab are both of Egyptian descent and Diab has been very vocal about the show’s mission to offer a more thoughtful and accurate portrayal of modern day Egypt; something that, even today, is rarely done.

Another focus of the show is Steven Grant’s dissociative identity disorder. This, like the Egyptology, is a crucial part of Moon Knight lore and has been part of the character since his early days. Throughout the episode we see Steven’s struggles with memory loss and somnambulism, and eventually his alternate self “Marc.” In episode one, Steven’s mental health is just part of the greater mystery, not yet an explicitly stated character trait.

I am on the fence about the on-screen depiction of Moon Knight’s iconic costume. I can appreciate the Mummy aesthetic of the suit, especially given the Egyptian themes in the show, but I am personally a fan of the more minimalist versions we see in the comics. Particularly Declan Shalvey and Greg Smallwood’s versions. Considering the show seems to be borrowing a lot from the Jeff Lemire/Greg Smallwood run, I would have liked a reflection of that in the costume. But, as far as criticisms go, this one is very minor.

Oscar Isaac is a fun, charming lead and a great fit for the character. Ethan Hawke plays a delightfully sinister villain. “The Goldfish Problem” moves at a quick pace. Refreshingly, this addition to the MCU canon also requires zero homework. So far,  there are no references to the other films or shows, making this one feel very independent and a great entryway for viewers who might not be caught up on every bit of the MCU’s overarching story. While I would have liked to see our titular hero in costume sooner than in the last few shots, I was hooked on the action and mystery of the show’s first episode. I can’t wait to see where the show goes and learn more about the MCU’s take on one of my favourite characters!


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