What to Watch Verdict
Moon Knight's delivers again with a strong second episode with more action, answers and surprises.
Gorgeous cinematography and insanely fun action
Terrific MCU debut by May Calamawy
Moving on from the museum
More strong horror direction
Dynamic between Marc and Steven
Really cliched villain plot
Wasted potential for Ethan Hawke
By the end of Moon Knight's first episode, mild-mannered Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) of the gift shop surrendered his body to the mysterious Marc Spector (also Isaac), who unleashed the armor of Khonshu, to become the Moon Knight and absolutely wreck an Egyptian jackal sent to kill him (for the record, it brings me no shortage of happiness to have written that sentence).
In Moon Knight's second episode, we get a fair amount of answers about Marc and Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), without quite getting the full picture, and a few about villain Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), as well. All of which are balanced with a rollicking third act filled with money-shots and cool suits to bring together another exciting installment in perhaps the most compelling of the Marvel Studios Disney Plus shows so far.
The episode begins with Steven in disbelief of the events that happened the night before, which left the museum’s toilets in absolute disarray. Steven is convinced he has proof of the attack captured on the security cameras, but ends up (as any good horror story dictates) looking insane since the cameras picked up nothing but him being hysterical on film. This leads to him ultimately getting fired.
This is a positive development for the course of the series. The museum workplace setting was the primary source of the show's over-reliance on the cliched "zero-to-hero" element. Without the annoying "everybody hates nice, innocent Steven" trope to weigh it down, the show can finally begin to get into the most compelling aspects introduced in the first episode: namely the inner-conflict between Steven and Marc (and Khonshu).
Things escalate quickly as Steven follows clues to a storage locker kept by Marc. There he finds a cot and a bag with a gun, hundreds of dollars, a passport and a golden scarab that acts as a compass. Marc tells him that he serves Khonshu and they need to stop Harrow from unleashing the goddess Ahmet, using the compass as a way to find the temple of Ahmet. All Steven has to do is let him take over their body for a little while and it will be over.
But nope — Steven can’t let him do that, threatening to bring all of Marc’s illegal paraphernalia to the authorities. This prompts Khonshu to attempt to stop him in a brilliantly terrifying sequence evocative of something from The Conjuring universe. Once more, the series’ ability to play with comedy and horror is astonishing, thanks to this installment’s notable direction from horror veterans Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead.
A terrified Steven runs into a woman on a motorcycle; Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy). It’s clear Layla is acquainted with Marc but has no idea of his dissociative identity disorder (DID) condition. She's confused by his British accent (who could blame her) and heartbroken delivery of their divorce papers.
Instantly you can detect a real chemistry between Isaac and Ramy-star Calamawy, and it’s interesting to see the differing relationships she has with both Steven and Marc.
Unfortunately, there’s no time for love as two officers show up at Steven’s door, forcing Layla to hide with the scarab Marc stole as they arrest him. It’s painfully obvious these two aren’t cops and are part of Harrow’s cult delivering Steven to Harrow.
Harrow reveals he was once an avatar of Khonshu’s like Marc/Steven. But Khonshu gave up on Harrow because of his extremist ideas on "justice." In classic villain fashion, Harrow begins monologuing about how under Ahmet they can judge and execute people of their crimes before they happen. This is the weakest aspect of the show thus far. Harrow boils down to a one-dimensional villain with "take over the world and reshape it" goals. The conflict between him and Khonshu/Marc/Steven is reduced to a Captain America: The Winter Soldier-type cliché about the wrongdoings of premeditated justice. Have none of these characters ever seen Minority Report?
That said, if the point of a cliched villain plot is to help get us from setup to action, then at least Moon Knight pays it all off. Once more Steven, is pursued by another jackal. Thankfully this time, Layla shows up and she kicks so much butt. Unfortunately though, Layla isn’t enough against a jackal, especially since they can go invisible.
Steven, arguing with Marc, has no choice but to summon the suit, which he finally does — just not in the way you expected. For the first time the Mr. Knight costume is introduced. It’s a really interesting way to bring in such an iconic persona from the comics to the MCU and gives an additional parallel for how Steven and Marc generally think.
Steven tries his best to fight off the jackal as Mr. Knight, but since he has no idea what he’s doing, it’s up to Marc to take over in the Moon Knight suit and save them both.
The fight and the cinematography on display here during the jackal vs Moon Knight fight is stellar. So many scenes in this installment feel like splash pages and large panels come to life and it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s incredibly exciting and just seeing Moon Knight fighting, leaping and throwing and catching his razor sharp crescents is deliriously fun.
But though the jackal is dispatched of, the fight isn’t over. Steven is now on the backburner. Marc is in full control and they absolutely aren’t sympatico. They have a lot to figure out.
As the episode ends with Marc/Steven making their way to Cairo to look for Ahmet's temple, the most exciting aspect for the next installment will actually be seeing where they go from an entirely psychological level.
Mike is a proud, sarcastic nerd with a penchant for comic books, comic book movies, and movies in general, and occasional delusions of grandeur. He's also a UC Berkeley graduate who decided to go into writing over pre-med because he figured he'd ultimately save more lives by not being a doctor. He's a Slytherin and a Pisces, so he's very emotionally sensitive, yet also evil, but can be defeated by exploiting his insecurities. His goal is to live one hell of a unique life, and it's been working so far! His proudest moments are being retweeted by James Gunn and Ryan Reynolds in the same week, and getting 999,999 points on Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters at Disneyland.
You can find Mike's writing around the web at publications like The Nerds of Color, What to Watch, Spoiler Free Reviews, and That's It LA.