“What you are about to see will melt your brain.”
Oscar Isaac’s Steven Grant addresses this line to a security guard at the beginning of the second episode of Disney+ miracle gamble. But you’ll forgive me if I use the statement to talk about the last shot of this episode – because, boy, did it, yes, melt my brain.
Then again, one would have to be stone not to react appropriately at the sight of Isaac wearing nothing more than a pair of black boxer shorts. Well, a pair of boxers and a frown. And maybe a few drops of sweat. The scene shows that we have left Britain and are now in Egypt, heralding a definite change of scene – and perhaps even tenor. After all, we received loads of information that suggests that Egypt is the destination of our journey, since our hero is the “avatar” of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu.
But back to the actual line. The brain melting one. You can excuse Steven Grant’s exaggeration. Remember, he was about to show the museum security staff footage of what Grant recalls as a rather terrifying encounter the night before with an Egyptian jackal – you know, the jackal that Marc fought in the Full Moon Knight’s robes and ended up in what is arguably the most stylish public toilet a museum could afford. Only when security footage goes through is there no sign of said jackal; We see Steven duck and run…then hide and run again. But nothing is on his heels.
Also, when he leaves the museum, the guy in the footage doesn’t really look like Steven himself. There’s a confidence in his stride that suggests he’s not the jaded gift shop clerk before us. And Steven knows it. That’s clearly the man in the mirror – the Marc Spector, who will take center stage in this episode as much as he does Steven Grant dominated the last one. In the pilot episode, we asked ourselves, “What happens to Steven Grant?” We now turn to an equally intriguing question: “Who is Marc Spector?”
Bonus: the more we learn about Marc (including the fact that he has a wife, Layla, which we heard on the phone last time), we also learn more about the Egyptian god Khonshu – and Arthur Harrow the Strange Cult leader played by Ethan Hawke. This means that this second outing is a bit more explanation-heavy than the pilot. And in that regard, it pulls a bit more than it probably should. But given that we needed to have some questions answered at some point, we might as well get them while Steven addresses Marc in his reflection and/or while Steven has promising in-depth conversations with Harrow about how to administer justice.
It’s in these conversations where moon knight telegraphs the episode’s central thematic tension: Harrow (a former Khonshu avatar who now works for the goddess Ammit) firmly believes that humans are not only responsible for the evil they have committed, but also for the evil they have yet to commit must commit can be judged and punished accordingly. This is Philip K Dicks minority report based on Egyptian mythology (based on Marvel, of course): those found guilty of a prior crime are judged by Harrow’s tattooed scales and summarily killed. Harrow suggests that this is the only way to “eradicate the choice of evil”. (The question of free will, of course, creeps by the sidelines of this discussion, a question that echoes in Steven’s own consciousness as he struggles with who makes some of his own decisions — especially when he keeps losing control of his own body. )
Harrow and Ammit’s version of this is justice at its most elemental – and also at its cruelest. Khonshu disagrees: “I am real justice,” he roars. It’s a line that taunts Harrow and reveals the sheer absurdity of her intent, even if Harrow’s own plans sound just as insanely self-serious. (The cast of Khonshu, voiced by F. Murray Abraham, is oh so sublime; only he could make this skeletal moon god feel imperious, but not without an unintentionally dry sense of humor.)
Speaking of which, the interplay between Harrow, Steven and Khonshu is one of the greatest strengths in moon knight: its cast. And that’s before we meet the other key player. Because when Layla, the wife of Marc (soon to be ex? The divorce papers are still pending…) finally comes to the screen, the show finally allows itself to be more than just a boys’ club. And May Calamawy doesn’t disappoint. Her banter with Isaac – whether as the bumbling Steven or the more confident Marc – is delightful, a true highlight of the show, especially as we move away from the horror undertones that characterized the pilot and towards more high-stakes globetrotting action.
Which brings us to Egypt, where Harrow’s plan (with the help of the scarab at the heart of the story) will soon unfold, and where our hero will presumably get more clarity as to what is causing Steven and Marc to struggle for control of her body. Something has clearly happened and whatever kept the two separate (and safe) has shattered, as have the many mirrors cracking in this episode, an all too blunt visual metaphor for future personalities (Personas, even?) further fracture. But that’s a story for another episode. The next one, one hopes.
- “I don’t care how damn good you look,” is a line Isaac had to deliver as if addressing himself, and I insist we remember it as often as we did.What is grief if not love?”
- Can we talk a little about the humor of the show? The MCU has always prided itself on its tongue-in-cheek tone, with jokes and visual gags peppering shows and movies alike. And that’s no different here, as Isaac really undermines Steven’s awkwardness (even in his smart suit) and plays up the rather dead, if not downright serious, characters that surround him.
- Speaking of said suit, let’s give our praises to Meghan Kasperlik (she from HBO). Mare by Easttown and Guardian fame) for her decision to find the most flattering pair of white pants for Mr. Isaac. Because when Steven summons “the suit” in hopes of repelling Harrow’s attacks, he doesn’t get the arguably super-cool looking cloak suit we saw last time. Instead, he looks like “Psycho Colonel Sanders” (the show’s words, not mine) in a beautifully tailored suit with tie and gloves to match. Aside from being just as eye-catching despite clearly operating in a different register than the suit Marc is conjuring up for himself (which really reflects Khonshu’s design), what I love about both is the structured detailing on them. One looks like a caped mummy, the other looks like it was devised by a courteous hitman who has a personal tailor on call.
- Speaking of under-the-line people, Egyptian composer Hesham Nazih managed to add a similar texture in these two episodes moon knighta testament to the creative team behind the series (who also hired Mohamed Diab to direct most of the episodes; in this episode Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead) are committed to seeing Egypt not just as a painted backdrop, but as a way of life ( and utterly modern) character in its own right throughout the show.
https://www.avclub.com/moon-knight-episode-2-1848751860 Moon Knight Episode 2 Summary