The Moon is Full! Moon Knight Season One: In Depth Review and Character Analysis

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Luke Pietrzak '22

ATTENTION: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR MARVEL’S MOON KNIGHT

The first season of Moon Knight starring Oscar Isaac came to an end on Wednesday, May the 4th and there is just so much to talk about.

First let us address all of the main characters; of which there are seven. This includes of course Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac), Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac again), Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy), Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), Ammit (voiced by Saba Mubarak), and Jake Lockley (surprise, Oscar Isaac again). They’re each important in their own way and I have some thoughts on all of them. Let’s talk about it.

Marc Spector is the original identity of our main character. His trauma and DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder, which we will return to) are a result of abuse he endured from his mother after the day his brother died. Marc was an American soldier from Chicago turned mercenary who’s life was saved by Khonshu, the Egyptian God of the moon in exchange for servitude as Moon Knight. He spends his whole life trying to hide from his trauma from his mother, balance his relationship within himself and mental health, his relationship with his spouse; Layla, and his relationship with Khonshu who in essence saved his life on the conditions of Marc’s slavery. This is one of the ways external conflicts are brought to life in the Marvel Universe is the idea of an Egyptian God enslaving a Jewish man is explored through their relationship.

In order to understand the nature of Marc’s alter personalities we must understand what DID is. Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is a disorder in which two or more distinct personality states exist inside the mind and life of one person. It is usually a reaction to trauma and a means of avoiding the hurt of traumatic memories (source: Mayo Clinic). This is exactly how it worked for Marc. He carried around trauma from his brother’s death and his mother’s abuse as a result of it causing him to develop this disorder as a child so his mind could escape parts of his traumatic past and so that his other personalities could either experience either some of the trauma for him or even moments of happiness when needed. 

Steven Grant, who later becomes Mr. Knight is the main alter personality that Marc Spector created for himself as a child. As Marc says in episode five, Steven got to go through life believing that he was loved by his mother and had a good life. Steven is an innocent and sweet British man who starts out believing that he simply suffers from some form of extreme sleep walking. Once he begins to unravel his secret double life he understandably becomes increasingly frustrated, angry, and against the idea of giving Marc control of their life at all. They start working in harmony only through necessity as the dangers of Marc’s life catch up with Steven and he is convinced that he is not capable of fighting away this life.

Arthur Harrow is a religious cult leader who serves the Egyptian Goddess Ammit. He is the former avatar (the name for the person in servitude of an Egyptian God) of the God Khonshu. His motivation is to free Ammit from her 2,000 year imprisonment.

Layla El-Faouly is Marc Spector’s wife and daughter of renowned archeologist Abdullah El-Faouly who was killed by Marc’s mercenary partner Raul Bushman (who yes, would have killed Marc as well if it weren’t for Khonshu). We learn that Marc had been ghosting her for months leading up to her first appearance in the show which results in her initially perceiving the Steven personality as a complicated tactic of avoiding her. To me, (only until episode six when she becomes Taweret’s avatar) her character is a victim of unimportance. For being a key player in this series, it feels like she is given too insignificant of a role and the series could have easily played out without her until the season finale. On the other hand, her role in this last episode redeems the character but it’s just a bit too little too late for me. 

Khonshu, as mentioned, is the Egyptian God of the moon. His main role as a God is to judge those who have committed evil deeds. He should not be mistaken for the “good guy” in this series. He chooses Marc to be his avatar A. out of convenience but B. because Marc’s mind is fractured and he sees him as controllable. 

Ammit is the Egyptian Goddess of divine retribution. What this means goes hand in hand with her mission. She judges the souls of people and ends their lives if they have either committed evil deeds or will later commit evil deeds in their lives. This is where she differs from Khonshu, which she will admit: he judges people’s decisions while she judges innocent people based on decisions they have not made yet therefore removing their choice all together. In multiple episodes we are told of her last avatar who “betrayed” her resulting in her imprisonment who we learn in episode four was Alexander the Great.

Finally, Jake Lockley is the third and (as far as we know) final of Marc’s personalities. In the comics, he is a cab driver who serves as Moon Knight’s eyes and ears on the street. In this show he is the polar opposite of Steven. He is a ruthless, brutal, and violent killer. We don’t know whether or not Jake is aware that he isn’t an independent person but Marc and Steven are aware they are sharing the body with a third person (but they don’t know Jake). 

Jake can be seen many times in the series before his official reveal in the post-credits scene of the finale. It can be reasonably assumed that he is the one who asks Steven’s co worker on the date, he is the one who gets drunk in Egypt, he is the one who kills the people in Germany and on the roof in Egypt, he is the one with the nose bandage in the afterlife, and he is the one that kills Harrow (both times). I must give immense credit where credit is due to Ryan Arey from ScreenCrush on YouTube. I watched all of his recap videos after every episode which led to most of my knowledge about the comics, the rumors, and the background info.

This series really just feels like a 3 part movie. Episodes one through four (until Marc’s death), episode five in the afterlife, and the finale. Through the first four episodes the relationship between Marc and Steven stays on the forefront. It is mostly them getting into each other’s ways and learning ways to block each other off from their life until the other is absolutely needed. 

The problem with this show to me is that it tries to balance one too many things at a time through these episodes. One extra episode + the spacing out of all of the complex issues would have benefited the pace of the show overall. This seems the most obvious when you compare any of the episodes to episode one which was millions of times slower and explained itself well. 

Episode four thrusts us into Marc & Steven (and we later learn Jake’s) “afterlife” as explained by the Goddess Taweret. This psych ward is a product of Marc’s memories from his life creating an atmosphere where all of his good memories can separate themselves from his trauma before he gets judged. That is why everyone we see in the show plays an imaginary role in this hospital and the hospital is eerily reminiscent of places we’ve been. His mind can’t pull from anything but his memories to construct the environment. 

It of course continues this way until Marc & Steven learn that they must reveal all secrets to balance their hearts. It is then that Steven sees all of Marc’s memories and trauma, learns he is made up, and learns that his (their) mother is dead and never loved them. Steven also realizes that he and Marc should theoretically be good at some of the same things since they are the same person. This leads to Steven sacrificing himself on Taweret’s boat and later returning to fight in harmony with Marc as Mr. Knight (and fight pretty well).

As seems to be standard in the current environment of the MCU, I think there are too many things in this show and especially in the last episodes that would confuse any viewer who doesn’t have extensive background knowledge. This show is not a normal Marvel show though. It breaks the mold of “normal New York City dude fights crime” and gives us a whole new experience. The simple explanation is that the series just isn’t meant for a casual audience. If the confusing storylines and relationships don’t convince you of that maybe it’s the fact that Marc is in the Moon Knight suit less than.. what.. maybe ten percent of the show implying that anyone watching this for action instead of complex thinking and acting is in the wrong place. 

However, it must then be discussed whether or not the show did it’s complicated agenda and purpose justice. On one hand, the Egyptian representation was done thoroughly and ended up being awesome. On the other hand… the PG-13 rating holds the show back from being bold enough. For a show that is all about a man with extreme abuse driven trauma, a rare mental disorder, the enslavement elements of being an avatar, Ammit’s mission of mass genocide, and Harrow’s murderous cult, it just could have been so much more. For PG-13 it explored all of these things as efficiently and thoroughly as possible but it is fair to say that the sky would be the limit if the TV-Mature rating of other Marvel shows like Daredevil were to be applied here.

Lesser issues I had involved the CGI of the Moon Knight suit, the design of some of the live action versions of the Gods and Goddesses, and the final fight of Khonshu vs Ammit being quite anticlimactic. Ethan Hawke and especially Oscar Isaac quite clearly carry the whole weight of the show on their backs. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing because well, of course they should; they’re the two main characters. However, if they were to cast two worse actors for these roles who didn’t deliver on even half of the same level with the same script and plot I don’t think it’s a hot take to say the show could have been bad.

With that being said, Oscar Isaac’s performance in this show is peak acting. It’s amazing how good an actor can look when their character is written well (cough, Disney Star Wars, cough). The way he seamlessly switches from Marc to Steven to Marc while switching accents is unbelievable. It is done so well in fact that seeing Marc and Steven together in the same room starting episode four doesn’t even feel like looking in the mirror. They are indisputably two separate and completely unique characters brought to life by Oscar Isaac.

Another stellar inclusion in this show is the music choice. “Lonely Is A Man Without Love” by Engelbert Humperdinck quickly became a fan favorite after being used in the intro and first act of the pilot episode before being used again in the finale. Aside from that, if you look into each song choice you will find themes that always relate well with the corresponding scene and lyrics that fit into the overall scheme of the season and or episode. 

As I near the end of this article, I want to mention the coolest thing about the end of each episode. The end credits just barely changed from episode one until the end. Originally, people just thought the images were really cool and didn’t think much into it. However, as things happened throughout the series people began to realize that the end credits designs were showing places and scenes that related to things later in the series. For example, the hallway in the afterlife hospital can be seen clearly during the credits of every episode including episode one.

Thinking thoroughly about this can reveal the insane and deep complexity of every episode, character, and every inch of the plot. This means a few things. Marvel has set the bar very very high. This was never supposed to be WandaVision or Loki. Moon Knight was a character who has never been in live action before and the fact that they were able to make this show so addicting and these characters so easy to care about is a good thing but it means people should not accept less in the future especially when it involves characters we already know and love.

Above all, Moon Knight’s first season is one that could barely keep up with itself but somehow met itself at the end. We are effectively left wanting more after Jake Lockley was revealed to be still working with Khonshu after the end of the Khonshu-Marc-Steven partnership. This series is one that absolutely could be critiqued in some negative ways but that remains mostly being picky. No show or movie is perfect but the first season exceeded expectations when you take into account the difficulty of creating an impact with a show based on characters that are brand new to live action. For a first season that was only six episodes I was always on the edge of my seat, I felt fulfilled, and I hope I’m ready for what will feel like a very, very long wait until the second season which at this point seems bound to happen.

Marvel’s Moon Knight can be streamed on Disney+ now.