The finale of Marvel’s latest comic book series, “Moon Knight,” dropped Wednesday and audiences are still deconstructing it. Who is Jake Lockley? Does this mean a second season is definitely coming? But in watching the six-episode series there were just as many highs as lows. While shows like “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” and “Loki” both had the same amount of time to tell their stories, social media response to “Moon Knight” has continued to discuss how it was only in the last few episodes that the series fell into a rhythm, only to end as quickly as it began.
The MCU is the source for several TV shows that will end up on Disney+, so even if “Moon Knight” isn’t successful there are several shows already in its wake (a reminder that “Miss Marvel” comes out next month). But in the meantime let’s look at what worked and what didn’t in “Moon Knight.”
May Calamawy came into this series as pretty much it’s only regular female character and slayed it. The actress told IndieWire in an interview this week that she initially felt intimidated starring opposite Isaac and Hawke. “I was just so anxious in the beginning that it was a block and I felt guilty. I even spoke to Ethan about it once and he’s like, ‘Well, hey, it’s not a competition.’ And for me, I’m like, ‘Whoa, I’m never going to try to compete with the two of you, but I just want to feel like it’s an equal energy exchange,’” she said.
Evoking images of Indiana Jones, Calamway’s Layla looked fear in the eye and laughed. Maybe not literally, but she was a badass and was able to work just as well opposite the shy Steven (a stranger to her) as with Marc, the man she was married to.
In the finale, Layla agreed to temporarily be inhabited by the hippo goddess Taweret in order to help defeat the goddess Ammit. The scene gave Calamawy a chance to be funny, as she slipped in and out of speaking as Layla and speaking as Taweret, the latter finding everything charming in a moment of real danger. More importantly, Taweret gave Layla the opportunity to be an Egyptian superhero, complete with gold wings. It was a moment that threatened to make the audience say, “Why hasn’t Layla been the focus all along” and, honestly, if Marvel was smart they’d give her a spin-off right now. If this series gave us anything, it was a strong, confident heroine who held her own far more than the male leads.
People either loved it or hated it. Personally, Isaac’s done worse accents so this reporter was able to ignore it. But it was hard to ever see it as more than an overt way to differentiate Steven from Marc, a gimmick. The fifth episode did a decent job of illustrating why Marc conjured up an alter personality that sounded like a fake Brit (because he was!), but that episode coming out so late in the series left us with noticing it far more for how weird it sounded than anything else.
How does a series starring Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke not pair them together in every episode? These two are such amazing titans of acting that when they were on-screen together it was electric, sometimes literally. The moments of the two verbally sparring in the mental hospital were the most engaging; Hawke’s passivity and sensitivity working opposite Isaac’s confused, fractured mental state. It was like watching a stageplay.
So it was disappointing that, again, these scenes came late in the game and, for the most part, the two stayed separate. On their own they each needed someone to bounce off of. Isaac had that with Calamawy and even F. Murray Abraham’s performance as Khonshu. But Hawke felt like a total outlier who, at times, didn’t ever feel like part of the narrative. He felt ancillary because, at the end of the day, Richard Harrow worked more as a plot device than a true supervillain.
On the one hand, this was the strongest part of “Moon Knight.” Marc’s story of losing his little brother in a flood, his guilt, and experiencing his mother’s physical abuse was heartbreaking. It was understood why he’d create the British explorer Steven Grant, another version of himself who lived in happiness and ignorance. It also made Steven’s story have a gutpunching impact in his realization that he isn’t real; he has no family to speak of and that his regular calls to his mom are him speaking to himself.
But at the same time hasn’t this been the subject of nearly all the MCU shows? “WandaVision” set the tone and remains an engaging and empathetic look at grief and the ways we hide within nostalgia. “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” similarly dealt how one gets over their past, especially when it involved hurting others. In fact, Sebastian Stan’s Winter Soldier could probably help Marc in that regard. Even “Loki” saw the God of Mischief reconcile with the people he’d hurt and navigating the loss of his mom. Is there anything more than can be said on the subject, Disney? At this point I’m hoping “Miss Marvel” can just be fun.
That being said, “Moon Knight” had moments of levity because of how often it embraced being weird. I mean, the finale saw a giant alligator goddess fight with a skeleton bird! The delightful hippo goddess Tarwetet popped up and was our entry into the bonkers Egyptian underworld. The show had a tricky tightrope to walk: It couldn’t reveal these things too early, but it caused the latter half of the series to feel very different. Either way, when are fans going to be able to buy the plush hippo (maybe Tarwetet?) that popped up in the pilot?!
Really, the biggest problem within “Moon Knight” was how it showcased the plot. Like “Loki” and “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” the balance between telling an MCU story with a specific character’s own trajectory has never really happened. It certainly didn’t happen here, with Marc’s story coming off as highly interesting only to smash-cut back to Harrow, Ammit, and the Marvel-esque elements of the story.
Even more insulting was how often the story just felt we didn’t need to know certain things. Take the finale, for instance, where Marc is having his big confrontation with Harrow. Just as things reach a crescendo Marc blacks out only to wake up with an axe (not fatally?) embedded in Harrow’s forehead. Marc and Layla both wonder what happened, as does the audience, but considering there isn’t long in the finale the script appears to say, “Don’t worry about it.” It often felt like Marc’s blackouts allowed for the covering up a violence but here it became a deus ex machina because the script painted itself into a corner.
After several series it’s remains unclear what the point of these shows are other than money, continuing the MCU franchise, and giving us more characters to see at Avengers Campus. None of those is to entertain audiences. “Moon Knight” had several good ideas, but so did the other MCU shows that have come out and, in the end, the creative team did little with them.
“Moon Knight” is available to stream on Disney+.