Moon Knight Episode 1 Review & Breakdown: A Superhero Origin Story Like No Other:
Warning: major spoilers ahead for Episode 1 of Moon Knight.
Marvel’s Moon Knight comics are well-loved due to the complex nature of its protagonist, Marc Spector, and his alters, who take it upon themselves to enact revenge upon those who enact evil upon the world at large. Apart from imparting tense mysteries, Moon Knight has always been intrinsically unique, be it the way in which it handled its central figure or the depths to which Egyptian lore and mythology were incorporated into the core narrative. The reason why the limited Disney+ series stands apart from other MCU television forays is the way in which the characters are developed, sans any obvious connection to the MCU at large, being a six-episode origin story about a flawed superhero. There are no shadows of the lingering effects of the Blip, no multiverse connotations (as of yet): what we get is a head-first exploration of the characters in question, and what compels them to be the people they are today.
Moon Knight Episode 1 Recap:
STEVEN GRANT, A MILD-MANNERED GIFT SHOP EMPLOYEE
Episode 1 introduces Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a gift shop employee who works at the local museum, who is perenially anxious, and lives alone in his apartment while struggling to not fall asleep. Steven does not seem to have anyone to depend on: he leaves diligent voicemails to his mother who never answers back, is treated rather poorly by his co-workers, and does not seem to have friends for that matter. Pushed around at work, and unable to sleep at night due to his “sleepwalking” tendencies, Steven makes it his mission to stay awake at any cost (no amount of solving Rubix cubes, studying ancient Egyptology, or listening to no-sleep Subliminals all night work), forcing him to resort to binding his legs to the bedpost, and taping his front door to deter inadvertent nighttime adventures.
However, sleep’s inevitable lull pulls him into a dream: Steven finds himself in the countryside, being hounded by strange men with guns, and witnesses cult leader Arthur Harrow (a delightfully dangerous Ethan Hawke) decide the fate of an elderly woman on the basis of the evil she might end up doing in the future. As gleaned by the trailers for Moon Knight, Harrow utilizes the scales tattooed on his arm to enact this judgment, emerging as an authority figure who dons the mantle of judge, jury, and executioner. Soon, Harrow and his men spot Steven and ask him to hand over the artifact: Steven, of course, has no idea what is going on, acting as an obvious audience stand-in, but he finds a golden scarab beetle in his pocket, although he has no memory of retrieving the object or keeping it on his person.
Related to Moon Knight Episode 1 – Parallels (Season 1): Recap & Ending Explained
A VOICE IN HIS HEAD, A SCHISM IN IDENTITY
In the comics, Marc Spector suffers from dissociative identity disorder (DID), a condition taken advantage of by the Moon God, Khonshu when he chooses Marc as his vengeful avatar. Steven is one of Marc’s alters, although the former is completely unaware of this schism in identity in the Disney+ series, although he starts hearing Marc’s voice in his head the moment he steps into the countryside and is surrounded by Harrow’s men. After Harrow asks Steven to hand over the scarab, Marc takes over his limb control, stopping Steven from handing over the artifact to Harrow and his men. A tense chase sequence ensues: while poor Steven is terrified of the situation, and does not quite know what to do, Marc temporarily takes over his body and does what he does best — beat up the men to a bloody pulp. Steven has no memory of this alter taking over, meaning he is completely unaware of his actions as Marc. The chase sequence alternates between Marc and Steven body takeovers, and the result is a tense, action-packed scene replete with humor and complete badassery.
Episode 1 does not introduce Steven or the viewers to Khonshu, but he does see glimpses of the ancient Moon God while going about his day, which terrifies him to no end (which is completely understandable). However, the episode balances tense mystery with moments of levity, the best example of which is the elevator scene, already released as a TV spot in which Steven sees Khonshu speeding towards the elevator he’s in, only to realize it is an elderly neighbor in the building. After his escape from the countryside (Steven simply wakes up, believing it was all a nightmare), he heads to the museum only to find Harrow waiting for him, offering him the most important choice of his life. Realization dawns that everything he had experienced, including the voice in his head was indeed real, furthered by the fact that Harrow’s followers are everywhere: in the museum he works in, the streets, and every corner he turns.
WHO DOES HARROW’S CULT WORSHIP? THE EGYPTIAN GODDESS AMMUT, EXPLAINED
Moon Knight opens with Harrow carrying out a ritual of sorts, along of lines of corporal mortification, in which he fills his shoes with shattered glass and proceeds to wear them. While it is unclear as to why he deems it necessary to go through excruciating bodily pain, it might be a sacrifice of sorts in order to be worthy of being a vessel of the gods. Harrow’s cult is clearly devoted to an Egyptian deity, whose vision he enacts with the help of the scale tattoos, deciding who is worthy of existence based on the acts they might commit in the future. Harrow explains this to Steven in greater detail inside the museum, as to how he is a vessel for the goddess Ammut, also known as the Eater of the Dead in Egyptian mythology and lore. The scales become pertinent in this respect, as it is a symbol for weighing souls in the afterlife by Anubis — the souls deemed virtuous were allowed passage to the realm of Duat, while the others were devoured by Ammut herself.
Keeping this in mind, Harrow emerges as the vessel for Ammut in the corporeal world, and he reveals that the scarab acts as a map of sorts that leads to her tomb, and that the cult aims to resurrect her so as to unleash her onto the world. The resurrection of Ammut, although not explored in much detail in episode 1 of Moon Knight, holds disastrous implications, as her rise would mean the end of the world as we know it, an usurpation of balance, and unfair judgment when it comes to punishing evil in the world. Harrow offers Steven the choice to join in in his reappraisal of the world, holding his arm so as to evaluate him. The scales flit frenetically from side to side, unable to arrive at a conclusion, which urges Harrow to utter the lines from the trailer, “There’s chaos in you.”
MOON KNIGHT EPISODE 1: REVIEW & ENDING EXPLAINED
THE JACKAL, MARC SPECTOR, AND THE ICONIC MOON KNIGHT SUIT
After Steven turns down Harrow’s offer, he is attacked by a mythical dog of sorts, which looks more like a jackal, and the beast viciously attacks Steven inside the museum after it is closed for the night. It is important to understand that Steven, at this point, is mind-bogglingly baffled, unable to understand what he is dealing with, and how exactly he fits into the equation. Earlier in the episode, Steven stumbles across a hidden compartment in his apartment, where he finds a burner phone and a security locker key. There are multiple missed calls from a woman named Layla, who he talks to over the phone, and is confused when he addresses him as Marc. After Harrow’s reveal at the museum, Steven is paranoid, afraid, and absolutely at his wit’s end, which is not helped by the fact that he sees his reflection act according to its own volition, speaking back at him, urging him to allow the alter to take over his body.
This is heightened when the jackal corners Steven in one of the restrooms, and Marc tells Steven that he has to allow for the takeover to occur, as he is the only one who can protect the two of them. Helpless and backed into a corner, Steven agrees, and we see him transforming into Marc Spector/Moon Knight, replete with the iconic suit he dons in the comics (kevlar armor, crescent darts, and glider cloak). Things are about to go down, obviously, and Marc will most probably beat the living daylights out of the jackal, now that he has control over Steven’s body. However, as Steven does not have any memory after the takeover, he will most probably not be able to remember what exactly happened in the museum after he granted Marc permission. The split personality aspect has already been established, and it remains to be seen whether Marvel delves deeper into the complexities of Marc/Steven’s DID, and how it shaped his journey as Khonshu’s avatar.
LOOKING DEEP INTO A FRACTURED MIND & EMBRACING THE CHAOS
Then, there’s the question of Khonshu himself, a polarizing figure in the comics, as he is both the reason behind Marc’s powers and his fractured, agonized psyche. Moon Knight manages to keep Khonshu interesting enough without giving away too much in the introductory episode, and this kernel of mystery works in the favor of the show. Isaac slips into the dual roles pretty well, although we have only seen him play Steven for the most part (the weird, fake-ish British accent makes sense now, granting a whole level of nuance to the personality). Hawke’s Harrow, a figure barely developed in the comics, emerges as a terrifying figure, as his motivations are still shrouded in mystery, and his plans already seem more diabolical than one would expect them to be. Now that he is aware of the schism in his identity, Steven is bound to go in search of answers, which might very well not bode well for him, as he stands at the brink of unraveling a chasm of conspiracies, hidden secrets, and long-buried Egyptian history and mythology, which is all too real in this universe.