Moon Knight Episode 5 Review & Breakdown: Heartwrenching Trauma, Acceptance, & The True Cost of Balance 


Apart from a content warning, I also want to include a trigger warning for episode 5, The Asylum, as it deals with heavy themes centering on trauma, parental abuse, and clinical/medical gaslighting. 

Moon Knight is back with episodes helmed by Mohamed Diaz, who, once again, crafts a gripping, emotionally-devastating episode that provides further answers about Marc and Steven’s (Oscar Isaac) journey. To recap the end of episode 4 briefly, Marc finds himself inside Putnam Psychiatric Ward after Harrow (Ethan Hawke) shoots him inside Ammit’s tomb, but he also finds Steven inside, and the two run into Taweret, the Egyptian goddess of rebirth and fertility. Marc and Steven are understandably freaking out, as they have absolutely no idea what is going on, until Taweret provides critical context for her presence, along with theirs inside the mental institution.



As Harrow shot Marc at the end of “The Tomb,” both Marc and Steven are dead, and hence on a journey to the Egyptian underworld, also known as the Du’at. Taweret is present to guide them in this journey, as their souls are to be weighed so as to determine whether they are worthy to cross over to the Field of Reeds, which can be likened to heaven or be thrown overboard and frozen in the sands that surround the passage. Plucking their hearts out of their bodies (it does not affect them, as they are undead souls on the path to immortality), Taweret places them on a scale against the feather of Ma’at, which represents truth and righteousness. If the scales balance, they will be granted safe passage, but in order for that to happen, the duo need to be open and honest to one another and reveal their pasts that are otherwise hidden from each other. As Marc already knows everything about Steven, it is the latter who needs to know essential truths about Marc’s past, especially his, or their, childhood.

Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gabor Kotschy. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.


The doors in the asylum function as doorways to Marc’s memories, and they find themselves in a room filled with zombified versions of the people Marc has killed as a hired mercenary (he explains they were criminals of the worst kind). A child can be seen running, and Steven follows him, ignoring Marc’s pleas. Steven finds out that Marc had a brother, Randall or RoRo, and one day, during an outdoor adventure inside a water-logged cave, RoRo had died in an accident. During RoRo’s shiva, Marc’s mother blames him for his brother’s death, and we see the beginnings of continuous abuse, wherein his mother was negligent of Marc as a child, and directly blamed him for everything, while his father looked on and tried his best to be there for Marc. However, with Marc’s mother’s mental health worsening, the process was too much for him to endure, and he leaves to enroll in the army — Marc’s father attempts to stop him, saying he cannot lose another son, and the sequence is downright heartbreaking, as no child should have to go through something as traumatic as this.



Throughout Moon Knight, Steven was under the impression that he was the core personality, and that Marc was an alter, which urged him to believe that he himself should be in control. However, Marc’s memories reveal an uncomfortable and gutwrenching truth: as Marc’s mother was also physically abusive and traumatized Marc to the point of making him feel innately guilty for killing his brother (although he did not, it was an accident), he has created Steven’s persona as a means to cope with the deep-seated trauma. The scene in which this is revealed is difficult to watch, as it becomes clear that Marc had created a version of him who believed that he had a perfectly healthy childhood and that his relationship with his mother was a functional and beautiful one. This stemmed from an urge to protect himself, hence Steven went about life without being exposed to the truth of Marc’s trauma, which was further enhanced when he had to become a mercenary, and later, Khonshu’s avatar.

Episode 5 is beautifully realized, as it is rare for a TV show, especially one that deals with a badass superhero, to navigate mental illness and the weight of emotional trauma in such a visceral, yet sensitive way. DID is a complex disorder and at no point, the condition is demonized or sensationalized to raise emotional stakes — Marc and Steven carry their individual pain, and even after learning the truth (which guts him on the inside), Steven chooses to emphasize with Marc and make him feel seen as he should have been throughout his life. The scene in which Marc is outside his house during his mother’s shiva, breaks down on the ground, wracked with pain while wrenching off his kippa and then apologizing to it later, is a testament to the show’s strong writing and Isaac’s phenomenal range, as he switches to an oblivious Steven seconds later. This scene is also an acknowledgment of Marc as a Jewish superhero, which is a much-needed representation: however, as I do not think I am the right person to delve into this (I am neither Jewish nor informed enough to offer meaningful analysis), I will refrain from doing so.

Moon Knight
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gabor Kotschy. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

What I can talk about is the raw, emotional impact that the episode had on me, as the portrayal of childhood abuse and trauma brought many uncomfortable emotions to the surface. When dealing with mental illness(s), people are either at the receiving end of societal stigma or are outright ridiculed for their condition (the number of times I have been told to just “get over it” is astounding), never granted the help they need or deserve. In Marc’s case, Steven tells him the words he should have been told as a child: “It is not your fault. Hey, you were just a child.” This simple but essential truth, this act of acceptance and reassurance, makes all the difference for Marc, who spent his entire life broken beyond repair, with no one to open up to or share his emotions with. Even when he was around people who would have stopped and listened (like Layla, for instance), Marc was unable to do so, which added to his mounting trauma further.


Jake has not been explicitly acknowledged so far, as he has only been hinted at via certain scenes in episode 3, which point to Marc having another alter he is not quite aware of. Throughout the journey to the underworld, Marc is pulled back to Harrow’s office, where he continues to gaslight him (he administers a sedative forcefully and then laughs at the idea, implying Marc is being too paranoid due to his condition) and tries to break him psychologically in order to make him believe that he is the architect of his own misery, which is downright evil, if I may say so. This causes further distress in Marc, and even Steven emerges for some time to talk to Harrow, but there might have been a third alter switch in the process. In a particular scene, Marc seems to have suffered a nose injury, but his mannerisms are unlike his or Steven’s — this alter grabs a glass pyramid and threatens Harrow with it, which is rather uncharacteristic of the alters we are acquainted with. Could it be Jake?

Despite Marc and Steven’s efforts, the scales do not balance, and the zombified souls attack Marc, but Steven, who realizes that he too, can do what Marc does, beats them and saves the day, but ends up being tipped overboard and turned into stone. The absolute injustice of this moment is something that cannot be overstated, and after this act, the scales finally balance, and Marc finds himself in the Field of Reeds. However, killing off Steven, an integral part of Marc, especially after they opened up to each other, cannot be the way to balance, and there’s Jake’s presence to consider as well. If this is not enough, Harrow is on his way to create havoc in the real world as we know it, Layla might be in danger, and Khonshu is still trapped inside his ushabti. There’s tons of action left to unfold, and too many narrative threads to resolve, but it is only a matter of time before we get the season finale the story demands.





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