We’re running a recap of Moon Knight on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
My kid’s friend came over this last Saturday. After playing a few board games, the pair pulled up Star Wars: A New Hope. While eavesdropping from another room, I could tell something was different. I heard the friend giggling and “oohing” and “ahhing” through every bit of dialogue, particularly the banter between Threepio and Artoo. Could it be?
Cool dad as I am, I crept into the living room uninvited. Then, after witnessing it with my own eyes, I finally interrupted. “Have you not seen this before?”
“Never!” the kid laughed.
What a joy, witnessing a zoomer not only get punched to hyperspace for the first time but loving it.
You know that feeling, right? When you witness something you love capture another devotee in its orbit? That’s a pleasure unlike any other, vicariously experiencing the thing through new eyes.
What’s this have to do with Disney+’s Moon Knight? Reader, I’m putting my cards on the table now when I tell you I’m coming to this show blind. I suspect a fraction of you are Marvel fans with a deep knowledge of Moon Knight’s history in the comics and the eccentricities of his dissociative character. But many others—myself included—are not one of you. So we have no idea what the blip is going on right now.
And so I ask you to follow along with this new series of recaps in the spirit with which they’re given. We are no longer in the territory of MCU shows that have been spun off from the events and supporting characters of the Infinity Saga. So these weeks likely won’t collapse into themselves, linking to past recaps, culling clips and references to the previous Marvel installments.
This is a new thing.
This is Moon Knight’s origin story, told through the eyes of Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), who, like me, can’t stretch his hands around the plot just yet. He’s the overqualified gift shop employee of a London museum, a man with an inexplicable, encyclopedic knowledge of the Egyptian pantheon who’s constantly late for work, prone to narcolepsy, and harangued by a boss who hates him with all the passion of a woman who’s forgotten that Oscar Isaac is the most handsome, charming man on the planet.
Steven can’t explain the lost chunks of his day, the blackouts, nor the unexplained cuts and bruises and aches and pains that greet him every morning. At best, he’s aware that he’s prone to sleepwalking spells, and he’s taken drastic steps to keep himself secured in his room each night.
This is because Steven hasn’t been formally introduced to Marc Spector. Marc spends his nights and days doing Lord knows what. Still, whatever it is, it probably has little to do with serving on the church’s greeting team or cooking meals for unhoused veterans, and more to do with gratuitously violent stints as a world-hopping mercenary vigilante. It also seems Marc has a fondness for at least one of Steven’s coworkers and even asked her out for dinner, only to ghost her and leave Steven with one less friend in the workplace. And that’s because Steven and Marc are—you guessed it—the same guy.
To put this in terms my fellow elder Millenials will understand: Steven Grant is the Steve Urkel to Marc Spector’s Stefan Urquelle.
Steven’s first foray into Marc’s world, his first am-I-awake-or-dreaming moment, occurs when he snaps himself to consciousness inside a storybook European countryside, the kind of place they advertise on boxes of hot chocolate. The problem is, the lovely view is marred by gun-toting followers of Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) as they guard a creepy—and certainly demonic—ritual that involves Harrow as a priest for the Egyptian goddess Ammit offering up his followers’ souls to her judgment.
You’ll be forgiven for comparing a seemingly-faithful follower’s sudden and shocking death in front of the entire church to that of Ananias and Sapphira falling dead at Simon Peter’s feet for sinful faux-generosity. It’s too early to say if one is like the other, but I can certainly tell you that none of this would have happened if they had taken my dad’s advice and stayed away from ouija boards at their friend’s sleepover parties.
As the saying goes, play stupid demonic games, win stupid demonic prizes.
Steven snaps awake inside his London flat, strapped safely to his bed once again. He chalks the melee from inside the hot chocolate village to a vivid dream, and goes about his merry life, back to work at the museum gift shop. And for those keen on spotting easter eggs, this is a subtle nod that every wild Disney ride leads back to a gift shop.
Unfortunately for Steven, Harrow tracks him down at the museum in real life. So the bad news is, none of it was a dream. The good news is, Harrow told us the evil master plan right then and there, which I appreciate because these MCU shows tend to conceal this information until halfway through the season.
The plan seems to be something about the goddess Ammit trying to break free from imprisonment. (She’s on the outs with the other gods, it seems.) She needs the golden scarab that Marc—Steven’s more violent half—stole from Harrow’s cult back in the Alps to help break her free. Also, we find out those rituals involve Ammit judging people not only for the things they’ve done but for the things they’ll probably do in the future. Kind of like Minority Report.
Yeah, me neither.
Then, in the episode’s final moments, after Harrow sends a demon monster to kill Steven and retrieve the scarab, Marc’s personality finally speaks directly to Steven and asks him to surrender control of his body back to Marc, which Steven reluctantly does. At which point, Marc resumes control, transforms into Venom—sorry, MOON KNIGHT—and straight-up murders the monster by punching it to death.
This is the coolest, coldest fight scene ever filmed in a public restroom, right after my beloved Mission: Impossible – Fallout.
Some final thoughts.
My keenest interest in this show is where they will take Arthur Harrow. In recent years, Ethan Hawke carved a niche character catalog of religious leaders prone to turmoil, despair, and violent narcissism, starting with First Reformed and more recently as John Brown in The Good Lord Bird. In an interview describing his Moon Knight character, Hawke opined, “His great problem is his spiritual pride.”
If this show becomes Ethan Hawke’s most mainstream effort at pulling the thread of religious narcissism, I am here for it.
That could just be me projecting my own baggage onto the material. Nonetheless, Hawke appears to be obsessed with these types of men, and frankly, as someone who was once involved in a high control Network of churches, I am, too.
Months ago, before I was aware of Hawke’s involvement in Moon Knight, I mentioned John Brown and The Good Lord Bird as I was recapping The Book of Boba Fett. “Few can relate to the mind of a hurricane,” I wrote. “But many can relate to the allure of wild, charismatic leaders catching us in their tempest.”
Steven Grant and Marc Spector are caught in Harrow’s tempest now. And as the audience, we are, too. Maybe in the midst of this rock ’em sock ’em superhero show, we’ll learn something of spiritual pride’s dangers.