To date, all of Marvel’s Disney Plus shows have centered around characters that we already knew from the MCU. WandaVision, Loki, Hawkeye – we were intimately familiar with the stars of these shows before they were even announced. Moon Knight is different.
For the first time, Marvel is giving a brand new hero a starring role in a Disney Plus show. It will be the first time that most viewers have ever seen Moon Knight in any form. And they’re in for one of the most thrilling and unique rides of Marvel’s TV offerings so far.
Moon Knight is a step in the right direction
As a massive fan of Marvel’s movie output, I’ve found the Disney Plus series underwhelming on the whole. There have been highs, from the mysterious opening episodes of WandaVision to the shocking finale of Loki to the scene in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier when we get to watch Sam and Bucky drink beers together on a boat.
There have also been lows, such as… the rest of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.
Marvel cracked the code for making record-breaking, blockbuster films long ago. The same cannot be said of the studio’s TV shows. This is a learning process, and there are going to be stumbles along the way. The good news is that Moon Knight shows how much the studio has learned. The less good news is that there’s still plenty of learning to do.
In the first episode, we meet Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), a gift shop employee at a museum with a fascinating secret. Steven suffers from extensive blackouts, and it becomes clear that he has dissociative identity disorder. Steven’s other personality is a mercenary named Marc Spector, and the two are struggling to decide who’s really in charge.
This, of course, is further complicated by the fact that Steven/Marc is also Moon Knight, the avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonshu.
Once the series settles into its conceit, the performances are what keep the plates spinning. Oscar Isaac’s British accent is just convincing enough to not be grating (in other words, a far cry from Inventing Anna), but it’s also genuinely useful to differentiate between Steven Grant and Marc Spector. He sells both characters incredibly well, and, as a viewer, you will form a relationship with each by the end of the third episode.
Ethan Hawke is equally compelling as the cult leader Arthur Harrow. His goals happen to run counter to Marc’s, which results in conflict between the two. He’s a fascinating villain with a clear objective, and that isn’t always the case in the MCU.
Finally, May Calamawy rounds out the trio as an important figure from Marc Spector’s past. The Egyptian actress previously appeared in Hulu’s Ramy, and gets a chance to play off each of Isaac’s personalities in Moon Knight. The Indiana Jones inspiration is obvious, but she and Isaac both get to be Harrison Ford over the course of the series.
Taking a break from the MCU
Having only seen the first four episodes, I think one of Moon Knight’s greatest strengths is its isolation from the greater MCU. That’s not to say that Moon Knight does not take place in the same universe as Avengers: Endgame. But head writer Jeremy Slater is far more interested in introducing a new hero than expanding the cinematic universe. Moon Knight will inevitably do both, but one of the reasons that the show works as well as it does is because it isn’t trying to do too much all at once.
That said, there are still hiccups along the way. Moon Knight solves some of the problems of other Disney Plus shows, but it still feels like Marvel is still trying to stretch a movie over five hours. The pacing can be a bit jarring as well. The first episode is as propulsive as any of the MCU shows to date, but the pace slows considerably as characters start monologuing about their pasts. Again, it’s improved, but it’s also a work in progress.
With two episodes remaining, I’m excited to find out if Moon Knight sticks the landing. This certainly has the potential to be the new benchmark for a Marvel series. The challenge now is for the show to reach a satisfying conclusion while opening the door for Moon Knight to join the MCU at large in the future. If so, it will be a success.
Moon Knight premieres on Disney Plus on Wednesday, March 30th. New episodes will be available weekly, and the finale will arrive on May 4th.
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