Driven by a full-blown performance by Oscar Isaac as a mentally ill man who gets supremacy from an Egyptian god, Moon Knight is still the best MCU TV series.
Ever since Marvel Cinematic Universe ended up with the so-called Infinity Saga Avengers: Endgame, the elite at Marvel Studios have been trying to find ways to tell more diverse stories. Especially with the recent crop of Disney + MCU TV shows like WandaVision, writers and directors have been given more freedom to create narratives up to a point in a more contained small universe. For example, WandaVision was literally set in its pocket before the full picture appeared. Loki, similarly, took Asgardian Supervillain-Anti-Hero to a level beyond all other levels.
It’s a shame that despite their stratospheric production standards and Kevin Feige being an overseer, they’re all either terribly terrible (Hakweye and The Falcon and The Winter Soldier) or the unexpected finale (WandaVision and Loki).
The latest offer, Moon Night, is by far the first truly interesting and entertaining Marvel superhero TV show (the final two episodes have not been delivered to critics). Based on the lunar-themed superhero of the same name, the show was created by Jeremy Slater and star Oscar Isaac, who made his MCU debut here.
The author has changed the source of the characters in the show. While in the comics, the protagonist of the title is actually a mercenary known as Mark Spector, who derives his superpower from the Egyptian moon god Khonshu, a relatively small deity of the Pantheon. She suffers from dissociative identity disorder and has difficulty distinguishing reality from hallucinations.
On the show, Spector’s most influential figure is Steven Grant, a timid, soft-spoken man working in a gift shop at a museum in London. He lives a restless, lonely life, believing that he is a sleeping pedestrian (while sleeping he keeps one of his legs tied to a post so that he does not get lost in his sleep). He is not aware of his other personality including Spector, The result of his mental illness.
In one of those visits, he is taken to a village in the Swiss Alps and meets a cult leader named Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who appears to have magical powers and manages his own religious community and delivers salvation and eternity for his flock. Promises happiness. His ultimate goal is to resurrect Ammit, a funeral god and demon-goddess that the ancient Egyptians feared. Spector wants to stop him for Khonshu. Hates violence and just wants to be alone.
Yes, this is the old gotta-save-the-world device that is the basis of almost every superhero story. But Moon Knight’s writing is fresher and smarter than the traditional superhero story. The dynamics between the two opposing personalities feel organic and fun, even if they are the result of a serious emotional state. Grant is a person you want to be friends with for life. Spector? You will be wary of her, secretly wishing that she would be your bodyguard. There is a clear description between the two alter-egos.
Isaac’s acting chops come in handy, and it’s easy to guess why witnessing this performance, or rather performance, appealed to an aspiring artist like him. Hawke reliably and often effortlessly as well as Harrow, by charismatic and scary twists.
Moon Knight’s aesthetics and feel, the superhero who is a ghostly white costume and with roomy-like restless eyes, are unique and the look is mostly grounded for the simple reason that it’s not sinking into CGI.
Moon Night is not afraid to push the boundaries of that PG rating. There’s certainly a lot of violence (we don’t see too much blood, of course), but the show deals with the depths of a mentally ill person, the fear, the confusion, the loneliness. In that sense, even though it doesn’t match the body numbers of Avengers movies, Moon Night is MCU’s darkest story.
Will Moon Knight be an Avenger?
But the clincher is that so far, Moon Knight MCU has not made any clear connection with the rest. It’s the same world, obviously, but it could be a DC TV show (if the character is owned by DC Comics, that is). There is something pleasing about the interconnected quality of the franchise, but it can also be detrimental to the current story if there is a studio note compelling the presence of one or more Avengers to suggest, or to have random mentions of events happening. In the movies of the past.
Moon Night has nothing to do with it, and the story’s free-standing, independent nature, powerful writing and performance make it much more fresh and engaging than any other Marvel Studio show.
How are you enjoying the series tell us in the comments. You can watch Moon Night’s episode 1, 2, 3 and upcoming episodes on Disney + Hotstar.