Episode 2 sees Moon Knight shift its focus from Steven to Marc, balance narrative and character with some clunky action, and set up the journey ahead.
This review contains mild spoilers for episode 2 of Moon Knight.
The fresh, bold and surprisingly funny first episode of Moon Knight ended with quite a few questions still unanswered. Why does Steven’s reflection have an American accent? Why does he keep losing time? What’s with the deep voice in his head and the scary pigeon demon? Episode two pretty definitively answers these and offers up a new perspective on the whole thing: that of said reflection, or as he’s better known, Marc Spector.
While last week was an introduction into the world of Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac), this week it’s that of Marc Spector (also Oscar Isaac) (this could get confusing). After Steven is referred to a psychiatrist and let go from his job – the CCTV footage of the showdown from the night before didn’t exactly match Steven’s version of events – he finds himself curious about the time he’s been missing. A trip to a storage locker uncovers Marc’s identity, his past as a mercenary, and the small fact that he’s the avatar for Khonshu, the Egyptian God of the Moon (voiced by F. Murray Abraham and the ‘scary pigeon demon’ when on screen.) And being Khonshu’s avatar – essentially, a physical body for him to channel through – gives him impressive speed, strength and invulnerability. It is, understandably, quite a lot for Steven to grasp but he still refuses to give Marc control of his (their?) body, until it’s time to battle yet another hell beastie and Steven finds himself quite out of his depth.
Portraying a character who has two (or more?) very distinct identities can be quite the cliché minefield, but Isaac’s onto something here. Steven is, to put it simply, really quite delightful. He’s funny, charming, justifiably outraged at the idea he’s not wholly himself and a great entry point into this ‘avatar for Egyptian Gods’ business. But episode two pivots the show in Marc’s direction, and it’s a really clever vehicle for expositional delivery.
By having Marc and Steven talk to each other – really stylishly done via the medium of reflection – gives ample opportunity to organically find out about Khonshu, establish the differences between the pair – Steven’s questionably accurate London accent aside – and avoid the trope of having Isaac performatively shift his entire demeanour to signify someone new is in ‘control’. Steven is Steven, and Marc is Marc, and Isaac’s really impressive dichotomy allows the audience to know who exactly is on screen at any given time. The show still hasn’t addressed Dissociative Identity Disorder, but it feels as though it’s manoeuvring around the idea with a delicacy that will hopefully continue, since a direct reference feels inevitable.
It’s also interesting narratively to switch to Marc, as it feels like it gives the plot more momentum going forward. Not that this episode was ‘filler’; it was in fact really well paced, an affective blend of action and dialogue and equally as entertaining as the first. It simply makes more sense to have the character more involved in the ins-and-outs of Khonshu take the reins as the central plot point – Harrow (Ethan Hawke) and his incessant search for Ammit – gets more involved. Marc is a more knowledgeable vehicle for this part of the journey, and it’s Steven’s turn to be brought along for the ride. (Alongside us!)
It also provides more opportunity for the costumed ‘Moon Knight’ to be on screen, be it in the traditional robes or – in one of the episode’s funniest moments – a literal suit. This sequence is perhaps the episode’s only major flaw, in that the action feels a bit CGI-heavy and clunky in a way that Marvel tends to avoid. Perhaps it’s the invisible foe (a crafty way of saving some of the effects budget, to be sure) or perhaps it’s the inexperience of Steven as a ‘hero’, but there was something off about the fight scene that felt out of place. Hopefully it’ll feel smoother going forward and these are just some starting jitters as the stakes ratchet up a notch.
Overall, episode two is a great continuation of the impressive character dynamic explored in episode one and an effective way of shifting the focus as we dig deeper into the plot. At this point, Moon Knight simultaneously feels like it has a specific idea of where it’s going and what it is, and also like it could, at any moment, take a bizarre left turn and become something completely different. Which is really quite exciting.
Moon Knight ‘s Episode 2 is now available to watch on Disney Plus.