Episode 3 sees Moon Knight land in Cairo for some action-adventure, develop Marc and Layla as characters, and lean more into its ancient theology.
Last week’s episode of Moon Knight shifted perspective to introduce Marc Spector, and this week it’s a change in location on the cards: we’re off to Cairo! Episode 3 widens the world of Egyptian deities, avatars and the power of the suit, and also delves deeper into Marc’s strained relationship with his possibly estranged wife Layla, as well as the connection between Khonsu and Marc/Steven.
Having followed Harrow (Ethan Hawke) to Cairo in the search for Ammit’s tomb, Marc (Oscar Isaac) reluctantly accepts soon-to-be ex-wife Layla’s (May Calamawy) help in tracking down an ancient artifact that could lead them to its exact location. But before they can find it, he finds himself summoned before a meeting of the Gods where Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) is warned off pursuing Harrow, reprimanded for ‘taking advantage’ of Marc and threatened with being turned to stone if he continues to interfere in nature – triggering an eclipse for attention is frowned upon, it seems.
As the episode opens with Marc mid chasing down bad guys, it’s easy to envision a version of Moon Knight in which the focus has been on Marc from the beginning. Perhaps it’s slightly more po-faced and serious, with subtle, sly quips rather than out-and-out comedic moments, and is less content to spend its first episode exploring the questionable psyche of the hero rather than developing any backstory or plot. But that isn’t the case, and so the freshness of Steven is noticeably absent as we spend more time with Marc, who, admittedly, is an engaging protagonist in his own right, but perhaps he’s just not as fun.
Episode 3 also marks the first point Marc’s Dissociative Identity Disorder is addressed directly, with Harrow suggesting Khonshu is taking advantage of a ‘deeply troubled man’. It’s a counterpoint to the episode’s biggest action scene in which Marc and Steven actively work together (sort-of) and gives the audience a chance to see how Marc handles Steven’s existence. Isaac is a remarkable actor, and his effortless switch between the pair, as well as the tearful admission that he is ‘unwell’, is really impressive and a key moment in getting Marc’s emotional vulnerability to feel as important as Steven’s. Perhaps, in the fictional Marc-centric version, this character feels a bit generic and action hero-esque with his mercenary skills and single-minded focus on stopping Harrow. (Minus the whole possessed by an Egyptian God, thing.) But Isaac elevates everything to such a degree that makes Marc so much more layered, and it’s easy to see it becoming a case of missing one as much as the other when they switch control.
Marc gets the big action sequence this week, with Steven’s brief interruption being a dud moment for the episode as it interrupts the flow, feeling a bit unnecessary and abrupt. It is a lot more stylish and well-choreographed than last episode though, (maybe because we can see the foes this time), even if there are still moments of CGI that feel slightly wonky. It also introduces us to the late Gaspard Ulliel’s Mogart, whose ambiguous antiquities enthusiast was interesting but underused. Perhaps he’ll show up again, perhaps he won’t, but it was nice to see him on screen and he gave what could have been a rote, bland archetype of ‘rich bad guy’ some flavour, so hopefully he wasn’t a one-and-done character addition.
The biggest new factor in this episode is Layla, whose past as a smuggler – or thief of things that are ‘already stolen’ – helps Marc out of a bind; whose chemistry with Marc and Steven really sells the past relationship aspect, and who proves herself to be more than capable of participating in the action. Calamawy invigorates the show and gives Marc and Steven some balance, but also hints at the darker side of Marc’s past. In such a complex show, it’s doubtful that director Mohamed Diab included a reference to the death of her father as something other than set up for next week, but we’ll have to wait and see if her story is more entangled with Marc’s than already assumed.
Moon Knight’s episode 3 has echoes of Stephen Sommer’s The Mummy (in a good way) and shows it isn’t afraid to play with genre, giving an action-adventure slant to Marc and Steven’s hunt for Harrow. It also isn’t afraid to swing for the fences, with it’s climactic sequence involving literally turning the sky backwards, as well as a questionable masturbation joke earlier in the episode. It reinforces the idea that this show could turn a myriad of directions at any point, and keeps the audience on their toes. Marvel are trusting its audience to go with the weird flow and letting the show do what it needs to. They aren’t relying on trope or formulas to tell Marc/Steven’s story. And Moon Knight is getting all the better for it.
Moon Knight ‘s Episode 3 will be available to watch on Disney Plus on April 13, 2022.