The first season of Moon Knight has taken the MCU to uncharted territories and it is all the better for it
Last Updated: 01.57 PM, May 04, 2022
Mild-mannered Steven Grant (Oscar Issac), who works at a museum in London, begins to suspect that he may have a dual personality. His fears are confirmed when his alter ego, Marc Spector, emerges. However, Steven’s Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is far more complicated. He discovers that his body is used by the Egyptian moon God Khonshu as an avatar or conduit, to exact punishment on the wicked. Steven/Marc is gifted with the powers of the Moon Knight and is soon called upon to stop Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) and his cult of followers, who seek to release the condemned Goddess Ammit from her imprisonment.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) is well on course to become the most successful franchise of all time, one that could even topple Star Wars. Both franchises, owned by Disney, despite being commercial juggernauts have often come under scrutiny by cinema purists for being ‘formulaic’, especially MCU. Over the last decade, the MCU has produced films that were lauded by fans and critics alike. The MCU’s rinse of repeat formula of using identical themes, visuals, and narrative structures in several of its films have often curtailed them from reaching their full potential in terms of being authentic artistic expressions. The same can be said for some of its TV shows such as The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Hawkeye. However, Moon Knight is a refreshing change of pace that opens up several new possibilities for storytelling in the MCU.
Jeremy Slater, the creator of the series, did not inspire a lot of faith amongst the ardent Marvel fans as his notable credits included the script for the critically panned 2015 Fantastic Four film, which is widely regarded as one of the worst films of all time. But Slater has redeemed himself and given new life to the MCU with Moon Knight. Along with lead director Mohamed Diab, the series is a definite step up from the preceding Disney+ original Marvel series, Hawkeye. The creators have captured themes such as mental health, abuse, religion, race, culture, and free will, with great panache and subtlety, without hindering its storytelling and its superhero aspect. There is also a balanced visualisation of Egypt and its culture, in sharp contrast to the stereotypical Hollywood depictions - something that was a matter of debate after the controversial portrayal of the country in Wonder Woman 1984, which director Diab has been vocal about in recent months.
The series’ greatest strength lies in the absorbing performances by its lead actors, Oscar Issac, Ethan Hawke, and May Calamawy. Issac in particular has delivered an Emmy-worthy performance with craft and graft. His portrayal of Steven Grant and Marc Spector is measured and nuanced. Issac effortlessly slips into the East London cockney accent as well the American accent as he switches between both personalities of Steven and Marc. His performance in the penultimate episode, in particular, deserves special recognition. Hawke as the mysterious cult leader Arthur Harrow, and Calamawy as Marc’s estranged wife Layla Al-Faouly, essay convincing performances.
While the performances are undoubtedly its standout quality, the series has distinguished itself from the rest of the MCU in a similar manner to Loki. Even though Moon Knight isn’t the first superhero TV series to delve into unconventional storytelling, especially when dealing with topics pertaining to mental health issues, it certainly is a first for the MCU. Shows such as Doom Patrol and Legion, despite their relative obscurity, have excelled in telling unconventional superhero stories about surreal yet flawed individuals. However, Moon Knight’s well-paced narrative and fast-paced action sequences have made it more accessible to a wider audience. While the creators have most certainly taken liberties in adapting the story from the source material, the overall quality of the show and the careful exploration of the lore have justified their decision.
Fans of the comic books will be excited by the post-credits scene as it reveals a major character and hints at the possibility of a second season.
Marvel’s Phase Four has thrown a few surprises recently in how the studio is appearing to give more creative control to its filmmakers. Apart from the former Marvel/Netflix shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and The Punisher, MCU productions have rarely gone beyond a particular template. Moon Knight is undoubtedly an unconventional MCU production, and it excels because of it. It is also one of the best MCU productions since Daredevil.