CAST: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, Karim El Hakim, F. Murray Abraham
RUNNING TIME: 53 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON MOON KNIGHT: Steven Grant (Isaac), a lowly museum gift shop employee, finds himself suffering from blackouts and unusual visions. After inexplicably finding himself in another country, Steven encounters powerful cult leader Arthur Harrow (Hawke), from whom he has taken a mysterious scarab. Finding himself back in London days later, Steven receives a call from a woman named Layla (Calamawy) who calls him Marc, and a visit from Harrow who unleashes a jackal monster to chase him. Steven ultimately allows Marc, who appears to him in reflections, to take over his body, and he defeats the jackal dressed as a hooded white figure.
IN THIS EPISODE: Steven learns more about Marc, the people in his life, his dark past, and his strange ties with an Ancient Egyptian god…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
As ever, Marvel Studios has nailed it when pairing the right directors to the right projects. Visionaries like James Gunn, Taika Waititi and Chloé Zhao (to name a few) have ended up being perfect for some of the studio’s most out-there and ambitious projects, and now with their new series Moon Knight they’ve not only got Mohamed Diab to direct the bulk of the episodes (who, as seen in last week’s introductory episode, brings both authenticity and humanity to the bonkers ride of it all), but also directing duo Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are on board to direct parts as well.
Benson and Moorhead in particular, who make their Marvel debuts with this second episode of Moon Knight – titled Summon The Suit – before working on season two of Loki, are flawless decisions for this show. Known for making some truly weird sci-fi head-spinners like The Endless and Synchronic, the directing duo clearly have a strong appetite for tackling material that is far from what one would consider “normal”, and with a character like Moon Knight who, as we have already seen in this series adaptation, is already a pretty odd fellow, you need filmmakers who can bend certain rules to make this kind of hero seem plausible in this universe, but without sacrificing any of his strangeness. Benson and Moorhead certainly pull it off in Summon The Suit, in addition to setting up even more craziness further down the line.
Naturally, the episode picks up where last week left off, with Oscar Isaac’s Steven Grant surrendering control of his body to Marc Spector, and transforming into the white-costumed figure of the title. However, we skip right to the next morning, when Steven faces the consequences of acting crazy (at least, according to the CCTV footage) in the museum where he works, and begins finding out a little bit more about this Marc person who keeps communicating with him inside his head. He also meets Layla (May Calamawy), the woman he spoke to on the phone earlier, who is not only convinced that “Marc” is pulling some weird one-man show with this cock-er-ney Steven persona, but is also far closer to him than Steven ever realised. Following not far behind is cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who uses all his influence to track down Steven and Layla in order to reclaim his stolen scarab, and it is this alarming confrontation that once again forces Steven to accept Marc and his inexplicable powers to take over once more.
Now that the series has gotten most of the introductions out of the way (save for one or two major characters who finally get some screen-time here), the series can get more into the meat of the story, which from how this episode plays out appears to be a strange concoction of psychological horror and an Indiana Jones-style global adventure. Honestly, I’m down for it; so far, the character of Moon Knight is like if Indy had multiple personalities that are constantly fighting over which one of them gets to wear the fedora and crack the whip. Certain scenes give off that Raiders of the Lost Ark vibe, particularly in the production design and parts of the music cues, which Benson and Moorhead keenly add their own weird flavour to rather than fully lean into the clear Spielberg influence. There’s also a neat layer of mystery to this central character, namely which one of his apparently many personalities is supposed to be the more dominant: is it Steven, the mild-mannered and anxiety-ridden gift shop employee, or is Marc, the apparent mercenary who we’re told brutally executed villagers in cold blood, the one who’s meant to be in control? You’re drawn into both personalities either way, whether it’s the humbled likeability of Steven or the cooler and more calculated Marc, the latter ever haunted by a hulking and freaky-looking Egyptian god who is, amusingly, kind of a dick.
The one major problem I’m starting to see in not just Moon Knight, but a lot of other Marvel projects lately, is a slight confusion in tone. Usually, Marvel Studios knows how to make an epic blockbuster feel light-hearted, crowd-pleasing and ultimately accessible to general audiences, but not every Marvel movie or TV series needs to be Guardians of the Galaxy or Spider-Man in terms of its tone. Take Moon Knight, for example, which often feels as grounded and even violent as one of Netflix’s former Marvel shows like Daredevil and Luke Cage, but there will be moments when you can feel someone higher up in Marvel Studios’ development step in and request that the writers add some out-of-place comedy in the middle of action sequences, or even references to other Disney-owned properties (which they do away with for this episode, thankfully). Personally, it never kills the overall vibe I get when watching it, but it is starting to become more noticeable across a lot of Marvel projects, and it wouldn’t feel right if I didn’t at least mention how blatant it has started to become.
Tonal issues aside, Moon Knight still continues to be an entertaining show, embracing its own weirdness in ways that only directors like Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead could amplify. Oscar Isaac is still very much in control with a magnetic central performance which, at this point with his multiple on-screen personalities, is starting to practically become performance art, while Ethan Hawke plays a quietly intimidating villain while still playing it cool like the actor often does. Most of all, it’s a story you’re keen to find out more about as the weeks go on, and given the final shot of Summon The Suit, it looks like the best is yet to come.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Moon Knight: Episode 2 – Summon The Suit is an entertaining second episode where more is revealed about our psychologically unstable hero, and about this intriguing Indiana Jones-style story that seems to form the crux of this series, while some occasional tonal shifts towards awkwardly out-of-place comedy can’t eradicate the sheer weirdness that directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead bring to this entry.