CAST: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, Gaspard Ulliel, Karim El Hakim, F. Murray Abraham
RUNNING TIME: 53 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON MOON KNIGHT: Steven Grant (Isaac), a mild-mannered museum gift shop employee, learns that he shares the same body with a mercenary named Marc Spector, who happens to be endowed with the powers of disgraced Egyptian god Khonshu (Abraham). Steven is forced to allow Marc control of his body in order to defeat the disciples of cult leader, and Khonshu’s former human Avatar, Arthur Harrow (Hawke), but in the process allows Arthur to get away with a scarab that points towards the burial site of Ammit, a powerful goddess whom he wishes to resurrect. Marc decides to head to Cairo, Egypt in order to get a head start on Arthur and his followers.
IN THIS EPISODE: Marc, along with his archaeologist wife Layla (Calamawy), searches for clues to the location of Ammit’s resting place…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Three episodes in to the six-episode show, and Moon Knight is certainly shaping itself up as the kind of Indiana Jones/Split hybrid that the world never knew it wanted. Not all of it is as well-balanced as it perhaps ought to be (though the tone-splitting sense of humour which plagued parts of the first two episodes is much less present this week), but the ideas are fascinating, the characters are interesting, and as with most Marvel properties it’s a heavily entertaining ride with some solid action and a strong sense of adventure.
This third episode – titled The Friendly Type – picks up from that cool shot which capped last week’s entry, wherein Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) has made it all the way to Cairo, Egypt, in order to stay a few steps ahead of sinister cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), who intends to bury up and resurrect the Egyptian goddess Ammit. Following not too far behind is Layla (May Calamawy), Spector’s wife and the Marion Ravenwood to Marc’s Indy, and soon the two of them are venturing through the city together in order to find clues as to where Ammit may be buried. Along the way, they encounter some more of Harrow’s loyal disciples, attempt to bargain with wealthy antiquities collector Anton Mogart (Gaspard Ulliel, who sadly passed away earlier this year), and of course summon the protective suit bestowed unto Marc by fallen god Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham, with motion-capture provided by Karim El Hakim) to fight their way out of a few jams. All the while, though, Marc is still wrestling with the personality of milder-mannered Steven Grant for full control of his body, always appearing to him like the good angel whenever he’s about to brutally murder somebody.
Needless to say, there’s plenty more Marc Spector in this episode than there is Steven Grant, and the shift in character focus has a tremendous and instantaneous effect. Compared to the wimpier and slightly more aggravating Cock-er-ney Grant personality (who is likeable enough, but falls more into line with that lighter, family-friendly Marvel tone that this series has been good at mostly avoiding), Marc Spector is a protagonist who you instantly want to know more about as soon as you meet him. Similar to how we’re introduced to Indy at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Spector has this cool, dark sense about him that tells the viewer right away that he’s not here to muck about, and it shows in numerous sequences where he’s either fighting or exchanging dialogue with someone like May Calamawy’s long-suffering partner in crime (and in matrimony) Layla. As Marc, Oscar Isaac gets to perform with plenty more charisma that channels not just Harrison Ford but also the many other heroes of the adventure serials that inspired the Indiana Jones series, and given how much screen presence Isaac already has, it should be no surprise that he revels in exploring this new persona throughout this episode.
The change in location to Cairo also marks a welcome representation of a part of the world and its mythology that has, until now, been unexplored in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Director Mohamed Diab clearly revels in showing the Egyptian city and landscapes as a significant place of culture and history, rather than the backwater desert hole that far too many Western projects have depicted it as; the Cairo that Moon Knight depicts is glamorous, civilised and rather gorgeous to be around, eternally tied to certain mythology but is not defined by it. Parts of the cinematography and production design really elevate the unique vision of this place, and Diab’s grounded direction – itself a contrast to the surreal nature that directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead brought to the project last week, and will surely do so again next week – forgoes many negative stereotypes that have plagued depictions of Egypt’s civilians in the media. It’s a cool place to lay the action of this week’s episode, and luckily with how this one ends it looks like there’s just a bit more of this place to explore later in the series.
Everything else, from the plot to the characters to the overall sense of direction, seems to be pressing on well. It’s still a story you’re keen to follow all the way to the end, with heroes and villains who are impressionable enough to hold your interest, and visuals that are so dazzling that it’s almost enough to distract from how the CGI in certain fight/chase scenes isn’t particularly great. Some introductions in this episode, like a council of human avatars for gods who are basically the Egyptian versions of the Eternals (there’s even a line that indicates that they elect to stay out of man’s affairs, as do the team in that movie), come and go with some intrigue, though not as much as seeing this main character wrestle with his own mind in ways not really talked about thus far in the MCU. As before, Moon Knight’s tackling of issues such as DID and mental health do make this show stand out among some of the others, because rather than treat it as a side piece of character information, it is used in ways that really make the characters and personalities part of the storytelling, but not in a way that disgraces the serious issues surrounding them. There may still be time over the next three episodes for the other shoe to drop, but so far Moon Knight tackles it well without being too condescending or insulting about it.
As long as we keep getting just as much Marc Spector as we get Steven Grant, we’re bound to have plenty more psychological entertainment around the corner.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Moon Knight: Episode 3 – The Friendly Type charges full-speed ahead with a compelling protagonist in Oscar Isaac’s mentally-troubled Marc Spector, a fascinating new location in a well-represented version of Cairo, and exciting new additions to the plot and characters that keep this show’s momentum from fully slipping.