CAST: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, Khalid Abdalla, Lucy Thackery
RUNNING TIME: 53 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON MOON KNIGHT: Marc Spector (Isaac), a former mercenary with DID, and the human Avatar of exiled Egyptian god Khonshu, is in Cairo, Egypt with his wife Layla (Calamawy) and his other, much more mild-mannered personality Steven Grant. They are desperately searching for clues that will lead them to the burial site of powerful god Ammit, before Khonshu’s vengeful former Avatar Arthur Harrow (Hawke) can find it and resurrect the god for destructive purposes. During an attempt to help Marc, Layla and Steven find the location of Ammit’s tomb, Khonshu is imprisoned by the council of Egyptian gods, leaving Marc/Steven powerless and unable to summon the Moon Knight persona.
IN THIS EPISODE: Steven takes over Marc’s body to accompany Layla on a mission deep inside the tomb of Ammit…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
For roughly three-quarters of Moon Knight’s fourth episode, simply titled The Tomb, you’re basically getting everything you’d expect with this series so far. By that, of course, there’s this heavy emphasis on Indiana Jones-style archaeological adventure, with light hints of psychological drama playing out within our main hero. All that stuff works well, for it’s entertaining, surprisingly intense (for a Marvel show on Disney+, anyway) and a little bit emotional as well; essentially, all that you might enjoy about Moon Knight thus far is right here in this latest episode.
Then, that final quarter happens. And not to dismiss any of the action that had filled up all the previous acts, but this is where things finally take the surreal, unpredictable and even nightmarish turn that many of us were perhaps waiting for – and when it does, you’ll understand firmly why directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead were brought on-board as co-directors of this series.
Before any of that, a basic bit of context for The Tomb; after last week’s visually dazzling climax, the Egyptian god Khonshu – crucially, the source of power for his mentally-unstable human Avatar Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) – has been imprisoned in a small statuette by his former council of gods. As if things weren’t already tricky enough for our stern and now powerless hero Marc, his Steven Grant personality has taken the reins of his body, and is accompanying Marc’s wife Layla (May Calamawy) on a journey into the tomb that is said to house the dangerous god Ammit. With Khonshu’s former Avatar and cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) well ahead of them, Steven and Layla must navigate their way through room after room of puzzles, bottomless pits and ferocious creatures that disembowel victims on giant slabs of rock. Naturally, some surprises and revelations are also afoot, which might derail Marc’s chances before they’ve even started.
As in previous episodes, the Indiana Jones vibe is strong, but there is enough of its own identity from the heavy emphasis on Egyptian mythology to the traditional Marvel Studios humour (which, again, is downplayed more here than in previous instalments), to separate itself from the most famous example of archaeological action-adventure cinema. The predominant absence of Marc Spector, a more compelling and Indy-like protagonist than wimpier and quip-heavy Steven Grant who walks in his place, is a slight disappointment after spending most of last week’s episode admiring how much cooler and intriguing he is (no disrespect to Steven Grant, though, for though he may not be nearly as composed as his fellow personality, Isaac still makes him a likeable enough character to at least tolerate). However, the adventure that we find ourselves on feels old-school and, well, adventurous enough to forgive the episode’s lack of a formidable lead; this tomb that we find ourselves in with Steven and Layla contains certain things and creatures which seem like our protagonists have wandered into a gory horror movie that is already in progress, as if an Indiana Jones movie interrupted the events of an old Boris Karloff Mummy flick. That adds a nice horror tone to the darkened caverns and disintegrating cliff edges you’d normally find in one of these adventure stories, and all the way through it’s cool to see Marvel embrace these darker aspects to one of their more grounded projects.
As with the series’ second episode, directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead do well with emphasising the more sinister angle this chapter is taking (the pair do come from a genre background, after all), treating this treacherous and creepy tomb like it’s the playground for demons within an Evil Dead movie. For a while, it seems like the episode is a radical tonal departure from the weird, psychological fare that they’re normally renowned for – but then, when that other shoe drops, their partial steering of Moon Knight (along with main director Mohamed Diab, who will direct the final two episodes of this series) makes so much sense. The Tomb has a concluding section that completely goes into surreal territory, visually invoking unexpected sources from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Twelve Monkeys, and putting the remaining episodes on a path that is vastly different to what anyone might be expecting from it, even with the strong psychological angle it has already taken. Trust me, it gets super weird (with a concluding shot that is sure to baffle casual viewers until next week’s entry), but it is fascinating in how it goes in such an unexpected direction that it leaves you way more interested and invested in this story than ever before. To say anything more would be to ruin the surprise, but if you begin this episode thinking it’s just going to be more of the familiar, but still entertaining, action-adventure stuff all the way through, you’d mostly be right – but just wait until things unravel in much more unexpected, and much more intriguing, ways not seen in a Marvel show since Loki.
Apparently, critics were only given access up to the fourth episode of Moon Knight in advance of its streaming debut, and judging by how The Tomb ends, it’s one hell of a place to cut things off. Now, critics and viewers alike are just as much in the dark over the rest of this series as each other, so seeing where the show goes for its final concluding episodes – especially with where things have intentionally been left hanging, at least until next week – will be quite the adventure in and of itself.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Moon Knight: Episode 4 – The Tomb is an engaging action-adventure dive into the dark and unexpected resting place of Ammit, which gives off the vibes of not just Indiana Jones but much more intense projects like The Evil Dead, and ends on such a vastly unexpected and profoundly strange note that it makes you far more interested in the overall direction of this series more than ever.