CAST: Oscar Isaac, Ethan Hawke, May Calamawy, Karim El Hakim, F. Murray Abraham, Khalid Abdalla, Antonia Salib, Ann Akinjirin, Sofia Danu, Saba Mubarak
RUNNING TIME: 44 mins
PREVIOUSLY, ON MOON KNIGHT: Marc Spector (Isaac), a former mercenary with Dissociative Identity Disorder that is brought upon by an abusive childhood, is chosen as the human avatar of Egyptian god Khonshu (Hakim/Abraham), and is bestowed his powers to inflict punishment among the evils of the world. When Khonshu’s former avatar, cult leader Arthur Harrow (Hawke), desires to unleash dangerous Egyptian goddess Ammit on the world, Marc – and his more timid personality Steven Grant (also Isaac) – teams with his estranged wife Layla (Calamawy) to find Ammit before Arthur and his crew. However, Arthur shoots and kills Marc, causing both him and Steven to end up in the afterlife, where Steven is condemned to the sands and Marc is seemingly trapped in the peaceful Field of Reeves.
IN THIS EPISODE: As Arthur begins to unleash Ammit on the world, Marc makes a decisive move in order to return to life…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
Looking back on the road now that we’ve reached the end, it’s been a slightly uneven ride for the screen debut of Moon Knight. On the one hand, it’s taken a number of interesting twists and turns that have set it apart from a lot of the other Marvel series thus far, but on the other there have been a lot of instances where the traditional Marvel formula, no matter how fun and enjoyable it may be, does tend to stand in the way of its greater ambitions in storytelling, character development and even emotion.
The sixth and final episode of the series – titled Gods and Monsters – is more of the latter, which is to say it’s very much a standard Marvel movie climax (albeit in television format) that hits many of the familiar beats you just have to expect from them by this point, all while wrapping up a collection of dangling plot lines in as short amount a time as possible. Not all of it works, but it does for the most part offer a good helping of superhero entertainment, which is the basic minimum that Marvel Studios offers in almost all of their projects.
After last week’s character-heavy episode (which remains the high point of this series), Gods and Monsters goes into full climax mode as Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), now in possession of the tiny statuette that houses the powerful Egyptian goddess Ammit, puts into motion his plan to unleash the entity and inflict his/her sinister judgement powers onto the world. Meanwhile, our hero Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) is still very much dead, as is his split personality Steven Grant (also Isaac) who was last seen succumbing to the sands of the afterlife; however, Marc’s not keen to accept his peaceful fate in the Field of Reeds just yet, and with the help of that kindly hippopotamus goddess Taweret (voiced by Antonia Salib) and his wife Layla (May Calamawy) back in the mortal world, he seeks to find a way to return to life once and for all, even if it means freeing his former enslaver Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham, with Karim El Hakim providing mo-cap for the character) and accepting his powers once more as his “Moon Knight”.
Like the finale to WandaVision, the concluding episode of Moon Knight is largely reserved for the kind of standard climax you would regularly see in a Marvel movie, complete with big fight sequences coated in lots of CGI and containing some last-minute reveals designed specifically to elicit cheers from the viewer. It is also the shortest episode of the lot, coming in at only 44 minutes which, for something that is intended to be the final chapter in this particular story, presents some problems in how it rushes a number of its conclusions. Some important developments, whether it’s the fate of a particular character, or the introduction of one, or even an unexpected upgrade for another, are all clumped together in the mould with little time to develop any of them further, because so much else is happening all around them that it’s practically impossible to focus on these much smaller instances. The episode really could have benefitted from at least an extra fifteen to twenty minutes, if only to develop these smaller moments and make this final episode not feel so rushed or, rather surprisingly, abruptly conclude at maybe the wrong moment (not including a mid-credit sequence which all but guarantees that the MCU is not necessarily done with Moon Knight just yet).
While it’s not all that smooth from a narrative perspective, the real question is whether this Marvel climax have any entertainment factor? Largely, it does; there is some great fight choreography by its human performers, while there is also an added kaiju element which is cool to see, and of course it’s fun to see some characters we’ve come to know and admire along the way get their superheroic moment in the spotlight. However, when you break it down, it doesn’t immediately stand out from the dozens of other Marvel climaxes out there; good guys duke it out with the bad guys, some punches are thrown, bodies are flung into buildings, innocent civilians are caught in the middle of it all, et cetera. It’s mostly just a standard Marvel climax, which is still entertaining to watch, but for a show that really stood out when it was veering further and further away from the established MCU formula, it’s a little disheartening to see it come all too willing back to tradition.
Ultimately, that’s how I feel about Moon Knight as a whole. There is some genuinely awesome stuff throughout, whether it’s Oscar Isaac’s multifaceted performance(s), the strong focus on mental illness and childhood trauma, and its fascinatingly bizarre tone and visuals, not to mention the fun throwbacks to the type of Indiana Jones-style adventure movies many of us grew up with, but most of it is held back by certain traditions that Marvel is adamant to stick by. I understand that it’s a formula that works, and often works very well, but sometimes you just need to tell stories that don’t exactly fit the model you’ve set for yourself, which itself opens up more possibilities than are currently allowed. While I admire the ambition in tackling a more mature character with severe issues and topics, Moon Knight can’t help but feel like a slight missed opportunity to truly do something that could have broken free of tradition.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Moon Knight: Episode 6 – Gods and Monsters wraps up the series with a standard Marvel climax, which features some cool visuals and fight choreography, but doesn’t entirely work due to its familiarity and rushing of certain key developments in its narrative, concluding an ambitious series which ultimately reverts back to formula and prevents the genuinely intriguing angles from truly breaking free of tradition.