Mild-mannered Steven Grant (played by Oscar Isaac) knows that there's something not quite right with him. He sleeps with a manacle around his leg, he tapes down the front door and keeps sand around his bed: all in the effort to curb his sleepwalking. But Grant finds out that his problem is a lot more than sleepwalking, he has another life; one that involves an ancient Egyptian moon god…
Here be spoilers…
What we like
You'll be hard-pressed to find how similar Moon Knight is to Batman. The night motifs; the relentless war on crime; the double life split between being a billionaire and a vigilante. And while the Batman has an expansive mythology that is able to keep DC afloat with its cash-cow of a franchise, Moon Knight manages to hold its own thanks to the character's admission of having dissociative identity disorder (DID).
(I mean, you'd think an adult dressing like a bat and beating up criminals would be a case study on its own but sure, let's chalk it up to seeing your parents killed in an alley.)
Steven Grant works at the museum gift shop and it's apparent that he is more knowledgable than his station when he points out an error in the museum advertising banner. But he's a milquetoast and his frailty is made even more evident by his vegetarianism and his British accent—traits which shouldn't be hallmarks of weakness but it's a theatrical cheat. It immediately gives a clear presentation of Grant's effete character and his aggressive alter, Marc Spector, a mercenary and avatar of Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god.
Moon Knight isn't your A-list Marvel superhero but I think that sort of anonymity gives the showrunner (Jeremy Slater) and director (Mohamed Diab) more room to play around in. For one, this series is… fun? Yeah, you don't see that sort of unbridled joy coming through with a Marvel show. It almost feels like I'm watching a TV series that's not part of the Marvel universe if that makes any sense. The tone of the show is largely due to Isaac's willingness to be silly as he wants. Here he is able to display some comedic timing as well as action chops. There's this scene from the pilot where Grant is ordered to hand over the MacGuffin but his alter is preventing him from doing so and the spirit of it just reminds me of the physicality from this clip from Me, Myself & Irene.
OMG, let's rave about the action scenes, especially the ones where Grant goes into a fugue state and his alter takes over. We're seeing the world through Grant's eyes and whenever he blacks out, he immediately wakes up to find himself in the aftermath of whatever his alter, Spector, was dealing with prior. It's an efficient use of time and puts the audience in Grant's shoes whenever his alter takes over. And a lesser director would have shown us what Spector would have done when he takes over but when we're only presented with the aftermath, our minds do a better reconstruction than anything we would have seen.
Of course, the hero is only as good as the villain and Ethan Hawke as able to portray one that isn't one-dimensional. There are small affectations that Hawke applies to his character Arthur Harrow: the limp; the slow deliberate way in speech; being slow to anger… all these paint a very compelling persona of Harrow.
And can we say that even though he's just a voice of Khonshu, F Murray Abraham, is a phenomenal presence. The way the ancient Khonshu still sound like a petulant child is a great juxtaposition.
What we didn't like
Mohamed Diab mentioned in other interviews that he wanted to bring a seriousness to DID but he doesn't quite nail it. I mean, we can't hold it against him because this is a Marvel series he's working with. It's tough to talk about a mental ailment when you have to deal with Egyptian gods and superhero fare. If you want a sober focus on DID, try the many videos on YouTube.
Oh, and this has gotten piled on but Harrow's Chinese- I mean, Mandarin, is just… garbage. As a terrible Mandarin speaker myself, I award that scene in episode two the gold star of shitty Mandarin-speaking.
What to look out for
There are QR codes in the series that will lead you to free-to-read comic books featuring Moon Knight. The first is by the sarcophagus in the museum in the pilot and the second is by his storage unit in the second episode.
Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.