*Warning: The following review contains spoilers for episode two of Moon Knight*
After getting a brilliant tease of the Moon Knight suit in the first episode, here comes…yet another tease! Yeah, those looking for a full-fledged action setpiece featuring Moon Knight may be disappointed, but those looking for the series to continue its genre-splitting sequences and electric performances from Oscar Isaac and Ethan Hawke will be satisfied. Though this episode is much tamer than its pilot and has lots of expository dialogue before we get to “the good stuff.”
“The good stuff” is in the latter half of the episode, with Steven Grant (Isaac) summoning “the suit,” AKA Mr. Knight, making his MCU debut. Isaac’s comedic timing is spot on when he dons the Mr. Knight suit, mainly when he fights an Egyptian Jackal that he only sees, to the bewilderment of the bystanders around him, and his wife, Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy).
Wife? Yeah, well, it’s complicated. First, it is revealed that Marc Spector (also Isaac)’s life as a mercenary is much bigger than Steven ever thought. Spector married Layla and had many adventures with her. At the same time, he was the avatar for the Egyptian God Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham & Karim El Hakim), allowing him to “summon the suit” and become the titular Moon Knight. Hakim portrays the physical part of Khonshu, while Abraham voices him. I didn’t mention Khonshu in last week’s review because it was spoiler-free, but F. Murray Abraham’s vocal performance is highly reminiscent of Venom. He’s having a total blast and adds a much-needed level of anxiety to the series’ chaos-inducing structure. Without Khonshu constantly trying to interfere in Steven’s (or Marc’s) activities, the character wouldn’t feel as conflicted (or scared) as he is now.
But Khonshu is an integral part of Marc’s path to Moon Knight, and his relationship with the God will be further explored in subsequent episodes for sure. It’s part of what makes Moon Knight such a complex “hero” because his deal with Khonshu causes him to do his bidding, even if it means drawing the fine line between a legitimate hero and an anti-hero. Heck, Moon Knight didn’t do any “heroic” things in the episode. Yeah, he fought a jackal, but he isn’t a hero. He’s the conduit of Khonshu and fully serves him so that he can get his life back (whatever that is, because Marc doesn’t seem to be such a nice guy).
So the action scene with Mr. Knight, who then gives the body to Marc so he can transform himself as Moon Knight, is excellent. Unfortunately, we only get to see about a minute or so of Marc in the Moon Knight suit (which is more than last week’s), but he already has one of the coolest MCU suits. I won’t lie, the cape is sleek as heck, and the entire suit is amazingly textured. It brilliantly transposes Marvel’s comic book imageries to screen, inside wonderfully shot bouts of action. The Green Knight‘s cinematographer Andrew Droz Palermo shoots this episode while genre filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead direct it. They infuse their spin on the character that not only feels fresh but is visually voluptuous.
We live in an era where most American action films look precisely the same, with drab cinematography and green-screen-driven sequences overpowering every ounce of the frame. It’s incredibly apparent if you see S.S. Rajamouli’s RRR in theatres and compare its insane action sequences to Spider-Man: No Way Home. You’ll quickly see apples and oranges. So it’s great to see Moon Knight utilizing vivid colors that give life to the dark blue sky of the night while our protagonist jumps from one building to the next (while his cape flaps, one of the most exciting visual techniques you can ever do in a superhero title) and never cutting at random moments when the character is directly fighting someone. No, Moon Knight is brutal, and we will see that brutality head-on. I’ve been conflicted about how Marvel shoots their action sequences for TV, but if Moon Knight gives them the necessary leeway to properly shoot them and make them as visually exciting as possible, sign me up for the next few shows.
The second episode falters a bit in its over-reliance on expository dialogue. Of course, some story elements will need to be revealed to keep audiences engaged. Still, it doesn’t feel as tightly written as other scenes are, such as the conversation between Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) and Steven Grant during the episode’s third act. Calamawy gives an excellent performance as Layla, but she’s unfortunately reduced in delivering the most exposition out of all of the characters in a scene that doesn’t do her (and Isaac’s Steven/Marc) any favors. On the other hand, the exposition is riveting during Harrow and Steven’s conversation while they sip on lentil soup. Here, the exposition-dumps don’t feel like exposition but like a proper exchange with two rivals (only one of them has no idea what’s happening) who will fight one another in future episodes.
And, yes, there are lots of teases in this episode (far more than last week’s), but the core of the show remains solid: we have no idea if what we’re watching is real or a fabric of Steven (or Marc?)’s reality. CCTV footage with absolutely no presence of an Egyptian creature makes us question Steven’s testimony, and the constant back-and-forth between Steven and Marc, as they try to fight control over “the body,” gives us a hint that none of what we see could be real. We’ll have to see if the series gets even weirder with the next episode or if Marc’s reality will start to shatter as Steven attempts to control the body.
So far, Moon Knight has already curb-stomped every other MCU show as the best one yet, with only two episodes in, even if the exposition this week was a bit clunkily written. And if the series continues to be this riveting, I’m going to go ahead and say that it’s the best MCU show yet…until one surpasses it. It’s incredible how the studio exceeds expectations whenever you think they can’t go any higher in quality or zaniness, and they do something as exciting as Moon Knight. Let’s hope subsequent episodes will be as good (or better, please) as this week.
The second episode of Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+.