We’ve made it to episode 5 of “Moon Knight.” Only one more installment to go before the season (series?) finale of the latest Marvel Studios series for Disney+. And this has been one of the more fun, surprising superhero shows of late and one that would seemingly warrant more episodes (or perhaps a movie spin-off). After last week’s episode, which saw Marc/Steven (Oscar Isaac) shot and left for dead in a puddle of goo inside a tomb, leading to a somewhat trippy sequence in an all-white psych ward/psychic waystation, things could have gone anywhere .
Now that the episode has streamed, we know that where it’s going is back – back through the shared trauma of Marc and Steven and into a place of it, if not understanding, at least acceptance. Is this enough to save the day from crazed cultist Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) and his insane plot about him? Who can say. But we can breakdown what this episode meant and how it sets the stage for next week’s finale.
Major spoilers follow for “Moon Knight” episode 5. Turn back now or be banished to the Egyptian land of the afterlife.
Two of Hearts
The episode begins with a woman who we’ve never seen, screaming directly into the camera: “It’s all your fault.” We see a flash of water and a cave, before we shift into an office. It’s sort of like Ethan Hawke’s office in the otherworldly psych ward from the previous episode but different; more mundane and of-the-real-world. Marc’s nose is broken. Hawke is “Dr. Harrow.” They’re in Chicago, Illinois.
Marc retorts, “You’re not a real doctor.” “Doctor” Harrow says that he enjoys his story about the talking hippopotamus. But he asks Marc to weigh the options, his hands teetering like a scale: “Sense or nonsense?” He says that Marc’s mind could connect its own realm. It could be anything, really. Marc pipes in: “A psych ward?” Yes that. Harrow asks Marc about the boy. But before he could answer, the orderlies (once more the fake cops from earlier in the season; the white guy with the beard was an unfortunate victim of one of the tomb’s mummies last episode) inject Marc with something.
Cue the hippopotamus. It’s Taweret. She asks if Marc is “always so intense.” (Remember, in this realm, Marc and Steven are very much two different people.) She explains that “You’re actually quite dead.” They have entered the real of the Egyptian underworld. “She’s guiding us on our journey to the afterlife,” Steven remarks, perhaps too cheerfully. Taweret says that there are many realms and she references the “ancestral plane,” which we all remember from Marvel’s “Black Panther.” (There is a sequel coming out this Thanksgiving!)
Marc and Steven head out the big doors and – surprise! – they’re in a giant sail barge, rolling through a sea of sand. (If you thought of the pirate ship in the subconscious from Pete Docter’s “Soul,” you aren’t alone. Taweret just needed a peace sign on the sail.) Taweret stands in front of Marc and Steven and takes their hearts, which now appear to be made out of some opaque white stone. She tells them that they must be weighed on the scales of justice. This show loves scales – there’s the tattoo on Harrow’s arm that moves when he’s judging them and his magical walking stick which also rocks on someone’s wrists like a scale – and Taweret tells them that they cannot move on from this plane until the scales are balanced. (On the other side of the scale is a single feather.) In order to achieve balance, Marc and Steven must confront their past. And time is ticking.
Marc and Steven head back inside the sail barge. It’s the psych ward again. They pass through doors; inside one is the bathroom brawl from the very first episode. Another is the moment when they “rewound the sky” with Khonshu. Then they reach the cafeteria. It’s filled with zombies. These are all of Marc and Khonshu’s victims; he says they were all super bad people and very much had it coming. He was revenge, remember? The protector of the night?
But then Steven notices a little kid in the back of the room. Initially Steven thinks that it’s one of Marc’s victims. No, that’s not it. Marc pleads with him to stop. Steven goes after him.
Blast from the Past
Steven goes after the little boy and then realizes he’s in one of Marc’s memories. As it turned out, Marc had a little brother. The brother draws a fish with one gimpy fin, just like Steven had in his London flat. The kid speaks in a British accent sometimes, based on the movie they both love (“Time Buster”). As Steven follows the boys he looks down; he’s stepped on a bird skeleton that looks remarkably similar to Khonshu.
Steven follows the boys into a cave. It’s filling up with water. He cries out for them to stop. They cannot hear him.
Meanwhile in the metaphysical psych ward, Marc opens a door and it’s a wake for the boy. He looks over and sees Steven is wet. The mom is yelling at the boy Marc. She blames him for the death of the younger brother.
They walk into another room and young Marc is having a birthday party. He’s dressed all in white, just like Moon Knight. His dad calls for his mom; she doesn’t come to watch him blow out the candles. His mom comes in, clearly intoxicated, once again blaming him for everything that happened. We see Marc leaving home, his father pleading with him to stay.
Then we’re outside. It’s the temple where Layla’s dad was killed. Marc explains that he was on a mission from Bushman.
This is most likely a reference to Raoul Bushman, who is one of Moon Knight’s chief antagonists and would be a perfect villain for season 2 or a standalone movie. The character was introduced in 1980 and serves a similar purpose. He was a mercenary who tried to kill a doctor and his daughter (in the comics it’s Dr. Peter Alraune and Marlene Alraune). Moon Knight of course catches up with him and kills him in a very gray way. This being “Moon Knight,” Bushman comes back from the dead, inhabited by the spirit of Dormammu, who might remember being the big bad from the first “Doctor Strange” movie. Later it was implied that Bushman, like Marc Spector, suffered from mental health issues.
Marc says Bushman ordered him to kill everybody but he refused. A firefight ensued and Marc was shot. I have crawled into the temple. Badly wounded he puts a pistol underneath his chin. And that’s when he hears the booming voice of Khonshu (F. Murray Abraham, who seems to be in some #MeToo hot water but he’s still here at least). He tells the dying Marc that he’s “in search of a warrior” and Marc would be a great fit. “Do you want death or do you want life?” Marc chooses life and chronologically we see the first appearance of Moon Knight. Cannot get over how cool that suit is. And how it’s been almost two full episodes without Moon Knight actually making an appearance. Odd.
Returning to the sail barge, they see that new souls are being deposited. Taweret is worried about the unjudged souls. Clearly Harrow’s plan is working. He’s pre-judging countless people and sending them prematurely to the afterlife. But Taweret could reunite them with Khonshu. Their scale has to be balanced. They won’t heal; they’ll still be in mortal danger. But maybe they could still save the world. Together, they head back to the psych ward.
Can we pause and say how strange it was that this episode doesn’t address the third sarcophagus that Steven and Marc saw in the psych ward at the end of the last episode. It was rocking back and forth (like somebody was in it) and speaks to the prevalent online theory that there’s a third personality in that body, just like there was in the comic books. But there is nothing related to that tease in this episode. They don’t go back to the sarcophagus, they don’t acknowledge a third personality. Just nothing.
Anyway, Steven is hellbent on going back and exploring a memory Marc wouldn’t let him see. It looked like it took place in Marc’s childhood bedroom. “It’s not worth it,” Marc says. Steven wants to go. “You can’t make me,” Marc repeats, hitting himself in the head. Oscar Isaac is amazing in this episode and deserves serious awards consideration, not only for the multitude of roles but how fully realized and emotionally fragile each personality is. He gives it his all and leaves it all on the screen. Just stunning stuff.
Suddenly we’re back in Harrow’s postmodern Egyptian office. Marc’s nose is fine. Harrow tells him that he’s proud of him.
Then we’re in Marc’s room as a kid. His mom is banging on the door. “It’s not my mom,” little kid Marc says. As they watch, Marc gives over to Steven and starts speaking in a British accent. They are witnessing the birth of Steven. Adult Steven looks on the wall and sees the “Time Buster” poster. His mom gets in the room and starts beating him. They exit and are in the psych ward hallway.
Steven is so upset. He says that Marc created him to deal with the pain of his mother. (Shades of “Severance” here and the “innie” and “outie.”)
They’re back in the Chicago office of “Dr. Harrow.” Steven has taken over. The doctor is amazed. Steven seems confused and agitated and he calls Harrow’s silly little mustache “very Ned Flanders.” Apparently Marc started seeing the doctor after his mother’s death from him. Steven is alarmed. He talks to his mother about him every day. He asks the doctor to call his mom. The doctor goes through the motion and hands the phone up to Steven. He looks at the receiver. “My mom is dead,” Steven says.
Now we’re back outside Marc’s childhood home, which looks an awful lot like the Warner Bros lot in Burbank. Marc can’t bring himself to go in. Instead he runs away from the house and breaks down in tears (again: Oscar Isaac is simply stunning). Steven returns. Marc tells him that this was two months ago. “It was the moment our lives started bleeding into one another,” Marc tells Steven.
They go back to the sail barge deck. Their souls are still not balanced. Sand mummies of Marc’s victims start to climb onto the deck. Marc fights them off. But he gets cornered. Steven looks over. “If I’m you, I’ve got this too,” Steven says, realizing the potential of his power. He starts “killing” the sand zombies. He gets several of them when one pulls him overboard. He’s lost in the sands of time (or whatever it is). He tries to make his way back to the barge. Marc calls to him. But soon he turns to sand. RIP Steven – he knew a lot about ancient Egypt, he scared a little kid one time and his best friend was a potentially homeless man dressed up as a living statue.
Suddenly, though, in the chaos and sadness, the scales are balanced. Marc wakes up in a field of golden wheat. But the question remains: what not?
This was a super great episode, thrilling and strange. And we cannot wait until next week’s undoubtedly action-packed finale. Will there be a Doctor Strange/Moon Knight encounter? “Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness” opens the same week as the “Moon Knight” finale. Coincidence? Is anything ever in the Marvel Cinematic Universe? Only Khonshu knows.