Warning: This review contains spoilers for Moon Knight Episode 1. You can find our spoiler-free review of the season here.
Ever have a dream you can’t shake? Welcome to Steven Grant’s life.
Played by Oscar Isaac, Steven is an amiable Englishman who we meet on Moon Knight Episode 1, ”The Goldfish Problem.” You may be wondering, what about the titular Moon Knight?
Well, there’s more than meets the eye to Steven which is what the first episode spends exploring. From the moment we see Steven’s bedroom set up (ankle cuff chained to his bed, sand poured around him, tape on the door) it’s clear something is very wrong with this guy.
The episode hooks its claws into you with the suggestion that if you stick with Steven you too might find some answers to your questions about what the heck is going on.
The Ancient Egyptian exhibit at the museum where Steven works as a gift shop clerk and his impressive knowledge about Ancient Egyptian gods seems to be the first of many clues to fall in place.
As is the revelation that Steven doesn’t remember asking a tour guide out to dinner at a steakhouse (he’s a vegetarian). This bumbling character is easy to love as he goes about his day a little confused even with the sense of something more sinister bubbling underneath.
What could pass as quirky starts lending itself to the makings of a horrifying scenario as the story progresses.
Steven believes he suffers from sleepwalking as evidenced by the setup to prevent him from moving in his sleep. An elaborate “dream” turns into a full-on action sequence where Steven first meets the terrifying Ancient God Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) who looks like a nightmare Big Bird.
Between blackouts, Steven struggles to keep control of his body and escape from the goons of a cult led by Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke). Harrow is the mysterious figure seen at the top of the episode walking on broken glass.
From the start, Hawke is compelling on screen and you’ll want to know more about him just as much as you do Steven. His preaching and otherworldliness couldn’t be farther from where Steven starts the series.
The quick cuts increase the tension of the scene as you never know when you’ll lose perspective along with Steven and return in the wake of more violence. It’s not exactly The Punisher or Daredevil, but still intense by MCU standards.
Whoever this Marc is, he has something Harrow wants, an ancient golden scarab.
The car chase involving a cupcake delivery truck is not just a weird dream though. The barrier between Steven and the other person we learn is inhabiting his body, Marc, deteriorates from there.
It’s a lot to digest on a premiere with the show hoping you buckle in for the wild ride. If you make it past the initial shock of Oscar Isaac’s British accent, you’ll get to the exciting moment you’re waiting for.
Steven can only avoid the truth in the waking hours for so long before he discovers evidence of the secret life Marc is hiding in the apartment and gets a call from Layla, who knows Marc. The fact both Khonshu and Arthur Harrow start appearing to Steven in the flesh shows it wasn’t just a dream.
The elevator sequence where Khonshu appears before Steven in an abandoned hallway is straight out of a horror movie. It will leave you considering taking the stairs next time.
Steven tries to ignore Marc talking to him, but it’s a lot harder to ignore when Harrow corners him in the closed museum and sicks his supernatural Jackal monsters on him. Although we don’t get a deeper look at Marc yet, Isaac quickly establishes the two personalities as distinct people beyond the switch of an accent through a complete tonal shift.
“There’s chaos in you.” – Arthur Harrow to Steven Grant
So when Marc offers to help Steven, you might have an idea of what’s coming. It’s only after this extremely confusing journey that we get to the big reveal of the guy you’ve seen on all the promo materials, Moon Knight.
It’s a heck of a way to end the episode, one last attempt to guarantee you’ll tune in to the next one.
Despite how crazy it all sounds it flows fairly well. The show isn’t a full-on mystery box since we learn who and what Marc is pretty quickly (an American mercenary with Dissociative Identity Disorder, the “Moon Knight”/avatar of a vengeful ancient god).
Moon Knight bucks the typical origin story. There is no flashback showing how we got here.
Marc and Steven just exist as two identities with their own lives. It’s the breakdown of the barrier between those lives that generates the conflict of the show (and the genocidal cult leader, but that’s secondary for now).
If you’ve made it this far, you’re probably invested enough to keep going.
- Steven’s nagging boss felt a bit cliche and stale.
- “That’s a definition of a red flag, innit?” We love a self-aware king.
- Seems like this exhibit would make more sense at the British Museum than at the National Gallery.
- RIP to the one-fin wonder, Gus.
- That DuChamp easter egg in Marc’s call log! Might we see him before the show is over?
- The end credits music is fantastic.
Moon Knight airs Wednesdays on Disney+.