After two weeks of introducing its audience to Steven Grant, the luckless former gift shop employee with a fake British accent, Moon Knight heads to Egypt with a new protagonist in Marc Spector.
The third episode of Marvel’s Disney+ series finds the mercenary turned superhero in Cairo trying to hunt down Arthur Harrow and locate Ammit’s tomb, all while vying for control of his and Steven’s shared body. Despite Marc’s best attempts at stopping Harrow by himself, the villain’s calculated efforts to resurrect Ammit and bring Judgment Day upon the world are going according to plan, aided by the other Egyptian gods’ decision to double down on their banishment of Khonshu by imprisoning the moon deity in stone by episode’s end. Although he’s the last to admit it, Marc is beginning to realize that he won’t be able to save the day without some help.
As much as Marc needs help defeating Harrow, though, he’s also starting to accept that he needs help figuring out what’s happening to his mind. Moon Knight has yet to directly address Marc’s dissociative identity disorder, opting instead to use it as a storytelling device to accentuate the mysterious, often dreamlike nature of the series. By introducing the audience to a lesser-known Marvel superhero through the lens of a reimagined version of one of his alter egos, who knows nothing of his crime-fighting persona, Moon Knight is taking an unconventional approach to an origin story—a wise decision given how many of them Marvel Studios has produced in the past decade. During the first two episodes of the series, much of the story stuck to Steven’s perspective, with gaps in his memory suggesting that Marc had taken over their body to deliver Khonshu’s violent justice. But with Marc in control of much of this week’s episode, “The Friendly Type,” the gaps in our new protagonist’s memories are attributable not to Steven, but to the presence of another alter ego in Marc and Steven’s body.
Early on in “The Friendly Type,” Marc is chasing after a trio of men who seem to take their flashy blade twirling more seriously than their fighting skills, but Steven—with a little help from some timely reflections that provide a window of communication—stops Marc from killing them. The first memory gap positions Marc in a cab on the way to the airport, but the second (which follows an intervening chase scene through the crowded markets of Cairo) leaves Marc in the middle of a crime scene with corpses surrounding him as he wields a knife lodged into the chest of one of the men he was previously pursuing.
“Steven, what did you do?” Marc asks, staring into the reflection of the bloodied knife in his hand.
“I swear, that wasn’t me,” Steven replies.
“Then who was it?” Marc asks.
It isn’t clear if the source of the missing gaps of violence is somehow linked to Khonshu, who shows little remorse for any loss of life on his behalf, or another potential alter sharing Marc’s body, such as Jake Lockley, a New York City cab driver in the comics. (While there is little evidence to point to Lockley in particular, he is one of Moon Knight’s three most common alters, along with Marc and Steven.) Even with all the exposition threaded through the series’ first three episodes, there are still plenty of mysteries left to be solved.
Perhaps above all else, “The Friendly Type” boils down to being about trust, and who is worthy of it. As reluctantly as their partnership comes about (and in spite of the unexpected, violent intervention), Marc and Steven are learning to trust each other to take control of their body when each of their very particular set of skills is needed—whether that be Steven’s extensive knowledge of ancient Egypt, or Marc’s ability to fight when they’re, uh, getting impaled by several spears at once. (Khonshu’s protective healing armor seems to be able to stop anything short of a nuke at this point.) Meanwhile, Layla El-Faouly, who thrusts herself into the thick of the chaos in Cairo, continues to lose her trust in Marc, as Harrow plants the idea in her mind that her husband has been withholding information about the mysterious death of her father. And it’s ultimately a lack of trust in Khonshu that causes the gods, who’ve withdrawn from human affairs, to imprison Khonshu after taking the word of his former avatar, Arthur Harrow, over Khonshu’s own accusations. It probably didn’t help that Khonshu didn’t allow his current avatar to speak more than a few words during Harrow’s trial, opting instead to yell his unconvincing arguments through Marc’s mouth. (Then again, if the gods can’t even take Khonshu’s word seriously enough to, you know, walk on over to the tomb where Harrow has a full-scale excavation underway, maybe the real problem here is a lack of due process?)
By the end of the third installment, Khonshu is left with little choice but to place his trust in Marc and even the oft-disparaged Steven, as Harrow and his followers are already at Ammit’s tomb and on the verge of resurrecting their zero-tolerance god. After angering the noninterventionist gods by blocking out the sun to draw their attention earlier in the episode, Khonshu goes even further by resetting the skies to the way they’d looked millennia earlier, allowing Steven and Layla to find the tomb the old-fashioned way: by following the stars. As Moon Knight enters the back half of its first and (as far as we know) only season, Marc/Steven will have to face Harrow—and whatever else awaits them in Ammit’s tomb—without the near-invincible protection of Khonshu.
The Midnight Man
Arthur Harrow isn’t the only obscure villain that Moon Knight is digging up for the title character’s live-action debut, as “The Friendly Type” introduces Anton Mogart. Played by the late French actor Gaspard Ulliel, who died following a ski accident in January, Mogart is an antiquities collector who owns the sarcophagus of a Medjay named Senfu. Thanks to a tip from Yatzil, the friendly avatar of Hathor (goddess of music and love), Marc learns that he can track down Ammit’s tomb by using directions coded within Senfu’s sarcophagus. And with the help of Layla, who just so happens to moonlight as an antiquities dealer, Marc and Layla meet with the sarcophagus’s owner, Mogart, better known in the comics as the villainous … Midnight Man. (There’s nothing like an old-school alliterative comic-book name.)
Introduced as early as Moon Knight no. 3 in 1981, Midnight Man was a thief who would dress up in an all-black costume and steal famous works of art and jewels from museums and mansions around the world. Naturally, he would commit his robberies right at the stroke of midnight. (Choosing to rob precious artifacts at a completely predictable time doesn’t seem like the best business model for a thief, but hey, everyone’s got a gimmick, I guess.)
In Moon Knight, Mogart wears a red robe instead of an all-black costume, but his interest in precious arts and artifacts remains; he views his impressive collection as a “philanthropic effort at preservation.” It’s at his lavish estate that the show’s first extended fight sequence takes place—or at least, the first extended sequence that involves our hero(es) fighting humans instead of jackals who either can’t be seen or who exhibit bad enough CGI that they’re probably better off invisible. Moon Knight gets to use his fancy moon-themed weapons and cape, Mr. Knight pops in for some comedic relief, and Layla shows off some fighting skills of her own as she kills several of Mogart’s henchmen without batting an eye. As for Mogart, he puts his expensive, private El-Mermah lessons to use as he fights Moon Knight and Layla by horseback before taking a crescent dart to the back and fleeing the scene. (Although there’s no mention of his silly comic-book moniker anywhere in this episode, when Mogart rides away into the misty night, a bell tolls and a clock reveals the time to be midnight.)
Given Ulliel’s tragic passing earlier this year, this could be the last time we see Mogart in the MCU, barring another appearance in the latter half of Moon Knight’s limited series. There’s always the chance that Marvel Studios could recast Mogart if it has bigger plans for the minor Moon Knight character; one of Mogart’s bodyguards connected his employer to the larger MCU when he said to Layla, “After Madripoor, I’m sure you two will have a lot to talk about.” Madripoor was first introduced in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, as Sam Wilson, Bucky Barnes, and dancing Zemo discovered that Sharon Carter had started a new life in the crime-ridden city as a dealer of stolen classic artworks. This could just be another Easter egg that connects Layla and Mogart to Madripoor and Carter via their shared interests, or it could signal a further development for one character or the other should Marvel Studios decide to expand on Carter’s new villainous persona as the Power Broker.
A Meeting With the Gods
With all the talk of ancient Egypt and the Egyptian gods through the first two episodes, it was only a matter of time until Marc and Steven came face to face with them. Out of options and out of time, Khonshu convenes a meeting with the Ennead, the group of deities whom Steven was geeking out over in the premiere. While there are typically nine gods in the Ennead (as Steven helpfully pointed out to his boss in “The Goldfish Problem”), only five gods appear at Khonshu’s summoning: Horus, Isis, Tefnut, Osiris, and Hathor.
Given how impressive the production design looks inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, along with the gravity of meeting ancient gods, the scene itself is somewhat disappointing and uninspired. As Khonshu answers to his angry contemporaries and calls upon Harrow to answer for his conspiracy to free Ammit, the gods themselves are presented as their human avatars, undercutting the excitement and allure of featuring the gods in the first place. The whole sequence feels almost procedural in its attempt to move the plot along, and Khonshu and Marc are also frustratingly unprepared to lay out their case against Harrow. (Harrow’s Mandarin might leave a lot to be desired, but the guy would apparently make for a decent lawyer in light of the quick work he makes of Khonshu and Marc.)
Nonetheless, the trial does feature important background on the gods that explains their relationship with humanity, the roles that avatars play, and where the series could be heading. Khonshu’s conversation with the gods before Harrow’s arrival reveals the roots of the moon deity’s contentious relationship with his peers. “We have not abandoned humanity; they abandoned us,” one of the gods tells Khonshu. “We simply trust our avatars to carry out our purposes, without calling undue attention to ourselves. Not like some of us.”
“Avatars are not enough,” Khonshu replies, using Marc’s voice as a medium. “We need the might of gods. Return from the opulence of the Overvoid before you lose this realm.”
While Osiris reasserts that their avatars are merely meant to observe and that the gods want nothing to do with humanity, Khonshu believes they have a responsibility to use their avatars to help guide the humans—though his violent methods and ideologies don’t feel all that far removed from those of Ammit’s. Khonshu’s mention of the Overvoid feels significant as well, as the interdimensional realm plays an important role in Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood’s 2016 Moon Knight run, which continues to be the series’ biggest comics-based source of inspiration. The Overvoid is a strange place to say the least (see the massive flying insect and floating pyramids below), with plenty of visual potential, and it wouldn’t be surprising if the series is saving the setting and an appearance from the gods in their true forms for a later episode. (Perhaps that’s where all the CGI budget went?)
While the returns have been somewhat mixed overall through the first half of Moon Knight, especially in terms of its action, the continued strength of Oscar Isaac’s dual performances and the promise of the show’s focus on ancient Egypt bodes well for the remainder of the season. As Marvel Studios showcased in a recent featurette, the Moon Knight team has done their homework on ancient Egypt, and they have purportedly made its historical accuracy a priority in the show’s world-building. With the series headed to Ammit’s tomb next week, the best of Moon Knight may be yet to come.