Moon Knight Season One Recap & Review: Oscar Isaac’s Dual Brilliance

Moon Knight’s first season gets top marks for Oscar Isaac’s double-duty lead performance but fails to be compelling apart from a passing interest. The series follows Marc Spector, a lethal mercenary with dissociative identity disorder. He’s the human avatar of the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham); who uses Marc to bring justice to evil-doers. Marc shares a personality with the British Steven Grant, a sheepish museum gift shop worker with no initial knowledge of his crime-fighting alter ego. They battle Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), a cult leader and former Khonshu avatar. Harrow and his minions want to free Ammit (voiced by Saba Mubarek), an Egyptian goddess who passes preemptive death sentences based on an individual’s potential for wrong.

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The first four episodes suffered from pacing issues. Steven Grant wakes up near a medieval castle in possession of a golden Scarab. He encounters Harrow and his “scales of judgment” tattoo. Steven’s violent escape alerts him to being Marc and having supernatural powers as the Moon Knight. The Scarab is a compass that points the way to Ammit’s tomb. Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy), an archeologist and Marc’s abandoned wife, finds Steven. She’s shocked to learn the man she loves has a split personality but joins the fight to prevent Harrow from getting the Scarab. Layla is desperate to know how her father was killed.

The Plot Thickens

The plot thickens at the end of episode four, “The Tomb”. Khonshu has been imprisoned in an ushabti, a figurine that serves as a prison by the other Egyptian gods; who also have human avatars. Marc confesses his former partner murdered Layla’s father. He was mortally injured and accepted Khonshu’s control to survive. Marc finds the Ammit ushabti. He’s shot and killed by Harrow, who takes the figurine. Marc wakes up in a psychiatric facility where Harrow is his doctor.

Episode five, “Asylum”, reveals the truth behind Marc and Steven’s split personality. They meet Tawaret, an Egyptian goddess with a hippopotamus head. She sails a boat through the Duat, the sands of the Egyptian afterlife. The psychiatric facility is a construct forcing Marc/Steven to balance their hearts. Steven’s persona was created by Marc as a child. Marc’s mother (Fernanda Andrade) blamed him for the accidental drowning of his younger brother. She beat and abused him in her madness. The timid and gentle Steven shielded Marc from this pain. Marc enters the “Fields of Reeds”. He foregoes eternal paradise and returns to the Duat for Steven.

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Moon Knight Season One Finale

The season one finale, “Gods and Monsters”, opens with Marc freeing Steven from damnation. They run through the Gates of Osiris and escape to the mortal world. Meanwhile, on Tawaret’s instructions, Layla frees Khonshu. She then follows Harrow to the Pyramid of Giza. He releases the Crocodile-faced Ammit. She begins to collect the souls of Cairo. Khonshu fights Ammit as towering giants beside the pyramid. Marc/Steven battles Harrow as Moon Knight. Layla becomes the Scarlet Scarab, Tawaret’s human avatar. They imprison Ammit in Harrow’s body where she can be killed. Marc/Steven blacks out momentarily before refusing to kill Harrow. They are released by Khonshu and finally find peace. A mid-credits scene has a mysterious assailant kidnapping Harrow from a hospital. A smug Khonshu laughs as Jake, a third persona of Marc Spector, shoots and kills Harrow.

Moon Knight has several significant issues that I couldn’t overcome. Arthur Harrow is a boring villain and doesn’t feel threatening. This is not a slight against Ethan Hawke. Harrow’s written with a yawn-inducing delivery that instructs others to do his violent bidding. He’s unleashed in a finale that’s too little, too late for the character. Harrow needed to be more sinister from the start.

Moon Knight’s Egyptian gods vary from dark to comical. Khonshu has a menacing presence that wanes as the season progresses, Tawaret comes off as a cute and cuddly hippo, and the other Egyptian gods barely register. They are supposed to be fearsome and awe-inspiring. Ammit did not meet my expectations whatsoever as a giant crocodile. Her showdown with Khonshu was a mundane clash of titans. She was easily defeated for such a powerful deity.

Marvel Studios

Finally, the Moon Knight and white-suited Mr. Knight, when Steven’s in charge, didn’t get nearly enough screen time. The character doles out vicious punishment. Those action scenes held my attention but are fleeting. The narrative has Steven discovering Moon Knight. He blacks out, everything wobbles, and wakes up surrounded by dead bodies. The producers made an ill-conceived decision to not show Moon Knight or Marc fighting in the first two episodes.

Oscar Isaac’s brilliant acting makes the show worth watching. Steven, Marc, and now Jake, are completely different. He expertly handles the mental health aspects of a troubled man. This is a fine line that Moon Knight carefully straddles. Next season’s set-up holds promise. Moon Knight stretches credulity to have three personalities and two superhero iterations inhabit the same body. It’ll be interesting to see how this new storyline develops.

Moon Knight is a production of Marvel Studios. The six-episode first season is available to stream on Disney+.

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Julian Roman
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Julian Roman has been with Movieweb for nearly twenty years. An avid film buff, he feels lucky to have interviewed and written extensively about Hollywood’s greatest talents. In his spare time he plays guitar, treasures good company, and always seeks new adventures.

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