There are no Marvel Cinematic Universe references in the first episode of “Moon Knight.” No mention of the Snap, no Steve Rogers musicals, no explanation why the Eternals wouldn’t have mentioned the Egyptian Gods being real, actually, and it’s kind of okay. Except there are so many good comics-related jabs to take, I’ve got to get them out of my system. First and foremost, it turns out “Moon Knight: The TV Show” is even less compelling than a Moon Knight comic book, which is incredible. Despite often having great artists, Moon Knight comics are infamously stinkers.
Second… well, second isn’t bad. On the show, one of Moon Knight’s alter egos is named Steven Grant. The main one. So, “Moon Knight” is a multiple personality black action-comedy. The character’s from the seventies and eighties when multiple personality disorder was still a thing, so whether or not it’s actually ableist is a whole other question and not the point of the Steven Grant thing. Steven Grant is the name of a comic writer. Not sure if he did Moon Knight, not sure if the name’s coincidental, but it’s potentially neat.
Third comics-related thing… the passive misogyny. There are no positive female characters in the episode; there is either dismissive like love interest gone wrong, Saffron Hocking, or winged harpy boss, Lucy Thackeray. It’s a big swing from a Marvel show like they’re promising to hit that audience who really hates having strong female characters or even female characters around. I don’t just bet “Moon Knight” never passes Bechdel; I’ll bet they never even have two women together onscreen talking. One of the bits involves lead Oscar Isaac leaving voice messages for never seen Mom, who also never answers his calls. It’s a cruel joke since it turns out Isaac’s just the dope who the Egyptian god lets drive the body when they don’t need it. But it’s also possible Mom’s head’s in a fridge somewhere.
Finally, the Egyptian god. Apparently, it’s F. Murray Abraham, who’s not very distinctive. He incorporeally speaks to Isaac, which makes it feel like a desperate Venom riff.
So is there anything good about it?
I mean, Isaac’s okay. Outside the setup—he’s a chronic sleepwalker who has to tie himself up at night (only he’s not, he just doesn’t remember he’s also a super anti-hero or whatever), and so he’s late to work where people are all shitty to him—and the one action sequence, which is a James Bond car chase thing but with lousy CGI, most of Isaac’s scenes are with himself. And Isaac’s compelling. He does panic and fear well. The sequence where a monster mummy dog is chasing him through a museum and Isaac gets more and more scared is… better than a lot of the episode.
But the more impressive performance is Ethan Hawke as the bad guy. He’s trying to bring back some Egyptian goddess, and Isaac’s fouled up the plan. Only he doesn’t remember because it’s his other selves who did it.
Hawke’s really good with a nothing villain part. He oddly makes the show seem more legit than Isaac.
Mohamed Diab’s direction is middling, even for a middling Marvel outing. Credited to Jeremy Slater, the script seems like it was written either for Ryan Reynolds or, I don’t know, Dana Carvey back in the nineties as a pure comedy vehicle.
Nice cinematography from Gregory Middleton is the only technical standout.
If there’s a way to crack Moon Knight, the show indeed hasn’t found it. Thank goodness it’s only six episodes. Though, based on this first one, it’s going to be a slog.