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Moon Knight | tv review

Don't know who he really is? That's okay, because neither does he.

 

Season summary: Steven Grant discovers he's been granted the powers of an Egyptian moon god. But he soon finds out that these newfound powers can be both a blessing and a curse to his troubled life. (IMDb)


I've waited until this season of Moon Knight finished before reviewing it because I felt that I judged the early episodes of Hawkeye too harshly given how that series eventually unfolded. The thing is, I don't think I needed to worry as each episode of Moon Knight felt much more like a complete piece forming a larger whole rather than Hawkeye's single story chopped into six parts - a minute difference maybe, but it does make a difference.


It also helps that this show is very much its own thing, almost entirely disconnected from the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe other than small mentions and little hints. This might put some people off as that interconnectivity is one of the things people love about this fictional world, but I like that it expands the world even more and is free to tell its own story rather than having to tie-in.


Ethan Hawke's Arthur Harrow unfortunately draws the short straw as his role being the primary antagonist feels a little under-written considering his argument of punishing people who have been or would go on to be evil before they can do it is an interesting counterpoint to the usual superhero MO of punishing the wicked after they've already caused suffering.


The slack is very much picked up by Oscar Isaac and May Calamawy though, who are excellent together and on their own, with Isaac especially proving just what an incredible actor he is with his portrayal of someone suffering from Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). How he changes depending on which identity is control is sublime, involving everything from accent changes to body language and tiny changes of facial expression.


Hell, when the story leaves the physical world for a while and we get to see Isaac as both Marc Spector and Steven Grant on-screen at the same time, it's very easy to forget he's playing both roles thanks to how unique they feel, which is also a testament to the team behind the camera for making the effects work as well as they do.


I've also taken some small pleasure in how May Calamawy has already pissed off some of the exact right people to piss off, with her involvement in the final battle resulting in complaints of how skilled she seems to be right away despite proving throughout the show that Layla can more than handle herself in a fight and it sounding very much like the same misogynistic complaints about Rey in the Star Wars sequels.


But I don't want to just mention Calamawy for her character's action skills, but also for the fact that Layla is a genuinely great character that is always fun to see on-screen. Her differing relationships with Marc and Steven are great, and her determination to pursue her goals really make a strong impression by forging a really well-rounded character who could help shine a light on people and parts of the world not usually represented very well in big budget productions.


On a personal note, I'm also glad the Egyptian gods involved actually seem to live up to the word rather than the advanced aliens that the Asgardians turned out to be. The MCU seems to be slowly edging towards more supernatural elements with Blade and Werewolf by Night to come (and Doctor Strange already prominent) and the actions of Moon Knight's benefactor, Khonshu, certainly help prove that even the more benign gods can still be manipulative gits who trick mortals for their own ends.


In terms of overall quality, I find it hard to rate Moon Knight for two reasons: first, I found the overall quality level to be consistently high from start to finish. There weren't any mind-blowingly good sequences to serve as series highlights, but neither were there any dips as I genuinely enjoyed every single scene - it's hard to explain exactly what I mean, but that level of consistency means that it strangely feels a little lacking in catharsis because there is no peak - just a steady line of 'very good' stuff.


The second reason is that this series really is a showpiece for Oscar Isaac. Playing two characters sharing a single body means that even more of the focus is on him due to what would be a supporting character in any other show being part of the title character here - and Isaac absolute nails it, proving entirely deserving of all that attention and I would genuinely be surprised if he doesn't win some kind of award, or if the show receives any kind of prize thanks to his efforts.


Moon Knight is just a thoroughly good show that can stand on its own thanks to how separate it feels from the rest of the MCU. I wouldn't say it's a great place to jump onboard though, because that makes it different enough from the other shows and the movies that it's not really reflective of what you'd be letting yourself in for, so that's just something to be aware of - liking this show doesn't mean you'll enjoy the rest of the MCU and vice versa.


Moon Knight is yet another very good entry from the TV corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even if the titular hero was rarely seen in costume. Oscar Isaac is just magnificent from start to finish, but May Calamawy is the breakout star as Layla and both will hopefully return at some point in the near future. Seeds have been sown, especially thanks to the post-credit of the last episode...

[8/10 - Very Good]

 

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