Disgustingly British museum worker Steven Grant experiences blackouts and time loss, attracting the attention of a mysterious cult and an even more mysterious voice in his head…
Episode Title: ‘The Goldfish Problem’
Air Date: March 30th, 2022
Directed: Mohamed Diab (1)
Written: Jeremy Slater (1)
Steven Grant has been dramatically changed from essentially Bruce Wayne to this bumbling Brit. Probably a good call given the longstanding accusations that Moon Knight is a rip-off of Batman. Also, another ultra-wealthy superhero is not at all needed.
The goddess Ammitt that Harrow worships was responsible for eating anyone whose heart failed Anubis’ test. Her body was part crocodile, part lion and part hippo. Steven handles three boxes of stuffed animals at the museum that match these.
There are a couple of fun nods to Moon Knight supporting characters, who may or may not actually appear in the show. The only other name besides Layla in Marc’s secret phone, DuChamp, refers to Marc’s bestie from his mercenary days, ‘Frenchie’, while the living statue is credited as Crawley, a sort of man on the street informant of his.
Awkward museum gift shop worker Steven Grant goes about his daily routine: unshackling himself from his bedpost (one of many measures he takes to prevent sleepwalking), feeds his fish and leaves a voicemail for his mother.
He’s late for work, where nobody likes him, listens to him or gets his name right. He talks to a living statue after work and then does his best to stay awake, solving puzzles and reading about Ancient Egypt.
Steven jolts awake somewhere in The Alps where he finds himself the target of some nefarious armed cultists. A mysterious booming voice tells him to run, so he does, hiding amongst a crowd in a nearby village.
Unfortunately he wanders right into the path of their leader Arthur Harrow, who claims to be able to weigh people’s souls. He immediately spots Steven in the crowd and demands he return a golden scarab that was in his pocket when he woke up.
Experiencing blackouts, Steven keeps coming to with acts of horrific violence having occurred and blood quite literally on his hands. He flees the village in a high speed chase.
Waking up back in his London flat, Steven eventually realises several days have passed, having inadvertently stood up a woman he didn’t even remember asking out. Plus his pet fish has ‘regrown’ its missing fin.
He discovers a concealed phone in his home. Answering when a woman named Layla calls, he is disturbed when she repeatedly calls him Marc and questions his accent.
Experiencing more hallucinations throughout the night and on his way to work, Steven is confronted by Harrow, who weighs his soul. The results are inconclusive.
Later that night with the museum empty, a jackal-like creature stalks Steven into a bathroom. His reflection begins talking to him in an American accent and asks for control so he can save them.
Relenting, Steven blacks out and begins to transform just as the creature breaks the door down and attacks. The monster is savagely beaten unconscious by the costumed Moon Knight.
I liked but did not love this first episode, and I think that’s due to my own over-investment in the character. Everybody on earth should read Jeff Lemire’s run with the character. There have been a number of other strong takes, but that is as definitive as it gets and is self-contained. It’s clearly heavily informed the tone of this series, and knowing the heights it reaches, I think I’m going to be more impatient than the average viewer. The ‘what’s going on here, then?’ didn’t have enough effect on me.
Which is a shame, because they did a decent job ratcheting up tension, particularly in the trippy corridor scenes. I’m also a sucker for the trick reflection stuff, and Harrow’s moving tattoo. His opening scene with the shoes filled with broken glass was… intriguing, I guess? Moreover, I am a big old mythology nerd, so they are going to get bonus points from me throughout.
Watching the episode with the full knowledge of his dissociative identity disorder does provide some interesting food for thought where Steven’s ‘mother’ is concerned. Is a poor random person receiving these voicemails? Did Marc set up a fake inbox for him? Is he subconsciously not even dialling anyone? Did he send all these postcards to himself??? Does Marc solve the Rubik’s Cube before or after his missions?!?
It’s inescapable that the cupcake truck sequence looks absolutely atrocious. Legitimately an all-time MCU clunker. For precisely zero seconds does it look real. If you described it to me, I’d think it was good, with the same character unknowingly occupying both parts of the always enjoyable ‘one guy drives, one guys shoots’ trope. But with open eyes, one simply cannot sincerely engage with this sequence. It would at least be interesting to see if they revisit this sequence to provide the Marc half at a later date.
They deliver the crowd-pleasing transformation at the end after purposefully denying the audience action (terrible vehicle sequence notwithstanding)… but they also gave basically that entire final scene away in the trailers, with the costumed Moon Knight savagely pummelling the Jackal and then walking to camera, so even that juicy moment wasn’t as fun as it might have been going in blind.
I’m definitely excited for the series going forward, as they set a lot of stuff up and I thought Isaac was great (see below), but a tepid response to the debut for me personally.
Most Marvellous Player
I was almost disappointed by how good Oscar Isaac was, given how terrible his accent sounded in the trailers. I was settled in and ready to get a good laugh, but he actually comes across as more natural than I expected. There are definitely a few wobbles here and there, but on the whole he was engaging. Plus, he is doing an exaggerated/silly voice to sell the idea this is an impression by an American, albeit a subconscious one. He said he based elements of the performance on Karl Pilkington and… that makes so much sense, as he is one of those people that is a walking embodiment of other country’s stereotype of Brits. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met plenty of Karl Pilkingtons, but it’s not like the streets are lined with them.
The steak ordering scene won him this by quite some distance.
But the thing is… he doesn’t really have any competition whatsoever, as he carries the entire episode by himself. Ethan Hawke isn’t bad, but he doesn’t really get much of a chance to be good either, as his character is steeped in mystery.
I personally didn’t care for F. Murray Abraham’s take on Khonshu and do not approve of his casting. I know he’s spent a career benefiting from Hollywood finding him ethnically ambiguous, but this really should have been a native North-African actor in my opinion. I understand they’re focusing on godly gravitas, and Abraham certainly has that in spades, but it’s an Egyptian god.
The supporting cast are all fine, but are very much just momentary play-things to facilitate Steven being a clown. The child actor steps all over what should be a great line, essentially claiming Steven failed the trial of the Egyptian afterlife.
Start your ‘Is he Dracula?’ clocks, because there is no way on earth that niche Marvel villain Arthur Harrow is going to be the lead villain of an MCU property. He probably ISN’T Dracula, to be clear, given the obsession with Egyptian mythology, but it feels reminiscent of the Mephisto thing that poisoned 2021 Marvel projects. He’s definitely somebody else. But on the off chance we get a recreation of the incredible Moon Knight/Dracula meme in some form, I will do a big grin. Anyway, cult leaders are a little played out, but it’s a perfectly fine one of those. More people work for him than you could imagine, he has a righteous mission, all that jazz.
Khonshu has historically been equal parts friend and foe in Moon Knight comics, and they’re immediately playing with that with the way he stalks Steven down hallways and whatnot. He’s skewing slightly more heroic in the first episode though, albeit dickish.
The Jackal creature looked creepy when hunting him from the shadows, but looked like shit when they had to show its whole body in a fight.
My MCU podcast, Ben & Matt’s Marvellous Journey has returned, with myself and Ben Phillips taking a look back at Marvel’s 2021 projects. This week: WandaVision.
My other recap column, The Matt Signal Beyond, which takes a look back at Batman Beyond, is coming to an end soon. This weekend I wrap up the remaining Beyond comics. I plan to do one final weekend looking back on both BTAS and Beyond as a whole the week after.