Plot summary: In Egypt, Khonshu pleads for the other gods to stop Arthur Harrow, while Marc, Steven and Layla contend with dangerous locals in an effort to find Ammit’s tomb.
Episode Title: ‘The Friendly Type’
Air Date: April 13th, 2022
Directed: Mohamed Diab (2)
Written: Beau DeMayo (1), Peter Cameron (1) & Sabir Pirzada (1)
Per Layla’s passport, she was born during a crescent moon (and sports a crescent moon necklace), and both she and Marc would not have blipped.
Anton Mogart, played by the late Gaspard Ulliel, is a minor comic book villain known as Midnight Man. He has a penchant for stealing valuable artefacts in the middle of the night.
A third identity is teased to go alongside Steven Grant and Marc Spector. In the comics, the third major personality is Jake Lockley, a street-smart taxi driver with underworld connections.
With Arthur Harrow and his followers already digging to uncover Ammit’s tomb, Marc tries to beat information out of some of his disciples, but timid Steven (and a teased hyper-violent third identity) make it difficult.
Khonshu creates an eclipse in order to get the attention of The Ennead, represented by their avatars. The Moon God fails to convince his peers that Harrow means any harm.
Yatzil, avatar of Hathor (the former lover of Khonshu), informs Marc of a map in a stolen sarcophagus that will lead to Ammit’s tomb.
With Layla’s help, they find the sarcophagus in the possession of Anton Mogart, a buyer and stealer of antiquities.
The meeting with Mogart goes south after Harrow arrives to destroy the sarcophagus, forcing Moon Knight to fight off a cadre of mercenaries so they can escape.
With Steven’s help, they are able to reassemble stolen fragments from the sarcophagus to create a 2,000 year old star chart.
Khonshu uses his power to revert the sky to match the night the map was created so that Layla can pinpoint the location of the tomb.
As punishment, Khonshu is imprisoned within a small statue, stripping Marc/Steven of their powers. Harrow mocks the statue.
This is not a good television show.
I LOVE this character, but halfway through his live action debut, it’s a poor vehicle for spotlighting him. Could they turn it around in the back half? Maybe. But it’s notable that none of these writers have much in the way of pedigree (with Peter Cameron writing one of the best and one of the worst episodes of WandaVision), and beyond trying to show Egypt in a more modern light (more below), there’s no real creative vision of any kind coming through. Honestly, just go watch Legion.
I had high hopes after the first few minutes, with on-location shoots in Jordan obviously far more effective than the usual Atlanta/London sound stages. That aspect really came to a head with the aerial shots of Cairo near the end, with Mohamed Diab making a real point of dispelling any notions of Africa being nothing but sand and dirt. You see the same with depictions of the Middle East and South America, with shitty productions applying a yellow filter, but there are definitely some Very Online people whose minds get blown wide open when they see vibrant modern cities with tall buildings in Africa. Good for Diab, honestly.
But even that high point was muddied by messy camera work and potentially some hasty last-minute editing to tone down the violence in the fights. The show is long overdue a signature action set piece to hang its hat on. They’ve now used half of their time and there is nothing that approaches even the most pedestrian of Daredevil action sequences, let alone the famous hallway fight.
Episode one deliberately kept the action off camera to build intrigue. Episode two had the invisible battle and a hideous looking slam dunk onto a spike. This week we got a knife fight that never hit a higher gear and then Moon Knight vs a small army of Mogart’s men which was also deeply mediocre and visually dull. Stuff just happens, with no real focus on choreography or even just an attempt at a cool shot of a costumed hero being a badass. The closest they got was the visual of Moon Knight impaled by several wooden lances, yelling out for Layla. So… the hero getting his ass kicked, basically. Why would any non-comic fan take this character seriously? Where is the Winter Soldier choreographer?
That stretch of the episode feels poorly planned, and the episode in general suffers from the ‘character goes to place and does thing for some reason’ malaise that has infected a lot of modern filmmaking. Look no further than Arthur Harrow, who makes FOUR appearances, almost all of which see him literally teleporting in like a glorified Deus Ex Machina. He and his men dig for Ammit’s tomb, he appears before the Ennead to lie to them, he pops up in Cairo to destroy the convenient spare map (which survives anyway), and then he’s back for the villain monologue at the end. It just feels lazy.
Speaking of the Ennead, I want to be into the concept of a pantheon of gods meeting inside the Great Pyramid of Giza to pass judgement. A minor bummer to see it all communicated through their avatars (none of whom seem to run around in superhero costumes, which is interesting), because apparently Disney don’t have any money. Still, if done right, not a bad thing. The collection of actors cast are interesting at least. But the true crime in that scene is how mindnumbingly stupid the Ennead come across. Harrow was literally digging for Ammit’s tomb, teleported in and said he was just visiting as a tourist, and they took that 100% at face value. Not one omniscient glance outside. Ridiculous.
The biggest talking point from the episode was Khonshu twice manipulating the sky, first creating an eclipse to get the Ennead’s attention, and then… well… there’s some debate about what happened at the end. Was it a giant visual effect (that all the locals could see too), or did Khonshu literally rewind time in terms of the placement of celestial bodies? I’m pretty sure whatever he did was undone again, because otherwise… no Thor, no Guardians, no Captain Marvel and all manner of other enormous ramifications that I simply don’t buy that they’d casually toss out halfway through a very blah TV show.
Finally, we got a tease at a third personality, presumably Jake Lockley. Something to keep in mind going forward, but I spent half of the episode bored or annoyed, so almost forgot about it, to be honest.
Most Marvellous Player
Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but I’m picking Oscar Isaac. It’s probably his weakest showing so far, but he’s still managing some impressive work, particularly the moment where we see him switch personalities without any visual effects trickery interrupting the shift. Instead, he slightly shifts his body language (not a patch on Christopher Reeve of course), and switches his accent. I do think his work as Steven was slightly out of sync with what we saw in the first two episodes, potentially because he needs to ‘get in the zone’, and struggles more with slipping into it amidst Marc-heavy scenes. It was kind of cute seeing Marc subjected to the same blackouts as Steven in the debut episode, including the above-mentioned tease of another identity. It’ll be interesting to see what Isaac does with that.
May Calamawy did get to do more this time as I had hoped last week, but it’s nothing to write home about for the most part. My favourite moment of hers was her bemused grin while drinking and mocking Marc. Just a nice little character interaction and I hope to see more flirtation between them, whether in flashback or otherwise. It seems like they are sowing the seeds of her developing a minor crush on Steven, presumably for his intellect and emotional vulnerability compared to the more abrasive Marc.
Ethan Hawke was all over the map, due to my complaints about Harrow teleporting around the episode. Sometimes he’s decent, sometimes he’s asleep. If nothing else, delivering a semi-successful monologue to a tiny statue at the end was evidence he’s a professional.
In an ideal world, the Ennead’s avatars would be a collection of recognisable character actors or famous faces. Diana Bermudez seems to have been chosen as the chief among them, with some hinting at a romantic past between Hathor and Khonshu as in mythology. Khalid Abdalla acts as chief spokesman and is thoroughly unimpactful.
A lack of creative vision may be the true villain, but yeah, Arthur Harrow has himself a time, digging, lying and destroying. It’s all pretty tedious and firmly in the worst kind of superhero antagonist, as he just shows up when needed and then vanishes again, with no strong sense of individual identity. Heck, with them colouring him as a former avatar of Khonshu, he’s arguably also the played out mirror opposite of the protagonist.
Anton Mogart aka Midnight Man made almost zero impact. Rich shirtless man almost gets tricked but then doesn’t. Wow! It’s also very funny to me that his prized collection of stolen relics is basically out in the open. No clue if he’s coming back, but they did hint at a history between him and Layla.
Finally, we have Khoshu and The Ennead. We’ve already gotten plenty of hints that Khonshu may be less than altruistic in his motives, and while he did mess with the sky (twice) against express orders, it’s hard to not interpret his fellow gods as dumbasses as best, and villainous at worst. Believing Harrow without question and not bothering to double check anything, and then imprisoning Khonshu in a little statue (robbing Marc/Steven of their powers) sure ain’t great.
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: Loki.
My other recap column, The Matt Signal Beyond, which takes a look back at Batman Beyond, has sorta/kinda come to an end. I want to write a little extra something about both BTAS and Beyond, but it may not be soon.