Marvel Mondays – Moon Knight: Episode 4

Plot summary: Steven, Layla and Arthur Harrow race to find the secrets of Ammit’s tomb with personal complications and strange creatures making things difficult.

Notes

Episode Title: ‘The Tomb’

Air Date: April 20th, 2022

Directed: Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead (2)

Written: Alex Meenehan (1), Peter Cameron (2) & Sabir Pirzada (2)

The final 10 minutes of the episode are a direct adaptation of Jeff Lemire’s critically acclaimed run on Moon Knight from 2016-2017. It’s excellent and you should read it instead of watching this series.

Speaking of the ending, the character from the very end is Taweret, the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. She is also considered a protective goddess.

Marc implicates his partner. In the comics, this is traditionally ‘Frenchie’ aka Jean-Paul DuChamp, whose name was in the hidden phone from episode one. He may instead be referring to Raul Bushman, Moon Knight’s primary nemesis. All three worked together as mercenaries.

Strap in; Layla is wearing a white bandage with a red scarab symbol on her finger at the end. In the comics there is a niche Egyptian character called Scarlet Scarab whose real name was Abdul Faoul. Layla’s full name in the show is Layla Abdallah El-Faouly (changed from Marlene Alraune), and there have been several subtle hints about her being more important than she knows.

Recap

Steven and Layla reach Ammit’s tomb, which is littered with the bodies of Harrow’s men. They flirt a little before getting stuck into solving the mysteries of the tomb.

The pair get separated after an encounter with an undead priest, which Layla is eventually able to dispose of.

Marc and Steven locate the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great, the previous avatar of Ammit, finding an ushabti statue containing the trapped god within the mummified corpse.

There’s no time for celebration though, as Layla confronts Marc with the accusation that – per Harrow – he killed her father.

Marc insists that it was his former partner that gunned down her father, his team of archaeologists, and Spector himself, who was saved by Khonshu.

Harrow arrives and demands the statue, shooting Marc in the chest when he refuses to comply, seemingly killing him.

Instead, Marc wakes up in a psychiatric hospital where he is kept sedated by his therapist, Arthur Harrow, and told the events of the series are all a delusion.

Refusing to believe this, Marc finds Steven inside a sarcophagus and the pair attempt to escape, running into the Egyptian god, Taweret.

Review

I touched on this last week, but my overwhelming feeling is this show either needed to either be campier or trippier. Deadpool meets Indiana Jones, or a Legion style psychological horror. For the last two weeks they’ve mostly been opting to do neither and are instead making a generic mid-budget action movie that lacks any bite or flavour, depending entirely on Oscar Isaac’s charisma.

In a better show that did anything whatsoever to make its hero a cool badass, doing an episode with no Moon Knight whatsoever would be an interesting detour heading into the third act, but Moon Knight has barely been in the show and hasn’t added anything anyway, so this episode achieved very little.

Steven and Layla making it to the tomb in time to beat Harrow’s men to the sarcophagus (lol, sure, why not?) – regardless of any supernatural opposition – is yet more of the sloppy, inconsistent style from episode 3. Characters teleport around with unclear intentions and just do a bunch of vague stuff when the script demands it. For example, Steven and Layla talk about finding ‘it’, despite there being no clear indication what ‘it’ even is. I’m fine with characters talking between episodes, but it’s just another in a long line of examples of the show deliberately keeping the audience in the dark for no good reason. Other than ‘stopping Harrow from resurrecting Ammit’, did anybody have a clue what the goal was for most of the episode?

They go from keeping the audience in the dark about the plot to keeping them in the dark about what is even happening on screen when the undead priests entered the fray. In theory, the rule of horror is that less is more, and you should hold off on showing your monster. But they didn’t really do that either, and instead opted for camera angles and a lack of focus that partially obscured the creatures, but not enough to build any real tension, because we COULD still see them. I would understand it if they were trying to mask more cheap CGI, but as far as I could tell, these were just dudes in make-up, so what are we doing here?

For ten minutes all I could think was ‘Boy, The Mummy is a great movie.’

They tried to spice things up a little with Harrow (lurking in the distance like a weirdo and not in a good way) telling Layla that Marc killed her father, something many guessed in episode two when the fake/crooked cops claimed he was wanted in connection with such an incident. Marc denies it and hints towards another villain (with two episodes left to debut them), which I would have liked to have seen play out in flashback.

On top of that, they turned the heat up on the romantic subtext between Steven and Layla, who is attracted to a more sensitive version of her handsome but brutish husband. I liked that there was a clear implication that Steven isn’t a good kisser, but wish all of this had been better written.

But much like all of the discourse last week was dominated by the sky shenanigans, the major talking point came in the last ten minutes. Marc ‘waking up’ in a mental health institution populated by familiar faces claiming he has imagined the events of the series is directly lifted from an acclaimed comic, and it was more compelling than anything from the last 3 weeks. Weird, right?! They needed to get here MUCH sooner, ideally at the end of episode 2. Instead, I figure we see a full episode of this next week, along with flashbacks to their past and then ‘waking up’ again for the finale. It will probably the best episode of the season. But it’s too little, too late.

To dig into that scene a little, I did enjoy the attention to detail, from the more obvious stuff like Marc acquiring the Steven persona from an old movie, to the cupcake cart, the painting of the town from episode one, a fish atop a stack of books and the Egyptian organ jars in Harrow’s office. The police are orderlies, Harrow is a therapist, the separate identities can interact and there’s a goofy CGI character at the end. If you had this kind of stuff in your pocket, why did you leave it so long?

Most Marvellous Player

You know what? I think I might give this to somebody other than Oscar Isaac for once. May Calamawy was one of the few bright spots of this episode for me, as she continued to try and make the love triangle with Marc and Steven work. I said last week how I enjoyed the little smirk at Marc, and there was some more of that here, with her both flirting with and laughing at Steven. Her body language indicates she’s attracted to their shared body, but Marc is a much better kisser, while Steven appeals due to his emotional honesty and sophistication. I loved the moment of her mistaking his admiration for the tomb with an expression of attraction towards her.

The argument about the circumstances of her father’s death was decent, but not as good as the above. Shoving Steven and demanding to talk to Marc was good, but the overall confrontation just wasn’t quite all the way there despite her efforts.

Isaac was still good, of course, and we saw another personality change with minimal trickery as Steven relented and handed over to Marc near the end on Layla’s insistence, again adjusting his body language accordingly. He’s still mostly funny as Steven, and his bumbling around how to handle Layla was good. Next week will probably let him do more Capital A acting. He was decent in the final stretch, but nothing stellar.

Ethan Hawke is basically unconscious until he gets to play a therapist. He’s fine there, but again, it’s nothing special. At least he’s more engaged.

Villain Watch

Yaaaaaawn. This series didn’t necessarily need a compelling villain given a lot of the conflict comes between the different identities sharing Marc’s body, but this is still a superhero show with a costumed character needing something to punch. That’s mostly come in the form of blah CGI creatures and boring mercenaries so far. This week we get Undead Priests, who are every bit as blah and boring as the other options. I prefer practical to CG, at least.

Arthur Harrow has made very little if any advancement since we learned he was Khonshu’s former avatar in episode 2, and he wasn’t really blow-away before that. I get it, he’s a cult leader who is physically frail and hurts people with his words and his knowledge. But jeeeeeez is this one of the least interesting interpretations of that brief imaginable. Give him something to do, please, I beg of you!

I can’t help but feel that for as potentially problematic as Bushman might be if not handled properly, he would have been a more sensible villain component. Perhaps he could have worked in tandem with Harrow so that you get both a physical rival with ties to Marc’s past AND an expert in the supernatural who can toss out monsters and provide exposition on the mystical stuff.

Plugs

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: Black Widow.

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.

Published by

Matt Waters

Brit dude who likes both things AND stuff and has delusions of being some kind of writer or something. Basketball, video games, comic books, films, music, other random stuff.

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