Rolling in to Episode 5 of Moon Knight I was pretty sure we would continue to see Oscar Issac and Ethan Hawke give strong performances but that’s about it. Please take the poll at the end of the article to let me know your feelings on Moon Knight so far.
There’s a few problems with this show that have built up and really need to be dealt with- like what’s going on and where we even are in space and time. We have lacked reliable point of view characters and last week ended with a series of shocking events that seemingly rebooted reality and the stakes. I found it more confusing than enjoyable and at this point some clarity really is needed.
This week we do get some seemingly reliable information- but it’s a pretty exhausting journey and how much what we found out really means is hard to assess.
The problem is we left off in something of a pocket dimension or illusion cast by bad guy Harrow- so what exactly is going on is hard to say. Harrow is pretty crazy and in this dimension Layla is insane as well. So there’s really no way to know who’s seeing what. It could also all be Dr Strange for all we know- though its almost definitely not.
We’ve invested a lot of time working on resurrecting Ammit and we have Khonshu trapped in stone still, so it seems like we need to get as many of the cast back into that ‘dimension’ as soon as possible if we are to resolve anything this season. There’s also a new, Stargate-ish way to travel between worlds in this show now. It just sort of occurs when Marc/Steven gets shot.
Leaving off with a hippo headed human just casually saying hi last week left me totally confused. I just wasn’t overly excited to drop back in- but I committed to reviewing the whole run. Episode five’s title is Asylum. We left off in a mental asylum, so that pretty much makes sense. After an again all too comprehensive “previously on” (that’s still only a couple of minutes long) we’re ready for this week’s story to begin. Spoilers from here on in!
We are immediately where we left off last week- seeing a talking hippo; but we phaze back to a psychotherapy session pretty quick. Harrow pretty convincingly tells what we can see to be Marc’s point of view his take on what’s transpiring. He tells Marc that he’s a patient in a mental hospital outside Chicago. Harrow then, with seeming compassion, tells Marc he needs to accept that this is reality.
Rapidly shifting locations, shifting through various dimensions and points of view of the (at least 3) characters inside Marc/Steven’s body (which is an Avatar of Khonshu) make this episode the most disjointed so far. It’s also not the easiest thing to describe and I can’t imagine what the script must look like.
The therapy session is the vehicle for the late introduction of a new story thread that’s a bit like the original Total Recall or The Matrix. There’s the implication Marc can just Red Pill his way out of this place. So that’s out there now, adding more moving parts to this complicated story.
We do a lot of phazing around from different points of view. Eventually the hippo tells them they’re dead and she’s another Egyptian Deity. The Hippo alludes to them being in a pocket dimension with a connectivity to other similar pocket universes. So we have some Twin Peaks stuff going on too, it just isn’t a very good attempt at David Lynch.
The thing really killing it-aside from the part where David Lynch may in fact be inimitable- would be that it’s a CGI heavy attempt at Twin Peaks-y David Lynch and very Disney-fied. It’s also paced much faster. It actually feels closer to what we got from something like LOST – but there’s now a good deal of borderline intellectual property appropriation going on in Moon Knight.
Among other franchises being liberally borrowed from we have a huge dose of Batman, Philip K Dick’s novels and movies based on them, Twin Peaks, The Matrix, Resident Evil, a growing amount of STARGATE and just a dash of Star Wars in the form of a send-up of Jabba’s Sail Barge traversing a desert swirling around in the mix this week. It was a lot to absorb visually. It’s also a big mix and match that’s not all that original. This would be easier to deal with if we had some orientation.
Throughout Episode 5 the CGI is too prevalent and just ok, maybe even distracting. They probably should have made a few more practical props to ground this story more into reality. The CGI sail barge was pure greenscreen CGI that came across bland and inauthentic to me. It was really flat and fake looking in the background.
Aesthetically, it wasn’t so great. The hippo could have purchased it second hand from the same people Jabba got his (much cooler one) from. It’s a generic, unspectacular floating ship – and we’ve seen a few in the MCU and Star Wars now, so it’s not crazy to say (it just sounds that way).
It’s not as bad a show as LOKI- but what’s going on is less clear than in even the finale of that show’s first season. I don’t know what this show is trying to say beyond the fact that Harrow is bad and must be stopped… because Khonshu is a better protector than Ammit; something we got from Khonshu. Meanwhile Khonshu seems to be massacring archaeologists in the desert – despite their being some nefarious reason Marc was there that’s apparently related to his life of being a merc (who says he doesn’t kill people).
The world of the dead we go to is a featureless desert. There, their worthiness to pass into some sort of afterlife is judged by the hippo using old time-y scales. They don’t quite balance right.
Steven and Marc are sent back to the “Mental Asylum Dimension” with a time limit to ‘fill their hearts’ because the hippo can’t quite get a read on their fate from them at the moment. It’s sort of like a quick sidestory in a fetch-quest game.
We see a bunch of dimensions or memories that are behind simple doors in a hallway- I guess if you go into the room you re-enter that dimension but no one tries this right away. It’s very Resident Evil but this asylum is a little like a TARDIS or something, with vortexes into another memory or pocket dimension in every room. Then we see a cafeteria full of corpses of people Marc was made to kill by Khonshu. When Marc feels bad about it the scales appear again and are now starting to stabilize.
Then we go into Marc’s childhood in some kind of memory or another dimension. He and his brother are spelunking in the rain and for some reason it’s Steven who watches all this. This part is a lot like the young Bruce Wayne preludes we’ve seen from both Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder’s Batman movies. Seems like at least one drowns before we phaze around more. Then we see an apparent wake or memorial service before phasing again. We phaze around a lot fast for a while.
We phaze to a massacre scene at some ancient desert archaeological dig. We find out Marc was there when Layla’s father dies but he more failed to save him than killed him. Then we see Marc’s recruitment and healing by Khonshu. He sort of “Indecent Porposal-s” Marc into being his avatar.
Then we see the scales and return to the perpetually confused Hippo- who by my estimates should have 4,000 years of experience. This is the third time this episode she’s said she’s never seen anything like what’s currently happening before. We do find out Marc/Steven WAS shot – at least from the hippo’s perspective.
The Hippo, who for whatever reason sounds like a dullard brit despite being most definitely from Egypt- is now sort of rooting for our ‘heroes’ (because we have 2 different bodies when we’re with her).
The Hippo, Marc and Steven figure out that only Layla can fix this mess – I guess from the ‘real world’ in the tomb. The hippo can’t “Stargate” them back because they’re too badly shot up and don’t have ‘the suit’ in the Tomb.
There was a lot going on but not much happening at the halfway point. It really feels like a videogame plot now. This was a mess of images where we just shuffle through realities baiting redemption. We’re only staying in any one reality for a minute or two at a time.
One recurring story is that of an unhappy childhood of being abused. Somewhere in there we find out Marc is the original personality. The whole thing gets super dark. We find out the calls Steven had with his mother in episode one and two were imaginary. We dwell on dead parents for a fairly long time. It’s very Batman, so we keep his father alive, apparently.
After a lot of drama really fast we find out Marc’s jewish- which is awkwardly the most legitimately relatable middle eastern thing with ties to ancient Egypt about this whole strange series.
Then we get an action scene anyone who’s played Batman Arkham City might find familiar where Marc fights past adversaries who are made of sand. After a while Steven decides he IS Marc and can do all the things Marc can, which he manages to pull off for a while. The fight seems to end with Marc safer than Steven – but the are two being pulled further apart in the desert dimension with Steven trapped in sand. A sudden balancing of the scales happens and we see CGI Elysium or some kind of golden field of wheat with what seems to be 1940’s era spanish music playing followed by another interesting CGI outro.
I didn’t enjoy this weeks mashup story but they did explain some things. They were dark and maybe best left hinted at- but we know how all this starts for Marc. We leave off this week with Marc seemingly in sole control of the Body- but we can’t be sure. Forgive me if I made some mistakes in consistency describing all the shifting realities and points of view. This show almost transcends my humble ability to put clearly into words.
I’m wondering if Khonshu didn’t need a new Avatar because Harrow pulled off this massacre and then immediately left Khonshu’s service- which makes so much sense I’m not counting too heavily on it being the case. However; in the last episode Harrow did claim to directly know everything about what happened that night and Layla accepted this as true. So Harrow was most probably there for the massacre if not the perpetrator. Let’s see how well my prediction holds up. Maybe next week we’ll finally find out just why Harrow fills his shoes with broken glass, but I’m not counting on it.
If you want to see someone try to unpack WHY we didn’t understand this week’s Disney show (a cottage industry of sorts) with theories and head canon people like Clutch Points have the usual “this easter egg you missed explains it all” type article if you want to give that a shot.
If the writers can’t square this up in the next episode they leave this show wide open to being called a dumb waste of time.
I don’t know what to expect for season ending episode 6. This show is deeply weird and leans into the weirdness. We seem to have a pretty important mission in the real world for Layla to free Khonshu and do whatever else to foil real world Harrow- who seems to have Ammit just about resurrected. Be ready to be confused throughout this episode. They will need a strong and fun finale to really square up the events we’ve seen.
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