Moon Knight Episode 1 Review: The Goldfish Problem

In the pilot episode of Moon Knight, we see the wondrous range of Oscar Isaac’s acting chops in an episode set up for what may be a promising season.

Moon Knight is not meant for kids. You should watch with this set expectation. With the bringing on of the grittier Netflix Marvel original series of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, The Defenders, and Iron Fist, it was obvious how Disney+ was pivoting more towards some adult comics territory. Looking for that older demographic. Especially, with the changing of their logins where you now have to verify your age before viewing, and rightfully so, as I don’t think it would be appropriate to have my 4-year-nephew stumble upon a superhero series where Oscar Isaac blacks out and wakes up covered in blood.

What works for Moon Knight is that it centers on the collapsing world around Steven Grant, who is a small-time giftshop retailer at a museum. Steven oddly knows quite a bit about history. His life is not all that interesting and he’s a very shy and quiet introvert. Someone who constantly calls his mother (whom we never hear) to update her. An eccentric that is doing odd things like putting sand around his bed and blacking out for periods of time. 

On the outside, it seems like Steven’s life is collapsing and he’s losing all control. Upon deeper look, one has to question if there ever really was any sort of control–as we’re entering entirely unfamiliar territory, both as a Marvel superhero, but also, as a genre on the whole for Marvel’s MCU.

Again, this is going to be gritty. We’re sold on that. The problem is that I’m not sure that Disney is. These cutaways, which I really hope serve as more substantiative rather than convenient plot skipping devices, highlight two things in the pilot: 

  1. That Steven Grant is not fully in control. 
  2. That whatever is in control seems incredibly violent and leaves Grant in moments of confusion.

Let’s break down the rest below in our Moon Knight episode 1 Review.

What Is The Premise of Moon Knight?

oscar isaac as mark spector/steven grant as he looks at the audience from inside his museum job
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Moon Knight is complicated. Set in London, the socially awkward Steven Grant is a small-time gift shop goods seller who is stepped all-over upon via his boss and is awkwardly looking forward to things like dates and phone calls updating his mom. How much of this is real or accurate, I think we don’t really know, as there are really just a lot of convenient information gaps pretty early on into the series. Making everything that you see: from the point of view of an unreliable narrator. 

Soon into the pilot we see gaps in Steven’s memory. He does things like sleepwalking, where he’ll wake up in the middle of a strange place, mistake his Goldfish for a different fish, and worse: he’ll hear voices. That’s sort of the big thing about this series, as for those who’ve read Moon Knight: the big confusing selling point is that this is a hero with dissociative identities. What people used to call: multiple personality disorder.

Moon Knight has almost always had three alters in the comics, and in the pilot, we start to see Oscar Isaac unconsciously become one of them when he’s asleep. Atop this, there are talks of different Gods and Deities, 2 of whom, seem to be conveniently missing either from the record or from the museum’s artifact, as showcased early on in the series (making me wonder if Mark/Steven are the 2 referenced themsevles?)

Steven Grant seems to also be living as a man named Mark, who is, from what the pilot is implying, likely an alter as well. Atop of this, while sleepwalking, Steven transforms into what we believe to be Moon Knight. A character semi-based on some ancient Egyptian Gods backstory of sorts, though for right now, seems to be convenient forward-moving blackout moments filled with loads of implied violence and gaps of fill-in-the-blank yourselves backstory.

My biggest fear is if the series leans too far into comedy as I don’t think this should try and be a joking series. I’m also terrified about Konshu, the voice in Steven’s head played by F. Murray Abraham, and if this will turn D.I.D. into a buddy comedy in the style of Venom. Because right now? I do find him funny, as was the show’s bit about Avatar. I just worry if gone too far in this direction, will it hurt the more adult-themed Marvel comics adaptations?

So Moon Knight is about an Egyptian-themed superhero/badass that might be an alter of Steven Grant. An awkward nobody that hears an odd dictating voice known as Khonshu, who perhaps, has always been like this from the beginning as we’re not entirely certain? Regardless, he blacks out and gets violent, that’s sort of Moon Knight’s shpeal thus far. 

Moon Knight Cast

oscar isaac as marc spector/steven grant trying to give back a golden scarab to Ethan Hawke's character Arthur Harrow
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Saffron Hocking, who’s had an underrated career in the TV series Top Boy and White Gold, plays Dylan. Who is implied to be the love interest in the show, and in the short time she’s available on-screen, is the only thing that’s a positive driving force in Steven’s life. Where she goes will be intriguing as she’s credited in every episode in the series.

Ethan Hawke was a surprise casting call as Arthur Harrow but absolutely nails it as this strange occult leader. At first, it seemed like he was your prototypical bad guy. But then, when we see how the scale tattoos work, he seems to also serve as an interesting plot device that’ll incorporate more of this strange mythos into the series. 

Though in the end, this is really the Oscar Isaac show. As not only does the actor carry the series, but he showcases a good deal of range. Both in his awkward reservedness, but also, in his ability to be someone else entirely. Someone we don’t fully know but see at odds with strangely: himself.

The Take on Moon Knight Episode 1

steven grant shares his day to his only friend: a statue mime that can't move
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant and Shaun Scott as Crawley in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Gabor Kotschy. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

It’s a good start but reception overall has been mixed. I hear the pilot is better than the subsequent episodes (I was not given screeners); which has me worried. But I’ll cover this one from beginning to end anyway. The use of soundtrack in this was pretty epic and I actually loved every single musical choice; a feature in Marvel that I haven’t felt since Luke Cage Season 1.  It also makes sense because music is a major part of the tone-setting in this as mental illness, particularly in people with auditory hallucinations, is a big thing.

If you’ve never seen Moon Knight, then yes, this satisfactorily works… though more as an Oscar Isaac showcasing his acting abilities story than a superhero series. The setting is weird. The violence is going to be bloody. Here’s to hoping it’s a solid ride.

Moon Knight is available every Wednesday on Disney+

 

 

Christian Angeles
Christian Angeleshttp://www.christianangeles.com
Christian Angeles is a screenwriter who likes sharing stories and getting to meet people. He also listens to words on the page via audible and tries to write in ways that make people feel things. All on a laptop. Sometimes from an app on his phone.

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