TV review: Moon Knight episode 5

Oscar Isaac in Moon Knight
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It’s a change in pace from The Tomb, but episode 5 of Moon Knight, Asylum, gives us a peek into Marc and Steven’s head, and an interesting slice of Ancient Egyptian culture. 

Spoilers for episodes 1-4 of Moon Knight ahead. 

The cliffhanger ending of Moon Knight episode 4, The Tomb, was certainly unexpected and a little bit mind boggling. After finding the stone figure the goddess Ammet is trapped in, Marc and Steven are shot and apparently killed by Arthur Harrow. But it’s far from that simple, as Marc wakes up in what appears to be a psych ward, where Harrow is his doctor, and is told that his entire identity and adventure is a delusion. With his personality disorder far from secret, it’s left uncertain as to which scenario is actually real. Things get even stranger when Marc runs into Steven outside of his body, and they, in turn, run into a talking Hippopotamus named Taweret (voiced by Antonia Salib).

The ambiguous ending of The Tomb really has changed everything for the series. Regardless of what we think is Marc’s real world, the character is an unreliable narrator now. Whatever we see from his perspective from here on, there will always be the lingering question of whether or not it’s real. Visually, the episode quickly ditches the psychiatric ward setting in favour of two parallel journeys. The first is the one Tawaret takes them on – sailing over a vast sea of sand. The other is a trip into the fractured mind of Marc, sifting through memories held by both him and Steven to reveal what really brought him to this point.

They’re both interesting, and interlinked, but they sadly can’t match the tomb raiding fun of the previous episode. Rather than a physical journey, it’s an emotional one for the character. It delves into exactly what caused Marc’s personality disorder and therefore Steven’s creation. Isaac does an excellent job of portraying two completely broken men discovering what lies in the dark corners of their shared mind. It’s written in the typical way journeys through memories tend to be – every door leads to a new location and a new moment in time. But it’s unoriginal because that technique is effective at flitting through those defining moments.

Oscar Issac as Steven Grant in Marvel's Moon Knight

Ethan Hawke isn’t as present in this one, but when he is he’s allowed to diverge nicely from his usual depiction of Arthur Harrow. The doctor version of the character is very mild mannered compared to the cult leader we’re used to. That probably doesn’t come as a surprise, but it does allow Hawke to show some more range than the role has previously allowed. Harrow’s office in the psych ward is a location the episode keeps coming back to, not often enough to disrupt the main story, but just enough to maintain that sense of uncertainty that threw us at the end of The Tomb. Marc’s occasional visits to the doctor’s office keep us guessing about who to trust.

This being a more emotionally-driven episode, there’s a noticeable lag in pace compared to The Tomb. But Asylum finally gives us the backstory we’ve been waiting for, and it shows it to us rather than simply explaining through dialogue. That in itself makes it far more interesting than the first half of the show. It’s also not without its action, either, with some fun fights thrown in towards the end that allow the physically separate Marc and Steven to work together.

There’s still much left unresolved, and only one episode of the show remaining. Asylum tells us a lot about Marc Spector, but it leaves behind a lot of questions about how exactly the series’ narrative arc is going to be tied up. Again it feels as though the show needs more time to deal with everything it aspires to deal with, and I can only hope next week’s finale doesn’t end up feeling rushed.

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