In Moon Knight’s fifth and penultimate episode, Marc and Steven’s adventures through a mental institution-shaped underworld provide a canny excuse for a whole lot of back story. It is emotionally fulfilling stuff, and the really impressive achievement is just how evenly balanced its script is between serious drama and quite particularly silly comedy. That it works as well as it does it a credit to the episodes that have come before. There is a versatile format at work, and it is making this by far the strongest MCU serial to date.
Oscar Isaac really has his work cut out for him this time around, not only playing two roles but having to coordinate his performance to have both of them interacting with one another. It is great to see how both Marc and Steven have developed, with Marc showing a growing sense of humanity and fragility, and Steven gradually becoming more confident and forceful in his intentions. It has been an absolute coup for Marvel Studios to score Isaac for this series; once complete I really hope he agrees to pop up again in future.
Of course the biggest selling point of the episode is the Egyptian goddess Tawaret, presenting herself as an anthropomorphic hippopotamus presiding over a sand-ship crewed by baboons. It is a major step forward in terms of Moon Knight’s absurdity, and is yet another piece of evidence to stack up with my firm belief that audiences will go with a production anywhere that production is confident enough to go in. Take Guardians of the Galaxy, in which director James Gunn boldly presents his viewers with a talking racoon and a walking tree. Compare that with Tim Story’s deeply flawed Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, in which Story – when presented with the opportunity to make the villain Galactus an enormous orbiting space man in a silly purple hat – pulls back and presents a mysterious lightning-infused cloud instead. A little MCU-style boldness could have gone a long way to save that movie.
Save for the somewhat weaker third episode, Moon Knight has been a wonderfully inventive and surprising series. Each episode has pushed into a fresh direction, and now there is just the tricky task of somehow pulling all of those threads together and giving it a satisfying finale. Given past MCU serials, it is difficult to guess how it will go. Hawkeye ended on a satisfying but open note. Loki ended on an unjustified right turn and blatant movie foreshadowing not seen since Avengers: Age of Ultron. Fingers crossed Moon Knight is closer to the former, and leagues away from the latter.