“Gods and Monsters”
Against all odds, Moon Knight’s finale managed to pull together all of its flailing disparate story threads into some form of conclusion. I honestly had my doubts, given just how wildly anarchic the preceding five episodes have been. Whether or not the finale is the best conclusion that it can be is another matter, but it is at the very least a broadly satisfying one. There are, to my mind, three elements to “Gods and Monsters” worth talking about. In order of least to most interesting they go like this.
In all honesty the episode’s opening act is busy work. The series needs Marc and Steven (Oscar Isaac) to be reunited and returned to life as soon as possible. The relative ease with which this is achieved cheapens the previous two episodes, but it is essentially the price of wrapping things up quickly. ‘Marc, I thought you were dead,’ says Layla – Bart Simpson-style – to which all Marc and the audience can reply is a Ralph Wiggum-esque ‘Nope!’ Freeing both the god Khonju and goddess Ammit from captivity is also achieved in short order.
That leaves the episode to wrap up with a large-scale effects-driven climax. The episode’s most unexpected and enjoyable development is Khonshu and Ammit engaging in a giant monster punch-up next to the Pyramids of Giza. On one level it shouldn’t work – climaxes involving two visual effects hitting one another rarely do – but the kaiju genre typified by Godzilla or Gamera really isn’t something the MCU has tapped into before, and it is enormously fun. It is also helped by not being the only climax in town: the gods battle on high while Moon Knight, Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), and Scarlet Scarab punch it out on the streets. First of all, the image of Harrow stalking towards the heroes in the foreground while literal gods have it out in the background is one of the best visual images I have seen in film or television this year. Secondly, there is indeed a new superhero named Scarlet Scarab.
I am not familiar with Moon Knight in the Marvel comic books, so have never encountered Scarlet Scarab before. In the comics he was Abdul Faoul, an archaeologist gifted with a magical scarab that transforms him into Egypt’s super-powered protector. Here the character has been pleasingly re-aligned to give Layla (May Calamawy) more agency in the story, as well as giving the added benefit of broadening the MCU’s range of non-American heroes. It contributes to an excellently staged fight scene, aided enormously by Moon Knight’s two personalities fighting in unison – their costume shifting magically from one punch to the next.
It is a fun episode and, as I mentioned in my introduction, broadly satisfying stuff. It is also a sensible approach not to think about the storyline from episodes one to six too closely. This has been a wildly chaotic and inconsistent series, changing plot direction regularly and never quite settling on a unified tone. The tone this finale arrives at is essentially ‘superhero fun’, which may situate the characters better to be exploited in future MCU films and series but sacrifices a lot of what made the individual Moon Knight episodes so refreshing.
Now I suppose the wait begins to see if Marvel Studios produce a second season.