Many MCU origin stories begin with Norse Gods, billionaire playboys, or someone with established training and tools at their disposal. The first episode of Moon Knight presents its main protagonist differently. Steven Grant (Oscar Issac) is a shy, unintentionally funny gift shop worker at a museum in London. The people Stephen talks to are his goldfish, his mother, and a miming street artist. Despite his extensive knowledge of Egyptian history, Stephen’s boss doesn’t entertain the thought of making him a tour guide. It’s “raindrops keep falling on my head” within a person—however, there is more to him than meets the eye.
When Stephen goes to sleep, he chains himself to the bed and surrounds the area with sand. Stephen has dreams of another life that plague him, and he does not know where they are coming from. Steven has blackouts and gets transported to another area of the world — hearing a voice berating him. Director Mohamed Diab has a lot of fun sending Steven into this dangerous, Tomb Raider-esque scenario that’s foreign to him. There’s also a clever device within the spurts of action and violence that are cleverly planted—showing the bloody aftermath of what transpires after Stephen gets out of trouble.
Another piece of Moon Knight‘s puzzle manifests in Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke), a grey-haired, cane-holding cult leader. Arthur is soft-spoken and has a warm disposition, but something sinister lives under the surface of his charisma. In an interview, Hawke stated he based this character on figures like David Koresh. Arthur’s dealings with the Egyptian goddess Ammit will surely be expounded upon in future episodes. From the audience’s vantage point, this is a potential antagonist who believes his “mission” is in the right. We’ve seen how villains in the MCU have taken their own moral compass and imposed it on the world around them. Like Thanos and Killmonger before him, those zealot/savior complexes can devastate the world around them.
The spotlight falls on the acting of Oscar Isaac, and he’s entertaining. Writer Jeremy Slater shows how closed off Stephen’s dissociative identity disorder condition makes him feel. Stephen wants companionship and a higher purpose, but waking up not knowing what day it is complicates things. How do you make a living if you don’t know if these visions are real? We see slight conversations between Stephen and Marc, but nothing too deep yet — it’s more about setting the stage for what their personalities mean to one another.
Moon Knight‘s self-contained story benefits it immensely because it doesn’t have to concern itself with connectivity. Rather, it provides the template for a reluctant hero with many questions to be answered—it feels almost daunting to contemplate all of them getting answered in a six-episode run. Marc feels like the protective aggressor to Stephen’s meek usage of skill and dumb luck. With flashes of Indiana Jones-like adventure and the mystery of how normalcy and legend come together, there’s enough meat on the bone for new and old fans to want to stick around.