Keep up with our reviews for the entire series of Moon Knight here.
Spoilers for the fifth episode are ahead!
The MCU’s phase four has been mainly about exploring the manifestation of grief. With WandaVision, the show dealt with Wanda’s shattered dreams of settling down with Vision and having a home together. Hawkeye peered into Clint’s guilt over Natasha’s sacrifice and how he didn’t want that life for Kate Bishop. Falcon and the Winter Soldier dealt with the ramifications of ‘the blip’ and how the American Dream doesn’t look the same to everybody. The scars of the past will impact the present and future — a saying that is the physical and mental embodiment of Marc Spector.
“Asylum,” the penultimate episode of Moon Knight, had its work cut out for it — acting as a flashback episode and somewhat looking ahead to the finale. Especially given the trippy needle drop, “The Tomb” ends on. Director Mohamed Diab and writers Rebecca Kirsch and Matthew Orton achieve a balancing act of keeping the Egyptian lore of the series active while introducing heavier, grounded themes. If everybody didn’t know from the events of the fourth episode, Marc is indeed dead. The goddess Taweret (voiced by Antonia Salib) is there to facilitate him and Stephen into the afterlife. There’s one problem — to get through the Duat (Egyptian Underworld) and reach the Field of Reeds (everlasting eternity), both Marc and Steven’s hearts have to be weighed against a feather on the Scales of Justice. ”
Asylum” acts as a “This Is Your Life” moment for Marc. As “Dr. Harrow” tells him, Marc uses the “organizing principle” for his mind to seek shelter. It’s the reason he’s in an “asylum” in the first place, and that has unfortunate origins. Marc has an inability to confront the past. He doesn’t tell Layla about her father or his skepticism about Khonshu — to where he leaves her behind. That’s where the construct of Steven comes in. Steven IS Marc, but it was heartbreaking to see him sift through the memories of where his dissociative disorder began. Just like any kid, young Marc does things his parents tell him not to do — that choice, not his fault, leads to the death of his younger brother, Randall.
Marc’s father, Elias (Rey Lucas), tries to keep the threads of the family together, but overlooks the abusive tendencies of Marc’s mother, Wendy (Fernanda Andrade). Losing a child is no pain that any parent should experience, but that’s no excuse for how Wendy treated Marc. She abused him not only physically, but also mentally attacked him. It’s almost a parallel to WandaVision, where Wanda held a whole small town against their will to play out the perfect life she wanted.
Steven’s personality is an offshoot of the main character of Marc’s favorite movie, Tomb Buster. It’s interesting because while Steven is lonely, he’s kinder, intelligent, and doesn’t look at the world with Marc’s tainted cynicism. Marc’s path led him to become a mercenary with a body trail behind him, while Steven worked at a museum. The present-day version of Marc couldn’t go into his mother’s Shiva, where Steven believes she’s alive and “talks to her on the phone.” It’s a sad tug-of-war between the life that Marc creates with another personality and the lonely, ruthless one he leads.
“The Friendly Type” spoke to Khonshu’s “other” motivations in choosing Marc as an avatar to carry out his hand of justice. Marc has no choice — he was desperate and near death at the time of the mission. However, Khonshu’s words, “I feel the pain inside you. The mind — I feel it, fractured,” shows that the God knew Marc’s mental state was ripe for the picking. There’s some apprehension going into the finale, knowing that Marc needs Khonshu to stop Harrow and rescue Layla, especially with the brief flashback’s context.
The Astral Plane has both been shown in Black Panther and Doctor Strange. In Steven unknowingly sacrificing himself and balancing the scales, Marc reaches the Field of Reeds. He’s going to get out somehow — it’s just the matter of how. While there are a limited amount of characters in “Asylum,” Oscar Issac continues to excel at this role. He displays moments of intense emotional pain when needed and quick wit and comedy to lighten up the mood. Ethan Hawke is the soft-spoken facilitator of Marc taking time to look inward. Hopefully, with the “death” of Stephen, Marc can integrate the best parts of that personality into himself for the finale and beyond.
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel