The curtain has closed on the first season of Marvel’s Moon Knight. The show’s first season saw Marc Spector (Oscar Isaac) struggle as he came to terms with the dissociative identity disorder he developed over the guilt of losing his brother and the trauma of his mother punishing him for the mistake. Marc had created an alternate personality in Steven Grant to create a version of himself that was blind to and innocent of the abuse and trauma he suffered in his youth. Marc’s inner world was in disarray as his external world exacerbated his situation, having to juggle with his role as Khonshu’s (F. Murray Abraham) avatar, Moon Knight, as he attempted to stop cult leader Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) from releasing a disgraced Egyptian god, Ammit (Sofia Danu), from her imprisonment with the intention of inflicting his own warped sense of justice upon the world.
In the end, Harrow’s plans are foiled with the help of Marc’s wife Layla (May Calamawy), who becomes the avatar for the god Taweret (Antonia Salib), taking on the mantle of Scarlet Scarab. Marc, Steven, and Layla imprison Ammit in Harrow and, as a result, are freed from Khonshu’s hold. While they’re free, a secret third personality, Jake Lockley, isn’t. Khonshu uses Lockley to kidnap a defeated Harrow from a psychiatric institute, executing him to prevent Ammit’s return. Lockley becomes Khonshu’s sole avatar, and it would appear this is the last audiences will see of Arthur Harrow.
While Harrow’s time in the MCU was short-lived, it will certainly not be forgotten. With the roster of villains growing in the MCUone has to ask how each stacks up to Marvel’s ultimate villain, Thanos (Josh Brolin). In many ways, Arthur Harrow is a more effective and sympathetic villain than Thanos, proving that one-off Marvel villains can be just as important and intriguing as the MCU’s most powerful titan.
Who is Moon Knight’s Arthur Harrow?
Arthur Harrow was introduced to audiences in a way that few other Marvel villains have been introduced. The opening scene of Moon Knight’s first episode starts with Harrow drinking a glass of water, smashing it with his cane of Ammit, and wrapping it in a rag. Harrow pours the broken glass from the rag into his shoes, putting them on and walking through his sanctuary. This sets the tone for Moon Knight as a more violent than usual Marvel series, dealing with themes that aren’t as family-friendly as past projects, but it also sets the stage for Harrow’s character.
Harrow is the leader of the cult of Ammit. Harrow and his followers strive to release the Egyptian god, Ammit, who believed that humans should be judged according to the whole of their lives for things they’ve done and will do as opposed to punishing them simply for crimes they’ve already committed.
While Harrow does not hold the full power of Ammit due to her being imprisoned in stone by the other gods, he has a sliver of her power, which resides in his cane. Harrow uses his cane to judge his followers, balancing their scales to see if they are good or evil. If the scales decide they are evil, the cane takes their life, judging them guilty regardless of whether they have already committed the evil act. Harrow hopes that by releasing Ammit from her prison and judging the entire world, atrocities such as the Holocaust and Armenian Genocide can be prevented in the future. While Harrow presents himself as a righteous man and distributor of justice, he’s actually attempting to atone for his own atrocities he committed as Khonshu’s avatar.
Before Marc Spector became Khonshu’s avatar, Arthur Harrow occupied the role. Khonshu differs from Ammit because he believes in punishing those who have already done wrong. When Khonshu is imprisoned in stone, Harrow tells him that he enjoyed killing on his behalf and that this enjoyment was the greatest sin he carried with him. To Harrow, it seems there was no point in this killing because what was done by these people had already been done. This broke Harrow and led him to “learn the value of healing.” Going back to the show’s opening scene, it can be argued that Harrow places the glass in his shoes to punish himself for his past crimes, a reminder of whom he once was and the long path he still has to walk.
Harrow had built a commune, seemingly operating in different parts of the world where those who passed the scales of judgment could live in harmony, teaching and helping one another. Even though Harrow had inflicted a tremendous amount of pain, there was a lot of good he had done as well, which for a moment, gained the ear of Steven Grant. Harrow isn’t consumed by power. In fact, when he frees Ammit, she states that his scales are not balanced, and he offers his life up to her, suggesting she take a more worthy avatar. Harrow genuinely believes he’s doing good, and if he needs to give Ammit’s cane to another to make the world a better place, he’ll gladly do it, showing that power is not his main concern.
Harrow Vs. Thanos: How Do the Villains Compare?
It can be argued that Harrow is a better villain than the MCU’s ultimate villain, Thanos. For the sake of these arguments, only the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be taken into account, NOT the comics. First off, Thanos is not a human, but a mad titan, or to the novice MCU fan, he’s an alien of sorts. Thanos believed that the populations of the universe would eventually use up all their resources, turning on one another, creating chaos that would destroy the universe just like his homeland of Titan. Thanos believes by collecting the infinity stones and snapping half the universe out of existence, this problem will be solved and harmony restored. Thanos sees this achievement of creating balance in the universe as his divine purpose, willing to die and kill anyone in his path to fulfill it. Thanos and Harrow are both genocidal in this sense, seeing mass murder as the solution to humanity / the universe’s problems. This is where their similarities end.
Thanos enjoys violence, seeing himself as a galactic warrior, whereas Harrow formally enjoyed it. Harrow tries to convince people to follow his way and let him balance their scales. He does not force them into it. Harrow’s courting of Steven Grant best exemplifies this. Grant / Spector is the Moon Knight and a threat to Harrow’s plans, but even after Moon Knight attempts to steal the scarab (the map to Ammit), he appears more intrigued than agitated by him. Harrow tries to convince Steven to leave Khonshu behind and join him, hoping to prevent him from being abused by Khonshu the same as him. Harrow does want to stop Marc from pursuing him, but he also cares about his scales and the struggle between good and evil within him. Harrow even offers to spare Marc when he finds Ammit instead of just killing him off.
Harrow does not believe it’s his divine purpose to release Ammit. He’s more concerned with writing the wrongs of his past, so his scales might balance. Thanos has to be the one to snap his fingers, whereas Harrow could not care less if it is him who delivers Ammit’s justice. It is healing for himself and the world from evil which is his primary concern. Thanos is not concerned with healing. He’s only concerned with killing. After Thanos erases half of the universe, it does not matter to him if people or beings from other worlds continue to inflict great evil. Preserving resources is his goal, not preventing evil and bettering the universe. Harrow wants those who survive Ammit’s justice to be the best version of themselves, best exemplified by his communes where people cook for one another, listen to each other’s stories, and strive to strengthen their minds. For Harrow, it is not just about ridding the world of evil but improving the external and internal livelihood of those who withstand Ammit’s justice.
Harrow is a Realistic Villain
Harrow is a more realistic and relatable villain than Thanos. In a way, he represents a future for humanity where comfort and security are paramount over choice. One of the crucial parts of Moon Knight is that Marc wants to leave the role of Moon Knight behind after taking Harrow down. In the show’s final moments, Marc has a chance to kill Harrow after Ammit is bound in his mortal form, but instead, Marc refuses to kill anymore for Khonshu, choosing not to take Harrow’s life. Marc proves that given a choice, people can stop themselves from inflicting harm, whereas Harrow would believe that people should be protected from that choice and killed before they have the opportunity to make it.
In today’s modern world, where totalitarianism is growing in favor once again over democracy with powers like China and Russia taking up more prominent roles on the world stage, individuals with ideas such as Harrow are more common than not. Many would rather subscribe to the simple binaries Harrow prescribes over the unknown roulette that is choice and freedom.
Harrow isn’t pure evil, and as Ethan Hawke has said about his character, he believes himself to be the protagonist of his story. Tormented by years of service to Khonshu and the pain he’s inflicted, Harrow wants to create a world without that pain and isolation he endured, creating a communal world without evil where everyone helps one another. It can be argued that Thanos is not pure evil, as he appears to care for Gamora (Zoe Saldana), but even that is questionable since he sacrificed her for the soul stone.
Thanos himself may have experienced a certain trauma when titan collapsed around him. Yet, he still enjoys dishing out pain and suffering, void of the human side that makes Harrow sympathetic. Thanos is in the business of destruction alone, whereas Harrow is in the business of healing and destruction. Despite Harrow’s sense of justice being warped, his love for his fellow man is undeniable, making him more sympathetic than the “mad titan.”
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