The Disney + miniseries Moon Knight has received both positive and negative reviews from critics and fans alike. Despite having received an 87% score from all critics, a 72% score from top critics, and a 93% score from the overall audience on Rotten Tomatoes, many people were unhappy with the finished product of the series’ first season. Regardless of any individual’s opinion on Moon Knight season one, something that is undeniable about the series is its heart-felt writing and tear-jerking performances. Oscar Issac’s performances as Marc Spector and Steven Grant were phenomenal and quite moving. His captivating ability to play multiple characters and depict their extremely different personalities was astonishing, especially when they were fighting for control of a shared body. Issac’s command over his character’s emotions, in addition to the beautifully heart-breaking scenes, truly made his role and this MCU installment extremely special.
While many MCU properties have been successful at balancing emotion with the action-packed nature of comic book media, Moon Knight has taken a step even further. Not only has the show given us a deep emotional connection to the characters portrayed, it centers around a main character possessing an undiagnosed Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and, in respect to those suffering from the disease, maintains a serious tone. The most sentimental and impactful projects of the MCU have been those that have extremely relatable incidents and unmistakably undesirable occurrences, such as the loss of loved ones, unfortunate happenings which result in destruction, and terrible misfortunes of a variety of magnitudes. The projects that come to mind date all the way back to the MCU’s phase one with the likes of Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengerswith the trend continuing to this day with additions such as WandaVision, Spider-Man: No Way Homeand, of course, Moon Knight.
A Life Story of Unending Pain and Trauma
Marc Spector was not always the avatar of the Egyptian God Khonshu, and subsequently the vigilante Moon Knight, though he did have his DID surface back in his adolescence. As seen in the series via revisiting core memories in a sort of reliving of one’s life, Marc developed his alter ego, Steven Grant, after the traumatic event of losing his younger brother during a moderate rainstorm while playing in a cave they frequented, followed by the constant painful abuse at his mother’s hand. While Marc’s father took the untimely passing of Randall, Marc’s brother, better than his wife, and tried to maintain a good relationship with the only son he still had, he was not able to get Marc’s mother the help she needed, nor stop the abuse. As Marc’s life continues, with his guilt drowning him and his mother’s abuse defeating him, he decides to join the military as soon as he can. Even though Marc’s father begged Marc to stay, for he would find a way to better his wife’s and son’s lives, Marc stuck to his guns and abandoned his parents.
We know from the series that Marc ended up being dishonorably discharged from the military after “going haywire,” and that Marc then decided to transition into becoming a mercenary. As the viewing of Marc’s core memories continues during the show, we see the moment Marc becomes Moon Knight, protector of the travelers of the night. This happens as Marc is in his final moments of life, suffering multiple mortal wounds after attempting to betray his boss at a dig site where they were working on a heist. While Marc Spector had many demons, one thing he did not stand for was the blatant murder of innocent people, an interesting similarity to Khonshu. Needless to say, when his mission’s objective brought him to kill the archeologists and work at the dig site, he adamantly refused. In order to save the people, including his wife’s father, the lead archeologist, he attempted to betray his partner. Failing to save anyone, and arriving at his natural life’s end, Marc stumbles upon the tomb of Khonshu. This is when Khonshu’s direct manipulation of Marc began, and when Marc became the capricious Egyptian God’s latest rendition of Moon Knight, Khonshu’s fist of vengeance.
Marc Spector is Jewish, as seen in Moon Knight, with him wearing his Kippah, and for him to be in the demanding servitude of an Egyptian God mirrors Biblical horrors. While we will not get into religion any more than that, the obvious discrepancies in that fact are too sadistic to overlook. One may believe that being Moon Knight would be rad, but let’s really assess Marc’s duties and requirements as the avatar of such a vengeful god. Marc, whose mind is constantly being infiltrated by Khonshu, is sent on missions to do the God’s bidding and often takes physical punishment during his quests. He is given quite a number of powerful abilities, but like everyone’s favorite web-slinging superhero quote goes, “with great power comes great responsibility.” Marc is put to task by Khonshu, and after becoming the anti-hero Moon Knight, he begins to negate his other responsibilities and continues to push all of his loved ones further and further away, including his wife, Layla. In a sense, Khonshu becomes a replacement for Marc’s mother, as he controls, abuses, and further breaks down our protagonist in the name of his own war.
If trying to maintain sanity while being the vessel of a God who is hell-bent on revenge for the weak, while also having multiple personalities in your head does not seem hard enough, imagine not being able to control those said alters after years of keeping mental walls in between them. Well, shortly after becoming possessed by Khonshu in exchange for his life, Marc gets word that his mother has passed away. He decides to attend the funeral back at his childhood home, but cannot find it in himself to go inside. As Marc looks into his old living room, ignoring his father’s gestures to come inside, he remembers his brother’s viewing and simply can not take the trauma any longer. As the saying goes, “that was the straw that broke the camel’s back,” and with that, the mental walls Marc held up to keep his alter egos from creeping into crumble, and he loses himself to the somewhat gullible, yet lovable and cultured , ego of Steven Grant.
Steven, not realizing he is an alter ego of Marc or that his memories are positive constructs of Marc’s life, goes about his way and gets a job at a museum. He is a simple cashier at the gift shop and has no recollection of Marc’s memories, including his wife, Khonshu, or his mother’s death. In fact, even when Marc takes over the body to fulfill one of Khonshu’s missions, Steven is just thinking he is sleep walking; if Steven emerges during a mission, he believes himself to be lucid dreaming. Once the audience figures out later in the series that Steven did not know his origin or most of Marc’s trauma, you truly feel the pain he endures with this knowledge. Even after Steven learns the truth behind his existence, being in a different realm of existence, after he and Marc are attempting to be revived due to being shot, and having lost Khonshu’s power, he chooses to save Marc and sacrifice himself.
While Steven’s sacrifice allows Marc to find everlasting peace in the field of reeds, it does not last long. At this point in Marc’s life journey, he realizes he needs Steven, and he knows that existing in paradise for eternity while Steven’s soul is sealed in the Duat is not the way to go about finding peace. Marc abandons the field of reeds’ plane of existence and instantly is transported to the sands of the Duat, where he finds Steven’s stone body and pours his heart out to him as he slowly turns to stone as well. This scene in the series is easily the most emotion-provoking of them all, and that is saying a lot. As the two are set in stone, the god Osiris, the gatekeeper of this transitional plane of existence, finds that they have worked out their issues and sends their souls back to our world.
From there, they reunite with Khonshu, but on their own terms this time around. Working together, with the help of Layla, Marc and Steven harness the power of Khonshu and vanquish the enemy at hand in great Marvel fashion. After the deed is completed, Khonshu holds up his end of the bargain and seemingly releases the two from their servitude. They then wake up in their flat, feeling as if they are free from Khonshu as well as their built-up trauma.
Khonshu’s Continued Deception
The God Khonshu may have released Marc, and Steven from servitude, but he still has an ace up his sleeve in order to control their fractured mind; Jake. The second alter ego that Marc possesses is Jake Lockley, whom the series has hinted towards multiple times throughout. He had taken control of Marc’s body in a handful of very dangerous moments and did some extremely questionable things. He finally showed up on screen in the season’s post-credit scenestill serving Khonshu very diligently.
The entire series was catastrophically emotional, so much so that just enduring half of what Marc and Steven had to endure may have been enough to break most people. It was very heartening to see them get their wish of freedom from Khonshu while also coming to terms with all of their past guilt and pain. All that for Khonshu to basically trick them, as he uses Jake to undermine the pair’s wishes and continues to take advantage of Marc’s fractured mind. This revelation begs the question: Will Marc, and now Steven, ever truly find peace? We could possibly get that answer, and all the other looming questions answered in a potential season two of Disney’s Moon Knight series.
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