We just crossed the halfway point of the season, and Moon Knight continues to make everything more complicated for itself. In under an hour, the show introduced a council of Egyptian gods, a potential new personality for Marc/Steven to contend with, a big secret from Marc’s past that has something to do with Layla’s dead father — and then it went ahead and locked Khonshu up in god-jail for god-crimes. Can Moon Knight even be Moon Knight without Khonshu? Because I didn’t sign up to recap a show that does NOT feature fancy white fighting suits, DO YOU HEAR ME DUSTIN?
Ahem. The episode opens with Layla getting a fake passport made in order to chase Marc down in Cairo, where he himself is chasing Harrow, who is chasing Ammit’s tomb. Got it? Mostly, though, the scene offers a concise info dump on Layla’s non-Marc history. She’s from Egypt but hasn’t been home in 10 years, perhaps because her work (rescuing relics from the black market and returning them to their rightful owners) has earned her some enemies. Or maybe it’s because her father — an archaeologist who took her to dig sites as a child and introduced her to the world of antiquities — was murdered in the desert at some point.
Let’s take a minute and jump real quick to something Harrow says to Marc and Layla during a confrontation later in the episode:
“Layla, you keep thinking that distance will prevent the wounds from your father’s murder from reopening, but something stands in your way. Your husband doesn’t tell you the truth. And Marc, you don’t tell her because you know that if you do, she’ll see you exactly as you see yourself: as unworthy of love.”
This episode focuses a lot on Marc’s relationship with Layla as they work together to stop Harrow, while using Harrow as an excuse to avoid talking about their pending divorce. Their chemistry is obvious, but every time they start to gravitate toward each other Marc pushes her away. We know Marc has been trying to protect Layla from anything relating to Khonshu because the god has expressed his interest in using Layla as his next avatar, but this episode also makes it clear that wasn’t the only secret Marc was keeping. He basically admits that he never told her about his dissociative identity disorder because he thought he had it under control, and now Harrow is bringing up a connection between Marc and Layla’s father’s death — a detail that probably has comics readers nodding knowingly in their seats.
Is Layla El-Faouly The MCU Version Of Marlene Alraune?
Seems like it! Marlene has been Marc’s long-time love interest in the comics, since his origin. During his mercenary days Marc had a stint working for the villain Bushman, and he ended up on a job to steal treasure from a newly discovered tomb — a tomb discovered by Marlene’s archaeologist father. Bushman’s level of violence bothered Marc, however, and when Marlene’s father is killed Marc goes against his boss to try and help Marlene escape safely. Bushman retaliates by leaving Marc for dead, and then Marc… crawled to Khonshu’s tomb and got resurrected and BOOM — Moon Knight, bitches!
I’ve said before that Moon Knight is creating a sort of brand new definitive text, introducing a relatively obscure hero and streamlining his convoluted history, and this reimagining of Marlene into Layla is a perfect example of how it’s doing its job well. Marlene’s family were the sorts of archaeologists that took relics away from their people, while Layla is an Egyptian that works to bring those relics home. We will likely get a version of that same backstory, where Marc was present at Layla’s father’s murder even if he wasn’t directly responsible, and his guilt is part of the reason why he tries so hard to protect her, but we can have that origin without having it be
some white lady Marlene. This episode, with their adventures across the vibrant and bustling Cairo, was a good showcase for how the series is working to bring a more nuanced (for Hollywood) representation of Egypt to the screen without descending into generic exoticism.
It’s also worth mentioning that in the comics, Marlene ended up preferring Steven to Marc… and we all saw how Layla responded when Steven showed up to solve that map puzzle! Of course, Marlene also ended up having a kid with Marc’s other other personality named Jack Lockley, which reminds me—
Wait, Did We See A New Personality This Week?
Even though Marc is in control of the body now, Steven still fought him for control, which means we got to see a neat reversal of the first episode’s lost-time gimmick. Marc fights some knife goons for information regarding Harrow’s dig site, but when he gets too violent he… blacks out, then comes to in a cab to the airport. Typical Steven maneuver! So Marc gets out of the cab and goes back to confront the goons a second time, only to be knocked unconscious when Steven distracts him. This time when he comes to, however, he’s pulling a knife out of a dude’s stomach, which is very much not a Steven maneuver. If Marc wasn’t in control, and Steven wasn’t in control, then who killed the goons? Did Khonshu himself take over the body, or… was it a third personality we haven’t met yet?
Khonshu’s Bad Idea
When Marc fails to find Harrow’s location, Khonshu decides to take a risk and get the other gods involved… by causing a surprise eclipse to get their attention. Marc, as Khonshu’s avatar, is summoned to a meeting of the Ennead inside the Great Pyramid (cue Steven’s delight!), where he meets the avatars of Osiris, Horus, Isis, Tefnut, and Hathor. The gods, we find out, have moved to another plane of existence called the Overvoid, and have agreed to maintain human avatars largely for observational purposes. They think that humans have abandoned them, though Khonshu thinks it’s the gods who have abandoned humanity. Either way, Khonshu has already been banished once for his more, uh, hands-on approach to dealing with people, and the gods are skeptical about his claims about Harrow trying to resurrect Ammit now — so they summon Harrow himself. He, of course, denies that he’s trying to do anything of the sort, but he also throws Marc under the bus by hinting that Khonshu is taking advantage of an unwell man as his avatar. Which is not exactly untrue! The gods decide to ignore Khonshu’s warning, but Yatzil — Hathor’s avatar — takes pity on Marc and gives him a clue to finding Ammit’s tomb. Or rather, a clue to a clue.
Star Maps and the Midnight Man
Turns out the scarab wasn’t the only record of Ammit’s resting place — there is also some sort of map hidden away in a particular sarcophagus, and Layla has the connections to help Marc find it. She scores them an invite to the estate of a collector named Anton Mogart — a Moon Knight foe from the comics called “Midnight Man”, played here by French actor Gaspard Ulliel (who passed away earlier this year in a ski accident). Layla mentions that she previously had a run-in with Mogart in Madripoor, the very same lawless city-state that Sharon Carter took over in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Mogart has the sarcophagus, in which there is a star map, but the problem is that Marc can’t decipher it himself. He needs Steven’s help — but before Steven can do much Harrow arrives to sow chaos and/or destroy the evidence and all hell breaks loose. After a big ol’ fight sequence (during which Steven takes control of the body for a hot second, gets speared a few times, and gives control right back to Marc), Marc and Layla manage to get away with the map they need. They head into the desert, where Marc lets Steven take control to finish deciphering the map, only it isn’t enough. The sky has changed after a few thousand years as stars drifted apart, so Khonshu offers to literally TURN THE SKY BACK IN TIME to help them find the coordinates to Ammit’s tomb, though he knows doing so will be the last straw as far as the gods are concerned. And sure enough, the Ennead imprison Khonshu in a cute ‘lil statue as punishment for f*cking with the sky twice in a day (fair!).
So now Marc/Steven finally know where they need to go to stop Harrow from resurrecting Ammit, but they no longer have Khonshu’s special suit or powers to help them do it. Uh oh…
- Only one thought this week, and it’s just that for me there are no diminishing returns on Oscar Isaac’s performance. Every interaction between Marc and Steven is a highlight for me, and I think it will only continue to get more interesting as the show develops the strengths of each personality (Steven coming out to do puzzles and geek out in his three-piece suit? SWOON). Sometimes the plot seems to get away from the show — at this point “Harrow arrives for no reason” is basically Moon Knight’s version of a villainous mustache twirl — but as long as it keeps giving me the clash of personalities that I crave then I’ll be satisfied.
- Alright, one more thought: May Calamawy is quickly making Layla a real delight, especially in MCU love interest terms. She’d be able to sell believable chemistry with a paper bag, honestly, but the way she plays off of Marc and Steven differently is part of what makes the whole dynamic fun for me. I also really want her stabbing necklace!