Moon Knight Episode 3 is an immersive Egyptian treasure hunt

It’s time for another review of Moon Knight, the newest Marvel television sensation on Disney+! Last week left off with Marc Spector back in control of his body, heading for Egypt in order to stop Arthur Harrow’s plan to resurrect the goddess Ammit and rain cold justice down on the world. “The Friendly Type” marks the halfway point in the limited series’ run, and things ramp up quite a bit.

As always, there will be SPOILERS for this week’s episode of Moon Knight beyond this point.

Oscar Isaac as Steven Grant in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Csaba Aknay. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Moon Knight Episode 3 review

This week’s episode of Moon Knight brings us to Cairo in one of the most amazing onscreen depictions of Egypt in any Hollywood production. That isn’t an exaggeration. While watching the episode I kept thinking of Moon Knight director Mohamed Diab’s recent comments about Wonder Woman 1984 and the way Orientalism creeps into depictions of Egypt in Western cinema. Diab directed “The Friendly Type,” and it is abundantly clear that he was on a mission to do right by the culture of modern Cairo. The music, the various scenes that show different sides of the city, the melding of ancient and modern cultures…if there’s one aspect of Moon Knight that feels like it’s really breaking new ground, it’s this.

And that’s not even touching what actually happens in the episode itself. It begins with a cold open where Layla (May Calamawy) gets a fake passport to return to her home country, where she has quite a few enemies. We learn a bit of her backstory here, but the scene mostly serves to whet our appetite for the world-spanning adventure ahead.

From there, we’re off to Cairo, where Marc is parkouring across rooftops and getting into fights with some of Arthur Harrow’s thugs. The cult leader has found the tomb of Ammit and Marc is in the dark about where to go next. The thugs don’t provide much help, as Steven suddenly takes over when things get too violent.

It should go pretty much without saying at this point, but Oscar Isaac turns in another brilliant performance. Although I will say that for as troubled and daring as the Marc Spector is, my favorite parts of Moon Knight involve Steven Grant and his weird English accent.

It’s very cool to see the roles reversed in this episode, with Marc blacking out in the same way Steven did in the premiere episode, except this time it’s Steven taking control and Marc waking up in a different place. Or at least that’s how things start, until Marc regains consciousness while literally stabbing a dude. He’s surrounded by dead bodies and Steven claims it wasn’t him that killed them. So what gives? Is there a third personality in the mix we don’t know about? Is Jake Lockley, one of the character’s other personalities in the comics, sneaking into the show?

Or perhaps it has something to do with Khonshu. The dynamic between Marc and the moon god is really juicy this episode, from Khonshu giving Marc bad advice that leads to a teenaged Ammit follower killing himself to reminding the mercenary that Layla’s on the chopping block to be the next Moon Knight if he fails. When Khonshu forces some of the other Egyptian gods to hold a trial for Arthur Harrow and Harrow turns things around by pointing out how Marc is unwell and the moon god is taking advantage of him, it really hits home because he’s not wrong. Khonshu is taking advantage of Marc, repeatedly and ruthlessly, and Marc does need help.

Of course, it doesn’t change the fact that Arthur Harrow is also trying to raise Ammit and bring Minority Report-like preemptive justice down on any person in the world who might one day commit an evil deed. But he’s able to convince the gods that isn’t the case, and everyone gets off with various warnings not to cause more trouble. My one qualm with this scene is, can the gods really not see in any way that Harrow just has a bunch of people in the desert digging up the tomb? The show makes the point that no one, not even the other gods, know where Ammit is buried. But it does make me wonder exactly how limited their power is.

Oscar Isaac as Moon Knight in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

A moonlit showdown

But there’s one person who once knew where the tomb is: a Medjay of ancient Egypt who was buried with a clue to its location. Marc’s attempts to search the Egyptian black market fail, but Layla conveniently shows up to lead the way, since she has better connections and is actually Egyptian. The commentary in this show about how relics have been stolen from places like ancient Egypt over the centuries is done really well; it doesn’t feel on the nose because it is very much relevant to the plot while also being true.

Marc and Layla make their way to a black market antiquities dealer named Anton Margot, played by French actor Gaspard Ulliel. Ulliel passed away in a tragic skiing accident shortly before Moon Knight was released, which lends extra weight to seeing him here. He turned in a great performance as Anton; while he had few lines, each one is riveting.

Things get complicated while Marc is trying to examine the sarcophagus that holds the clue to finding Ammit’s tomb. For all his fighting skills, Marc isn’t a scholar, but Steven is. Layla urges Marc to give Steven control, but he resists. Then Arthur Harrow shows up, destroys the sarcophagus, and encourages Anton to side with him. The fight scene itself is pretty good. There are plenty of stylish shots, like when Marc (now clad in his Moon Knight suit) jumps off a roof and his cape flows out into the shape of a crescent moon behind him.

The most notable thing to me about the action scene is that we learn a few key things about what kind of powers the Moon Knight suit gives Marc. He’s shot and stabbed with spears, but the wounds seemingly vanish and don’t seem to really cause him much pain. We find out after the fact that they do shred up the regular clothing he was wearing when he transformed, but there’s no actual damage done to his body itself.

When the dust settles, Anton rides away on a horse, seemingly wounded from a last glaive thrown by Moon Knight as he retreats. Layla recovers the tattered clue to Ammit’s tomb, and she and Marc head out into the desert to try and make sense of it. Once again, she encourages Marc to hand over control to Steven in order to solve the puzzle. This time he does so willingly. Isaac and Calamawy’s acting is fantastic in this scene. I think this might be the first time we’ve actually watched Marc Spector change into Steven Grant, and Isaac totally sells it. The way that Calamawy looks at him once Steven’s bubbly charm comes back out, as if this is a side of her estranged husband that reminds her of the goodness in him, is heartbreaking. I want things to work out for them, but boy is it complicated.

The episode ends with Khonshu using Steven in his Mr. Knight suit to manipulate the night sky in order to make the stars align, which will help them piece together the clue. Khonshu knows this means the other gods will imprison him in a stone statue, but he does it anyway, asking Steven to tell Marc to set him free afterward.

Once Khonshu is imprisoned, Steven collapses unconscious in Layla’s arms. It’s not clear what effect this will have on the moon god’s avatar. Will he still have his powers? Will it fracture his mind further?

In any case, Arthur Harrow is pretty pleased. He’s invited back to the room where the trial took place to see that Khonshu has been imprisoned. Not really clear on why Harrow was brought there — just to gloat? Anyway, it’s the perfect set up for him to deliver some cryptic lines about meting out justice, inspired by his time as Khonshu’s former avatar, before the episode cuts to black.

Ethan Hawke as Arthur Harrow in Marvel Studios’ MOON KNIGHT. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Bullet Points

  • love how this show feels like a mash-up between a Marvel story and a treasure hunt story like The Mummy. It’s something that the MCU hasn’t really done before, and it’s working so well.
  • Like last week, there were practically no ties to the greater MCU. And once again, it was to the show’s benefit. Moon Knight is already telling a pretty intricate story, and I’m glad Marvel didn’t try to force in fan service or nods to other series. This show really feels like it stands on its own, which is so refreshing for the franchise.
  • Still waiting for some kind of cosmic reveal about the nature of these Egyptian gods. Thus far they feel like a traditional depiction of the gods, which is great, but Marvel often peels back layers to make their pantheons of gods have some sort of alien/cosmic origin, like the Norse pantheon in Thor. If things are going to tie into the larger MCU, it might be through them.
  • Does Marc/Steven have a third personality? This question was brought up in this episode, and it still lingers. I hope we find out how those thugs got murdered.
  • The music in this episode was incredible. I started this review by commenting on the amazing depiction of Egypt, and I’ll end it by bringing it back around to that. The fact that Moon Knight is set in the country and is pulling in modern Egyptian music for the soundtrack (and even the opening Marvel Studios logo) feels like a breath of fresh air. The night shot on the boat, where Marc and Layla discuss their estranged marriage while people party and we see Cairo lit at night was one example of many where Moon Knight showed the city in a way we’ve just never seen before in a Hollywood production.

Verdict

“The Friendly Type” was possibly my favorite episode of Moon Knight yet. While Marc isn’t quite as enjoyable to watch as Steven, there are some great plot reversals that mirror the series premiere in intriguing ways. The acting was top notch, the action was solid, and the treasure hunting aspect of the show gave it a more unique flavor than most Marvel fare. Add to that the episode’s amazing depiction of Egypt, and for the first time it feels like Moon Knight is daring to do something truly new. Excited to see where things go from here!

Grade: A

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