Some comic book heroes are born by accident – a lab disaster or a radioactive spider, for example. Others come about because they train for years, perfecting their bodies into killing machines. Occasionally you get a hero that chose their life, like someone who volunteered to be injected with Super Soldier Serum. But every once in a while, a hero comes along whose secret identity is a guy that did not ask for this, does not want it, and would rather not be here. Maybe that’s what makes Steven Grant so relatable in the first episode of the newest MCU show to hit Disney+, “Moon Knight”.
Steven Grant is having trouble with sleep. Each night he straps a restraint to his ankle, pours sand around his bed to check for footprints, and tapes his door to see if he left during the night. This problem frequently makes him late for work and causes him to fall asleep at very inopportune moments.
Although he is the target of his boss’ ire at work, Steven does manage to score a date with a woman at the museum where he works, despite not remembering asking her out in the first place. That night, he finds himself waking up suddenly in an unfamiliar country with a gold scarab that he doesn’t recognize. The village he is in is patrolled by armed guards and seems to be populated by a cult of some sort led by a man named Arthur Harrow. This cult leader deals out merciless judgement to his members, and Grant witnesses a woman’s death before Harrow spots him and demands the scarab’s return. Grant tries to comply but finds himself unable to. In the ensuing chase, Grant loses consciousness several times, only to return finding himself miraculously safe.
Grant wakes up at home, believing he suffered a nightmare. But the voice in his head and the fact that his goldfish now has two fins instead of one lead him to believe something is wrong. He soon learns that he has been places he doesn’t remember and has lost days from his memory, missing his date completely.
At work, Steven is confronted by Arthur Harrow, who demands the scarab’s return. Grant flees, pursued by nightmarish creatures and trapped in a bathroom. The voice in his head promises to save them, but only if Steven surrenders control. When he does, we meet Moon Knight for the first time.
One of the most common struggles for any comic hero is the balancing act between identities. Peter Parker juggles working for the Daily Bugle, being a student, and fighting the Sinister Six. Matt Murdock practices law in between bouts with some of New York’s most dangerous criminals. Bruce Wayne has to deal with the Joker and also whatever problems come with having all the money in the world. I wouldn’t know.
For Moon Knight, the balancing act between identities is even more complicated. After all, Steven Grant doesn’t appear to know that he is switching back and forth between himself and the mercenary known as Marc Spector. He doesn’t want any part of Marc’s adventures, and would be perfectly happy to work in the museum gift shop, possibly be promoted to tour guide, and go on a date with his coworker. Spector’s misadventures unwittingly pull him into a dangerous life in which Harrow’s cult threatens to bring Ammit’s judgement to the whole world. Maybe I’ve just been watching too much Severance lately, but having multiple identities share a body complicates what it means for one identity to choose danger. Everyone else in that body gets put in danger too.
There are plenty of questions left about the direction the Moon Knight series will take. The first episode introduces us to Steven Grant/Marc Spector, and lays out lots of breadcrumbs regarding his Dissociative Identity Disorder. We still don’t know Arthur Harrow’s end goal, although “free an ancient god of judgment” seems like a decent bet. We need to know how the scarab fits into all this and, if Marc is a mercenary, who hired him. Steven found a cell phone in his apartment and briefly talked to a mysterious “Layla”, so I am certain we will see more of her as well. The first episode was dark, action-packed, and left room for the series to grow, so I expect great things from it.