Apparently I’ve been on a recent kick involving shows in which people have split personalities – if you’re not watching “Severance” on Apple TV, by the way, do yourself a favor and get on it. The second episode of “Moon Knight” continues exploring the multiple lives of the protagonist. Most of the time he is Steven (with a “V”, he helpful reminds us in this episode), an easily frightened guy with a sleeping disorder who works in a gift shop. Occasionally he is Marc Spector. Marc is a brutal, impatient assassin, who swore his life in service of an Egyptian god and has a magical suit that appears when he summons it.
The first part of this episode deals with the fallout from Moon Knight’s nighttime brawl in the museum. Security footage spotted Steven running through the museum in a panic, but failed to pick up Arthur Harrow, any of his minions, Moon Knight, or any spooky jackals. As far as anyone can tell, Steven smashed up the museum bathroom as a result of a psychotic break. The museum promptly fires him, leaving him with little more than a brochure for mental health services.
After getting fired, Steven investigates a storage unit owned under Marc’s name. He finds a passport for Marc Spector, a gun, cash, and the golden scarab he saw in what he thought was a dream. After an argument with Marc in a mirror and a brief run-in with Khonshu (whom he does not recognize yet), we meet Layla, the woman who called a burner phone in Steven’s apartment last episode looking for Marc. She doesn’t buy Steven’s protests that he is Steven Grant, former gift shop worker. She tells him she is ready to move forward with the divorce, leaving Grant wondering what happened in Marc’s life. She finds the scarab just as two people claiming to be police take Steven into custody and deliver him to Arthur Harrow.
Harrow shows Steven the apparent utopia he has built. A neighborhood once overrun with crime and violence is now perfectly peaceful. The only catch is that Harrow, a former avatar of Khonshu, now serves Ammit. His new god delivers justice before any wrongdoing has been committed. Harrow’s goal is to release Ammit across the whole world, creating a global utopia for those who survive judgement. He gives the impression that it would not be very many people.
Layla arrives to save Steven from Harrow’s grasp. Steven learns to “summon the suit”, although his first attempt creates the “Mr. Knight” look instead of the classic one. Try as he might, Steven is not ready to fight one of Harrow’s jackals. Marc convinces him to relinquish control of the body and manages to impale the jackal. In the process, he loses the scarab to Harrow and has heated exchanges with both Steven (now a fractured reflection) and Khonshu, who threatens to make Layla his next avatar if Marc fails him. Fully in control for the moment, Marc heads to Egypt to stop Harrow from releasing Ammit.
There are a couple of themes running through Moon Knight that make it particularly fascinating to explore. The first is justice. I’m not an expert in Egyptian theology, but apparently both Khonshu and Ammit judge humans, at least in the MCU. The difference is that Khonshu waits until a person has done something wrong before delivering justice. Ammit has no problem smiting someone before their wrongdoing, and Harrow sees the appeal in this. It reminds me a little bit of how I thought about Wanda. If a person actually had this power, in Wanda’s case the power to create a utopia in which your dead soulmate raises a family with you, but in Harrow’s case the power to create a utopia of perfect peace, wouldn’t anyone naturally be tempted? It speaks to our human desire for peace and justice. The problem, as Steven rightfully points out, is that Harrow’s neighborhood isn’t built on justice at all. It is built on the slaughter of innocents.
That leads to this episode’s continued examination of the dynamic between Marc Spector and Steven Grant. I think that we are supposed to see Marc as the “real” Moon Knight and Steven as a sort of interloper, a weak bystander who is caught in the crossfire of this war between Khonshu and Ammit. But I don’t think that is the case at all. It is not Marc who stands up to Harrow and calls out his culty neighborhood for being a murderfest. It is Steven, who has no strength or power to back up his words. Steven berates Marc for recklessly making a deal with Khonshu and messing things up with Layla, whom Steven finds delightful. Marc and Steven may be two different personalities living in the same body, but storytelling is often about the resolution of contraries and Moon Knight’s success against Harrow may ultimately depend on both of them playing a role in saving the world from the apocalypse.