Marc ended episode four by being shot and apparently waking up in a psychiatric hospital. In this episode we finally get some answers, first about Marc’s past (it was not great) and second about why he is in this hospital (he died and it is part of his afterlife). Don’t worry, by the end of the episode it seems like he is not going to stay dead – take THAT, Tony Stark!
This episode takes place entirely in Marc’s afterlife and gives us an opportunity to revisit his past along with Steven Grant, who is also learning quite a bit about Marc for the first time. By the end of this episode we learn that Marc Spector is the original personality to inhabit this body and that Steven Grant was a personality he created to dissociate from the worst parts of his very traumatic childhood. When Marc was young he and his little brother explored a cave where his brother died accidentally. Marc’s mother never recovered, blaming her older son for her favorite child’s death and resorting to alcoholism and abuse of all kinds. Steven learns this by opening doors in the psych ward which lead to Marc’s memories. It turns out that this afterlife is all part of a ship being piloted by Taweret (the hippo goddess from last episode), who will judge Marc’s soul by weighing his heart. Marc must balance the scales by coming to peace with Steven before the journey ends, otherwise he is doomed. It’s a weird set up, but the good news is that this episode gives us Oscar Isaac acting with Oscar Isaac, which is just perfection.
Marc hesitates to let Steven learn the full truth. Eventually Steven sees the night Marc accepted Khonshu’s offer of survival in exchange for becoming Moon Knight. He rightfully points out that Khonshu manipulated Marc, using the fact he was dying as leverage and withholding the truth about what it meant to become the god’s avatar. He also learns more about Marc’s childhood, his decision to leave home, and his mother’s death (which comes as news to Steven, who believed he talked to his mother on the phone every day). All throughout this, Marc encounters visions of Harrow posing as a psychiatrist and enticing him to stay in the psych ward and reject any notion of gods and avatars. Harrow tries to convince him that the psych ward is real and everything else is an invention of Marc’s damaged psyche, but Marc comes to realize that the reverse is true. Unfortunately, the scales don’t balance in time and Marc is attacked by unbalanced souls attempting to drag him overboard. Steven sacrifices himself, balancing the scales and allowing Marc to pass through the gate into the Field of Reeds, hoping to find a path back to Earth and stop Harrow from releasing Ammit.
I love this style of episode. Give me a guided journey through a character’s tragic backstory through which they reach catharsis any day of the week. It’s basically This Is Us but with Ethan Hawke and a hippo goddess.
This episode is doing the necessary work for a satisfactory conclusion next week. We needed lots of answers about Marc’s past and, above all, a reconciliation between Marc and Steven, the divergent personalities who have both proved themselves necessary to stopping Harrow. This episode deals with some heavy stuff, including a strong contender for the Most Disturbing Childhood award in the MCU. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of stiff competition out there, but the look into Marc’s past is raw. The interaction between Steven and Marc gives us both emotional depth and humorous levity when the situation allows for it to prevent us from being crushed by just how rough Marc’s life has been. There is still a lot left to do next episode – coming back to life, for starters. I’m hoping that there is enough time in episode six to complete everything that needs to be done without feeling rushed.