We’re finally in Egypt! This week’s episode of Moon Knight, “The Friendly Type”, was written by Beau DeMayo and Peter Cameron & Sabir Pirzada, and directed by Mohamed Diab. It’s a much-more action-oriented episode, I think, and takes us from the requisite rooftops to the markets of Cairo, up the Nile, into the desert, and even inside a pyramid. But Marc Spector can run as fast as he wants, and fight as many goons as he wants, he’ll still have to face Steven in the mirror, and Khonshu… well, just kind of hanging around in the background intoning things and yelling at him.
But how important are Marc’s problems when Arthur Harrow draws ever closer to Ammit’s tomb?
We open on Layla expositing while having a passport made by an older woman—an aunt? A family friend? It’s unclear, but whoever she is, she gives Layla halva
what I think is Turkish Delight from a plastic canister in her desk.
Anyone who shares their Desk Canister Candy is a friend.
The exposition tells us that Layla has some trauma related to her father, who taught her archeology, which is why she now steals artifacts from the black market to repatriate them to their home countries. As she reminds the woman, “they were already stolen.” [British Museum meme?] As much as I HATE exposition, this is a neat way to tell us who Layla is, where she’s going, where her sympathies lie, and it makes for a nice callback to the excellent opening scene of Black Panther.
But they may not be passporting or expositing quickly enough! Arthur Harrow has used the scarab and found the site of Ammit’s tomb!
Wait, he already found it? Just like that?
I thought they were going to draw it out.
Meanwhile, Marc is pursuing people across rooftops like a good superhero. He finds a contact he needs to speak to… just as that contact is being gutted by three of Harrow’s goons. They fight, and now we come to the kind of exposition I really love, as we learn more about Marc Spector in this five-minute sequence than we knew before. He’s a great fighter, he enjoys it, he treats it like he’s working out with a dance partner until things go too far, he likes going too far, and he brawls, mostly using his fists and any stuff that happens to be lying around rather than classical weapons. But he does check himself at one point, and tries to go easy on a kid who’s clearly terrified of what he’s gotten himself into.
This doesn’t end well, but Marc does try.
When Marc catches his reflection in a knife’s blade, that gives Steven an in, and the next thing Marc knows he’s in a cab to the airport. Marc wrests control again and chases the goons through the market, but, with terrible luck, manages to slam Goon #1 into a wall that just happens to be directly next to a mirror. So there’s Steven again, pleading with him to stop all the violence. They blip in and out again, with Marc reawakening to all the goons dead except for the kid. Steven insists he didn’t do it, and then there’s Khonshu bullying Marc into dangling the boy over a cliff until he tells him the location of Ammit’s tomb.
But Khonshu, unusually for a god, underestimates the power of fanaticism. Marc holds the kid by his scarf, the kid cuts the scarf and falls to his death rather than betray Ammit.
Khonshu tries Plan B, and creates an eclipse to get the other gods’ attention and call a meeting of Ennead. Marc goes to the meeting (inside the Great Pyramid of Giza, no less) and is met by the avatars of Hathor, Horus, Isis, Tefnut, and Osiris. None of them are too happy to be there. Khonshu uses Marc as a mouthpiece, bellowing about Harrow rather than simply explaining what’s going on, and suddenly Harrow himself has been summoned, and goes full Cult Leader Voice on the other avatars, sounding soothing and reasonable as he tells them that Marc is “a deeply troubled man”, and that “Khonshu is taking advantage if him the same way he abused me.”
Since Marc can’t really refute the claim that he’s troubled, the gods side with Harrow. Once again Marc’s illness has been exploited. His requests for help are ignored. The council breaks up without doing any investigating of their own….which leads to an interesting point. WHY THE HELL DO THE AVATARS OF THE GODS TRUST ARTHUR HARROW? Is it just because he used to be one of them? Is it because they automatically dismiss anything Khonshu says? I get not wanting to meddle in the affairs of humanity or whatever, but you could just say, “If Ammit comes back, that’s a people problem, not an Ancient Egyptian pantheon problem” rather than seemingly listening to Harrow—who is very obviously not trustworthy!—and allowing him to humiliate Marc. Plus if you know Khonshu abused Harrow doesn’t it make sense that maybe, just maybe, Harrow could be up to something specifically to spite his old Master?
I mention all of this only because it was a little bit of an off note for me when they took Harrow’s side.
Hathor is the only one who seems to think Khonshu may have a point. She hangs back and give Marc the name of a scribe to look up—or more accurately, an ex-scribe, who may have left clues to the location of Ammit’s tomb in his sarcophagus. Marc’s attempt at contacting the black market fizzles out, but luckily Layla shows up. The two go back and forth about their relationship (and the fact that she has a reputation and really shouldn’t be back in Cairo), and she takes him to a man named Anton Mogart who has a collection of artifacts, including the scribe’s sarcophagus. Naturally this meeting goes about how you’d expect, but worse. Marc and Steven get into an argument over deciphering the scribe’s coded message, and by the time they start cooperating, Mogart has turned the guns on them. Harrow shows up again, and tries to force them to have breakthrough therapy moments on the fly in front of a bunch of henchpeople. Per Harrow, Layla does everything she does because she Can’t Process Her Father’s Murder, and Marc is afraid that if anyone sees the real him they’ll decide he isn’t worthy of love, which is the Thing He’s Truly Afraid Of. And while Harrow may be correct, none of that should be tossed out during a battle, come on. Harrow destroys the sarcophagus, and possibly the constellation code, under a pretense of showing Mogart Ammit’s power.
The battle itself goes in a bunch of different directions. Marc-as-Moon-Knight fights people hand-to-hand, then suddenly he surrounded by guys on horseback with spears. Layla fights Mogart’s right hand man, and once again becomes my favorite person by throwing shattered glass in his face, using her lower center of gravity to unbalance him, shoving herself off sarcophagi to gain leverage—basically doing al the things a small-ish person actually has to do to survive a fight to the death. At one point Steven takes over, transforms into Mr. Knight and tries to call a time out, and then has to call Marc back in when he gets skewered.
They finally win, Layla grabs the scraps of cloth that hold the code, and they bolt out of the desert. More arguing, first between Layla and Marc, then between Marc and Steven, until Marc finally lets Steven take over again. He easily patches the cloth together to show the constellation which will give them the location of Ammit’s tomb, huzzah! Except… this was mapped over 2,000 years ago, and the location won’t be the same. It looks like the end of the line, until Khonshu points out that he remembers how the sky looked that night, because he remembers every night.
Man am I ever glad I’m not Khonshu.
The disgraced god and the Egyptology nerd finally work together. Khonshu infuses Steven with power, and the two turn the sky back through the centuries until they land on the right night. Layla uses her (modern) tablet to map the sky and fix the point of the tomb, and the rest of the Ennead work a spell to trap Khonshu in a tiny ushabti statue of himself. As he’s pulled away, he asks Steven to tell Marc to release him.
Steven faints, Layla freaks out, and Harrow turns back up in the pyramid to taunt his old master.
May you be well when you hear this
I know I talk about the mirrors a lot, but…
STEVEN APPEARS IN A KNIFE BLADE DURING A FIGHT AND TELLS MARC TO STOP FIGHTING??? WHAT???
I’m imagining all the writers sitting in the writers room—or writers’ Zoom maybe?—listing off every type of mirrored surface they could think of and then finding contexts for them.
I have to say that this was a slightly weaker episode for me. It felt a little too much like the writers were stringing fight scenes along as threads between exposition, and some of the exposition was a bit clunky. Layla’s great, and May Calamawy is great playing her, and I don’t want her whole role to be “I’m doing this for humanity Marc, not you! Oh but wait, can we rehash our relationship to give you an opportunity to say something cruel to me?” It’s unnecessary. We all know he lied to her, hid his illness, that he was trying to protect her but also somewhat making life easy for himself, but also torturing himself, but also he’s being cruel to push her away. It’s obvious that she likes Steven a lot, and that Steven is utterly twitterpated by her. I think we can all agree to where the tensions are and move on with the Mummy-esque shenanigans while these crazy kids try to work things out.
But having gotten that out of the way: as always Marc is pretty terrifying when he really leans into his mercenary nature. And the Ennead was fantastic—I just wanted a little bit more with it, and a bit more to showcase each of the gods.
Everything about Marc and Steven fighting over the constellation code was perfect. The way Marc doesn’t want to let him in, the way Khonshu keeps meddling, Steven being pissy with Marc but eager to help all the same. The moment when Marc walks away from Layla to let Steven take over was gorgeous. Of course he doesn’t want Layla to see this. (And of course she wants to be part of it, because she still loves him, and she’s starting to love Steven.) But the way he rips the rearview mirror off the truck so he can look into it, the way Oscar Isaac just shifts his face a little bit and then becomes Steven, saying “Cheers mate” to Marc and diving straight into deciphering the code with no fuss.
Harrow is terrifying, but I’ll talk about that more in a sec.
And, best of all, how beautiful was the scene of Khonshu and Steven-as-Mr.-Knight, working together at last, not to do anything violent but instead to turn the sky back? I mean it’s a beautiful scene, visually, but how fantastic is it that the writers found a way to involve Steven, to make his skills and knowledge just as useful as Marc’s? And finally to hinge their success on the idea of Khonshu himself making a sacrifice, after everything he’s put Marc and Steven through. Now he’ll be trapped in stone, just as either Marc or Steven is trapped in a corner of their shared mind while the other is in control of their body.
Schrader Scale (of Judgement)
The Schrader Scale is a bit more nebulous in this episode than in the first two. That is, until it very much isn’t. See the thing that’s animating Arthur Harrow, and the element that makes this show work so well (for me, at least) is the real, palpable joy he shows as he comes closer and closer to releasing Ammit. The lives that will be lost are inconsequential. When he finds the site of Ammit’s tomb and rejoices with his followers, that happiness was as real as the menace he exudes at Mogart’s compound, and the casual cruelty of what he does to Marc when the Ennead meets. He genuinely believes he’s doing the right thing at all times—or, more accurately, that Ammit is doing the right thing through him.
In the episode’s final scene he finally faces off with Khonshu. The god is trapped in a small statue. A gift shop trinket Arthur can hold in his hand. And he confesses, to Khonshu, that he “enjoyed doling out pain on your behalf. It is the greatest sin I carry.”
In this scene we see Arthur alone (or as alone as a person can be when they’ve had multiple gods in their head), and we see that he’s willing to lay himself bare. Or so it seems for a moment. Because then he goes on, saying, “your torment forged me. I owe my victory to you.”
But, wouldn’t that be Ammit’s victory? Or really the victory of justice itself? And if he’s truly so committed to justice above all, should he really be meeting his old, defeated Master in private for what can only be described as a spiritual “In your FACE” moment? Or does he mean it? Does he genuinely see the victory of Ammit as a result of the time he spent suffering under Khonshu’s will?
The great thing about this scene is that I genuinely don’t know. There’s so much nuance at work here that I can’t tell if Arthur is gloating, or thanking Khonshu. This is the main reason I thought refracting the show through my love of Schrader would be useful: it’s really fun to watch as Hawke and Isaac layer complexity upon complexity in what could have just been a fun Marvel take on National Treasure.
Also just to make sure no one missed this: I haven’t heard it before, but in this scene, as Arthur faces Khonshu, we can hear the glass in his shoes clink with each step he takes.
So…without the shoe-glass-sound this rates a 3 on the Scale, but with it, I think we land at a solid 5.
Arthur, to Khonshu: “You’re getting desperate, old bird.”
Steven: “We’re inside The Great Pyramid of Giza!”
Layla: “It’s like I’ve not known u at all!”
Marc: “You haven’t. You don’t.”
Khonshu, to Marc: “I summon the gods, you summon the worm.”
Steven, to Layla: “E voila!”
Really what Leah Schnelbach wants is a My Dinner with Khonshu scenario with the god and Arthur Harrow meeting up for a wide-ranging conversation that plumbs the very depths of creativity and humanity’s hunger for meaning. But with action sequences. Come talk about all that important stuff in the Café des Artistes that is Twitter!