Mummies! Hippos! Ominous Goats! Moon Knight Gives Us Everything in “The Tomb”

This week’s episode of Moon Knight is “The Tomb,” written by Alex Meenehan, Peter Cameron, and Sabir Pirzada, and directed by Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson.  This one’s really three episodes packed into one, and I loved two of them, and liked the third—but I am very excited to report back that this episode, maybe more than the first three, feels very much like the writers going for it.

Spoilers ahead!


We open with Osiris’ avatar adding Khonshu’s ushabti to an enormous wall of gods, presumably all imprisoned. (I didn’t see the Ark of the Covenant anywhere—I guess that one’s in a different creepy torchlit warehouse.)

Then we’re back in the desert, Steven knocked out, Layla frantic, as a truck suddenly appears to hunt them down. I’m assuming these are Harrow’s people? Layla, being AMAZING, hears a box of shells rattling in their trunk, so she lures them toward her with a road flare, then ignites all their ammunition. She turns from the explosion to find a revived Steven staring at her in awe.

They head for Ammit’s tomb. Steven tells Layla about the deal that once Khonshu was gone Steven could have the body full time, but Marc (via the rearview mirror) demands that Steven hand over the body before he gets Layla killed.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

After they drive past, and ridiculously ignore an incredibly ominous goat, they find the tomb entrance and swipe supplies from Harrow’s empty camp. Seemingly the followers of Ammit are already inside, which means…


But first! Before they descend into the tomb, Layla moves in to kiss Steven, and Steven, beautiful Steven, stops her to make sure she understands that Marc only shut her out to protect her from Khonshu. She’s not sure whether to believe that, but then they kiss each other anyway.

As soon as she’s safely out of sight, Marc gains enough control to punch Steven in the face.

Steven is, of course, ecstatic to be inside a tomb. The realize that the opening passages are built into the shape of an Eye of Horus, and follow the part of the eye that symbolizes the tongue to find the sarcophagus of the pharoah that would have served as Ammit’s voice. Makes perfect sense. But this being a tomb raiding party, they also find blood and gunk everywhere, and Steven keeps insisting that they find alternate paths that are less… corpse-y. Neither of them seem to hear the mysterious clicking sounds that echo through the halls. Finally they end up in a large room with a giant stone table that is positively coated in gore. Steven climbs up to a higher ledge to find a way out, but first sees a rickety table covered with all sorts of powders and tinctures and nerds the heck out. Which means that they’re still in the room when the source of the clicking sounds is revealed: reanimated priest-mummies, hell-bent on mummifying every living person they come across!


Layla hides, Steven, of course, makes just enough noise to attract the mummy’s attention, and it leaps through the air and latches onto the platform in one terrifying swoop. Layla once again creates a diversion, bolts, and Steven pushes the table down from the platform, squishing the mummy.

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

As Layla crawls along a narrow ledge, hands reach out from the darkness! Another mummy grabs her and drags her back into a crevice in the rock! She rolls back out of the shadows, holding the hand she just pulled off! Layla is so badass! But it grabs her again, throws her on the ground, and tries to stab her with its own exposed bone. OK, this mummy is arguably more badass. She finally plays the hits, shoves another road flare into its eye socket, and both of them go over into a pit. Naturally Layla uses the special physics reserved for fictional adventurers to catch the ledge and pull herself up by her fingertips.

As she rolls to safety we get a surprisingly realistic panic response as she screams and rolls on the ground for a second, the way a human actually would if presented with murderous reanimated mummies.

But then the camera pans up to reveal Arthur Harrow watching from a doorway.

We cut between what might be the funniest sequence in the show so far, as Steven discovers the sarcophagus of Alexander the Great (!!!) and then, at Marc’s urging, opens the sarcophagus, (my editor would like to point out that, and I’m quoting here, “…it’s always real funny to me that every movie or show is like “oh the problem is that the lid is probably latched or stuck!” and I’m sitting there like THE PROBLEM IS THE LID IS A SOLID PIECE OF FUCKING SANDSTONE YOU BUTTMUFFIN”) unwraps Alexander’s head, and reaches down what used to be the Emperor’s throat to grab Ammit’s ushabti, all while apologizing to poor Alexander (one wonders if this desecration was included in that whole “would you rather live a short, glorious life or a long, boring one” deal), and what might be the most harrowing Harrow moment. Arthur, that bastard, tells Layla that Marc was involved in her father’s murder. This of course means that a moment that should be triumphant is completely derailed, as Layla’s grief essentially knocks Steven out of the way and pulls Marc back into their body.

Marc insists that he tried to save him, and that he was supposed to die that night too, and that he should have. Which is all very noble, until the moment Layla realizes that the only reason she even knows Marc is because he came after her to try to atone for his guilt, and, since he never quite got up the courage to tell her the truth, she’s married to the man who got her father killed.

So noble intentions are maybe not the focus right now.

But, as usual in these kinds of stories, stopping to talk leads to doom. Arthur Harrow steps into the chamber with his heavily-armed henchpeople, Layla hides, and Marc is given a choice. Marc chooses to fight. He takes out three henchpeople in short order! He grabs one of Alexander the Great’s golden sarcophagus hatches and nails a dude! This is shaping up to be quite a fight! And then Harrow pulls out a gun and shoots him, twice, in the chest.

Marc falls backwards into the pool behind the sarcophagus. As he falls the water becomes darker, and the dark becomes deeper, until we’re just looking at blackness.

… then a glowing tunnel of light… that becomes larger and larger, and resolves itself into a flashlight being wielded by a teenage boy as he pushes through a jungle. The boy turns out to be the companion to Dr. Steven Grant, archeologist/adventurer, main character of Tomb Buster!

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

The film that’s playing on the TV in a stark white mental hospital.

Marc is heavily sedated and restrained in a wheelchair. He tries to talk to Steven in a window’s reflection, but receives no answer. Layla’s there too for a moment, seemingly another patient, all of them in mummy-white. And then Marc is unrestrained, in a chair, sitting across from Dr. Arthur Harrow. The doctor apologizes for taking Marc’s favorite movie, Tomb Buster, away, but you see he had to study it. He thinks there’s a connection between the movie’s plot about a lunar god and Marc’s own insistence that he’s a lunar god’s avatar. If Marc would just open up and stop demanding to talk to Steven, and getting so violent, maybe they could make real progress. Dr. Harrow can’t help Marc if he won’t help himself.

As he talks, Marc looks around the room. He sees canopic jars on display, a painting that seems to be the Alpine town where he and Harrow tangled in episode one, Arthur’s cane leaning against his desk, and, when he looks in the mirror by the desk, he sees Arthur’s glass-filled sandals. His memories roar back, or at least the most recent one, and he yelps You shot me! and scrambles back toward the door. Arthur stays calm, even when Marc breaks the glass in his office door to escape, and tells the guards not to hurt him as they try to grab him. Marc fights them off and runs down labyrinthine hallways. He finds a rattling sarcophagus and opens it to find Steven. They embrace, Steven points out that this shouldn’t be possible, and they keep running. They find another rattling sarcophagus, but neither of them stop to open that one. They reach the end of the hall just in time for the doors to burst open, and reveal: Taweret, the hippo goddess. She waves at them, says hi, and we cut to credits.


May you be well when you hear this

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Like I said, three different shows in one! We get fun-as-heck tomb raider stuff, the latest twist in the relationship drama between Marc and Layla, and then, best of all imho, we’re suddenly in a nightmarish mental hospital-based horror that, I’m assuming, is either a vision Marc/Steven are having as they bleed out, or a hallucination that Harrow is inducing to try to get a mostly-dead Marc to talk.

In my personal Field of Reeds every movie is 1999’s The Mummy Starring America’s Sweetheart Brendan Fraser, so the fact that they leaned into creepy tomb vibes, squishy, clicking, hopping mummies, and even had Steven shoving his entire arm down Alexander the Great’s throat to get Ammit’s ushabti made every part of my brain sing. And then to drop Arthur Harrow in to be the scariest thing of all, quietly telling Layla the truth in a terrible departure from all the fun adventure—it was such a jarring tonal shift that I thought it worked well. The news about her father’s murder was never not going to be a bombshell (to Layla, I’m pretty sure everyone watching figured it out even if they haven’t read the comics) so crushing Steven’s moment of joy with it, and making Layla’s pain so urgent that it essentially yanks Marc back into the forefront of their shared mind, was the best way to ground this bit of realism in what is otherwise a pretty over-the-top episode. And holy crap May Calamawy sells it.

Remember what I said about Steven’s innate decency a few episode recaps back? How sweet was it when Steven, who is BESOTTED with Layla, throws the brakes on everything to make sure she knows Marc’s been protecting her?

But about that: This is kind of weird, right? Layla’s been married to Marc, she obviously still has feelings for him, now she’s making out with Steven, who is Marc but simultaneously really isn’t, this whole thing’s going to get messy.

And I am not looking forward to seeing Steven’s reaction to the truth of Layla’s father’s death.

But my favorite aspect of this episode has to be the mental hospital. To throw us into the absolutely serious scene of Marc’s latest death, to watch him fall into darkness, and then gradually reveal a cheesy, Indiana-Jones-by-way-of-Classic-Doctor-Who adventure movie playing on a television in a mental ward? This has officially blown all the mirror imagery out of the blood-stained sarcophagus water. To start with, this introduces the idea that maybe all these adventures have been happening in Marc’s mind this whole time, and he’s in a totally real, mundane hospital. The ward itself is shot in fabulous Expressionistic angles, there’s a goldfish in a bowl, a guy calling bingo numbers, an orderly handing out cupcakes… okay, maybe this isn’t a real hospital.

But the scene between Patient Marc and Doctor Harrow may be my all-time favorite thing so far. Ethan Hawke does an incredible patient, long-suffering psychiatrist voice, and the dripping sarcasm when he talks about Tomb Buster, and the box for Tomb Buster, and all the uncanny Egyptian decor that gradually comes into focus is so note perfect. I would watch an entire episode of this. I’m assuming, though, that this is happening somewhere deep in Marc/Steven’s mind, and that they’re trying to process things enough to miraculously come back to life, so I’m probably not going to get as much of this stuff as I want.

Marc and Steven embracing was genuinely moving, in the midst of all this. Seeing the two of them separated and able to hug and talk to each other, and the fact that they really did fling themselves at each other! After all the bickering, it was lovely to see. And of course this episode gives us confirmation on Identity #3, who seems very determined to escape their sarcophagus. I thought it was an interesting touch to have Marc very clearly walk past the second room, while Steven seems to want to go in for a second before giving up and following Marc down the hall.

How much does Marc actually know?

I also always love a suspenseful build up that resolves into absurdity, so ending the episode on a perviously-unknown hippo goddess was perfection. According to my quick Google, Tawaret is a goddess of protection, rejuvenation, and reproduction, so hopefully she can help Marc/Steven with the whole being shot situation.


Schrader Scale (of Judgement)

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

While Marc and Steven fighting over Layla seems like a thing that could happen in a Schrader film, and Layla and Marc’s tearful confrontation could definitely happen in a Schrader film, it once again falls to Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow to tip this scale. His chilling scene, telling Layla the truth and claiming he’s doing it for her need for closure, while also blatantly serving his own interests, is some Affliction-ass shit.

Also, obviously, Marc and Steven’s ongoing mental breakdown, and current imprisonment, could be featured in just about anything in the Schrader oeuvre. And what is Marc and Steven’s embrace but the Pickpocket ending in a bold new form? Okay, fine, it’s a stretch, but it’s a good stretch and I like it.

I’m giving this one a 2 on my made-up, inexplicable scale.


I can not read the hieroglyphs!

Screenshot: Marvel Studios

Marc, to Steven, about his own self-hatred: “I wish I could just disappear. I really do.”


Marc, to Steven, about Layla: “I swear, you lay one finger on her and I’ll throw us off a cliff!”


Layla: “Its a maze…
Steven, proving that Oscar Isaac is both daddy and Dad: “It’s amazing!”


Steven, after squishing a mummy: “I squished it!”


Steven, excavating Alexander the Great’s throat: “Sorry, er, Mr. Great…”
Marc, maybe a touch too enthusiastic: “Yeah! Get in there!”


Arthur, to Layla: “I do hope you find closure!”


Arthur, to Marc, on Khonshu’s absence: “Just you. The rest is silence.”


Arthur, to Marc, post-shooting: “I can’t save anyone who won’t save themselves.”


Arthur to Marc, in the hospital: “We don’t live in a material world. We live in a psychic world. We’re only able to make indirect inferences about the nature of reality.”


Tawaret, to Marc and Steven: “Hi!”


Leah Schnelbach would like to formally request a Tomb Buster spin off. Come discuss the squishiness of mummies in the tomb that is Twitter!



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