Moon Knight may be the riskiest Marvel series so far to hit Disney+. The six-episode series, which has run on a weekly schedule, opened with an episode that seemed utterly unconnected to the MCU and barely even tied to its comic origins. It threw audiences in the deep end of the Marvel pool, introducing the Heliopolitans without preamble, and demanded viewers keep up even as it unfolded its story via two different unreliable narrators who couldn’t account for long stretches of time. However, Moon Knight’s Episode 4 twist, which came with only two episodes left in the season, made it all worth it.
Warning: Spoilers for Moon Knight Episode 4 follow. Thus far, Moon Knight has felt a bit like “Marvel Does The Mummy.” Steven Grant, an under-employed Egyptologist, discovered his body was hijacked by Khonshu, the Egyptian god of the moon. He shared his physical form with Khonshu’s chosen avatar, Marc Spector, a former tomb raider. Spector’s mission led Grant to meet Arthur Harrow, Khonshu’s former avatar.
Harrow’s mission was to find an ushabti, an Egyptian funerary figurine usually buried with the dead. The ushabti he wanted holds the soul of the Egyptian goddess, Ammit. She was imprisoned there by the rest of the Egyptian god pantheon (known as the Heliopolitans) after she slaughtered thousands in the name of preventative justice. Harrow planned to free her, and he would become her avatar in return. Spector/Grant teamed up with Spector’s wife Layla and headed to Egypt, hoping to reach the tomb before Harrow.
As Episode 4 descended into the tomb, the series suddenly took a hard left turn to become a bizarre collection of clichés from every Egyptian tomb-based horror film since the earl of Carnarvon uncovered King Tut. From navigating tiny ledges to plundering sarcophagi, it was a wild ride, and Grant cheered upon reaching Alexander the Great’s burial chamber and Ammit’s ushabti before Harrow.
And then, with 20 minutes still left to go and two more episodes to follow, Harrow shot Grant, and the titular hero drowned.
Except, Marc Spector didn’t actually pass away... because he was never in Egypt. He was in a psych ward, where a terrible 1980s-era Tomb Buster was playing in the background, and he was holding a tiny Moon Knight figurine. Across the room, viewers saw all the characters from previous episodes: Grant’s boss from the museum, Donna, holding a stuffed scarab; Layla’s friend who forged the passports, drawing a picture of Khonshu; and Layla herself, obsessively drawing the eye of Horus. Those who worked for Harrow were the nurses in the ward, keeping Spector restrained to his wheelchair and too drugged to move. As for Harrow, he’s the head psychiatrist, trying to convince Spector that all these adventures are fantasies he’s created in his mind. The incident in the Alps when Grant met Harrow was represented; it’s a photo in Harrow’s office. Even the glowing pot in the museum showed up as a light fixture.
Audiences might be scratching their heads at all this, but it’s actually the first time the show has finally started pulling directly from the source material. In the 2016 Moon Knight revival mini-series, “Welcome to New Egypt,” Marc Spector is reintroduced, awaking to find himself institutionalized. Though Moon Knight had been depicted as unstable since his first run in the 1970s, it wasn’t until the late aughts that the character went from ablest clichés to giving him an actual diagnosis of Dissociative Identity Disorder, and not until the 2016 run that his “alternate personas” and experiences lined up to match.
This is also the comic run in which Khonshu’s ability to use Marc as his avatar is linked directly to his DID episodes, something the TV series has hinted around but never actually addressed. Marc’s experiences in Episode 4 match the comics — he recognizes the other patients from his adventures, and sometimes they seem to know he’s a superhero. His adventures are reflected in the hospital’s day-to-day, so readers are never sure if Marc’s experiences are real or all in his head.
And most importantly, Marc’s realities blur between his outside experiences and the hospital. The series references that with Steven Grant rising out of a sarcophagus sitting in an otherwise empty room, the bits and pieces of the tomb around the hospital, and characters that transform from patients and nurses into dreamlike figures, like that hippo in the episode’s final seconds.
Speaking of that surprise at the end, that hippo is probably Taweret, the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility. So brace yourself; despite Dr. Harrow’s insistence that this is reality, Moon Knight’s Egyptian adventures likely aren’t over yet.
Moon Knight continues with new episodes every Wednesday on Disney+. Don’t have Disney+ yet? You can sign up here.