Moon Knight begins with a scene that’s surprisingly hard to watch. Things start simply enough: a man wraps a glass in a cloth. Smash! He breaks the glass with a crooked-looking cane, unwraps the shards, and pours them neatly into a pair of shoes, which are then placed on the floor. The man, Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow, puts them on and begins to walk. Every step looks as painful as the last; you can hear glass crushing under his weight.
The scene makes for a provocate, shocking opening, setting the tone for what’s to come. Showrunner Jeremy Slater and director Mohamed Diab are taking this superhero show seriously; yes, there are laughs and comedic moments as you would expect from a Marvel project, yet, at its core, Moon Knight’s less interested in crossovers and quips and more focussed on what makes these people tick. And, as demonstrated by an opening scene revolving around the series’ villain, the filmmakers want all these central characters to be as fully realized as the main hero.
After the opening logo runs, Oscar Isaac’s Marc Spector wakes up in his dingy (but spacious) London flat. He’s chained to the bed and there’s tape on the door. His single-finned fish, which Marc talks to, is swimming happily in his tank. There’s something very wrong with Marc – he goes on chaotic sleep-walking adventures and often wakes up in completely different locations. He struggles to hold down his job at a museum gift shop, arriving late every day and failing to impress his manager.
Marc’s also extremely funny. The series is careful not to make us laugh at his condition but at the general situation. For instance, there’s a fellow worker who goes up to Marc and says she can’t wait for their date on Friday at the steak house. Marc nods along until, just as she’s walking away, he asks in his British accent: “Sorry… are you asking me out?”
Ah, the accent, the most-talked-about aspect of the series before its release (one character even goes "What is with that accent!"). Fear not. After a few minutes, Isaac’s British voice sounds natural. There are the odd moments where he slips, and a few too many people say "cheers", but, overall, there’s nothing too grievous. And then there’s the other voice…
Moon Knight holds back on revealing the reason Marc suffers from blackouts. Of course, anyone who has read the comics or has been following the marketing can piece things together, especially when Marc wakes up in the Alps with the voice of Oscar winner F. Murray Abraham talking to him (it’s borderline Venom-like for a minute). Yet, the mystery won’t be fully solved for some time, and Marc’s search for answers gives the series a gripping driving narrative.
The sequence that follows Marc waking up abroad is a tense confrontation and a clever spin on the classic car chase action sequence. It’s interesting to see just how well all the elements we love about Marvel come together in the opening episode: there are laughs and punches, the down-on-their-luck man learning to become a hero, the antagonist with a seemingly similar source to their powers as the protagonist. Moon Knight doesn’t revolutionize the studio’s formula but does offer perhaps the most cohesive and best start to a Marvel Disney Plus series so far.
Helping Moon Knight outshine the others is the central star power. Isaac is joyfully game as Marc, fully immersing himself in the role physically. The actor has previously spoken about not wanting to join another franchise after Star Wars and X-Men, with Isaac only coming around to the MCU after meeting Mohamed Diab and talking through the filmmaker’s vision to create a character study. That’s exactly what Diab delivers, with Isaac given the space to explore Marc’s many quirks. Then there’s Hawke, one of the greatest performers of a generation, and a man who once argued that superhero movies are overrated (opens in new tab). Again, there’s a reason Hawke was persuaded to play the cult-leader Arthur Harrow, and from the premiere, it’s immediately clear he’s one of the more sinister villains in Marvel’s recent history.
There’s going to be a lot to say about Moon Knight as the series continues, but this opening episode establishes a few things. Firstly, Marvel’s risk-taking is paying off (Moon Knight’s the first series catering on a new character). And second, the superhero genre can still pull off a brilliant, surprising opening scene when it needs to. I can't wait for more.