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Five Thoughts on Moon Knight’s “Gods and Monsters”

By | May 5th, 2022
Posted in Television | % Comments

Spoilers ahead, as Moon Knight has reached its dramatic conclusion, albeit in a quasi-anticlimax that most people saw coming. So read on, and see if there were any surprises in this last hurrah.

1. What was Moon Knight about?
Finishing up the series, Moon Knight has arguably struggled with tone more than any of the other phase 4 projects, a part of that is trying to straddle so many different genres inherent in the character, but a lack of any central mooring for the show felt like it left the whole thing sliding between stories without intention. It’s also the first Marvel Disney+ series that I think would arguably have worked better as a film. The series is a little less that five hours altogether, and looking back on it there simply wasn’t the substance to justify that, earlier episodes meandered and recapped themselves instead of maintaining any energy, leaving the end feeling weirdly clipped. Moon Knight could have been a clean two hour movie spending about a half hour in London, a half hour in Egypt, then kept the stellar Asylum section, with a shorter return to the main plotline as its resolution. Still, it’s unfair to look at what this could have been, so then what was it?

As mentioned, my eyes almost glazed over during the six minute opening of the episode, but when Oscar Isaac returns to the screen, his signature charm defines the narrative. Isaac is so good at bromance acting, even when he’s both halves of the bromance, and this show has proven that he can act against himself intoxicatingly well. I think you can argue Marc going back for Steven after he was petrified was a rejection of wellness, but it is also arguably his first embrace of totality, resolving a lot of the internal dilemma provoked last episode before a return to the underwhelming ‘A’ plot. He’s becoming his full self and a part of that is acknowledging that he’s fractured. It’s a really interesting look at the philosophy of DID, albeit wrapped up in narrative devices that mean it has to be rushed out underbaked.

2. What will the crocodile croca-do?
Ammit makes a late-in-the-game appearance here to beef up the threat that Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow offers and she’s all together interesting, if forgettable. Arguably the best sequence for her is her first. The exchange between Harrow and Ammit is really novel, where Harrow is more of a zealot than the god he worships. She has embraced pragmatism, realizing that if she follows the true moral path she prescribed, then it would be one she falls in breach of, so to live she betrays herself. Harrow meanwhile, is willing to free her for no reward and die under her judgment on the moment of resurrection, his time under Khonshu arguably having rendered him self-fallagelating. She’s the spearhead of a morally corrupt pantheon that exercises judgment, deceits and manipulation that they themselves balk at being shackled by.

3. Mishandled divinity
After that introduction of Ammit however, some of the Gods start feeling a little flimsy. For one we see all the other Avatars die with as little fanfare as they were introduced, before Ammit and Khonshu get into some pretty sketchy fisticuffs. Watching them fight just feels empty. Like I know we see Thor do it constantly, but he brings a different angle to divinity. The interest in these characters is that they act through avatars, so when they actually throw fists themselves, it’s underwhelming. It’s like seeing Yoda backflip through a battle in the prequels, it’s visually interesting, but thematically frustrating. There’s the same feeling when Tawaret saves Marc and Steven with her boat. It’s a Deux Ex Machina in its most literal form. They’re being saved by a god in a godly realm, how does that subvert expectations or have any stakes? If Khonshu just appeared and teleported them out of those sands I would have been just as nonplussed, it’s inconsequential because it’s not planted in anything and doesn’t even feel thematic. That said, I do like how she talks to Layla through all these corpses, that’s the kind of subtle intervention that feels compelling.

Continued below

One last little note, the Red Scarab transformation is cool but how does working for the Taweret, the hippo god of motherhood, give you wings? Neither of those attributes are associated with wings! I will not stand for it, she needed to get a big bitey mouth and semi-amphibious qualities. Or just a real strong obsession with mud.

4. Back to the fisticuffs
In classic Marvel anti-climax fashion, the episode culminates in two flying wrestlers beating each up over the side of a pyramid while a giant crocodile fights a bird skeleton. And that’s before we even landed in the purple laser section of the episode. There’s just something so flimsy about this fights that try to be so massive they just ended up too vague to have impact. The visual effects maybe seemed a cut too cheap to sell it as well, I’d argue the Moon Knight suit has never looked as plastic-y as this, with other fully CGI environments only exemplifying the animated movie feeling to it all. On a little writing nitpick too, for me, a character suddenly having a grappling hook is the same as them suddenly being able to fly, which also happened in this episode. It’s cheating. That all said, Marc and Steven switching out to negotiate with Khonshu, before seamlessly transposing during the street fight section, is a pretty great sequence.

5. Endings as scaffolding
I will get up on my soapbox and happily argue that “magic ritual disappears the monster” is just the new “kill the hivemind” of the 2020s. Ammit disappears at the plot’s convenience and the whole series wraps itself in a neat little bow. I know audiences have been trained tol expect post-credits scenes by now, but it’s so annoying that the last scene isn’t even the last scene anymore. Like the end of the episode just isn’t the actual emotional climax, there’s no resolution in it. The post-credits is just the normal fucking ending you’d put at the end of any normal show, and that holds it back. The Jake Lockley reveal is so overdue that it’s hard to even get excited it’s here. They drag him out as a way to say goodbye to Harrow and give the audience a nice little Spanish/American/British spot the difference, it’s all very neat and clever and easy.

I think it’s easy to read this as an incredibly harsh review, but I don’t think I was dealing with poor material, just an uninspired 45 minutes of television. I’m still more than excited for the arguably inevitable second season, and to see where it takes the series stylistically, but until then I can’t help but feel like I was happier to leave the series last week than I am now.

//TAGS | Moon Knight

James Dowling

James Dowling is probably the last person on Earth who enjoyed the film Real Steel. He has other weird opinions about Hellboy, CHVRCHES, Squirrel Girl and the disappearance of Harold Holt. Follow him @James_Dow1ing on Twitter if you want to argue about Hugh Jackman's best film to date.


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