Wednesday, April 20, 2022

REVIEW: 'Moon Knight' - Steven and Layla Explore Ammit's Tomb Hoping to Stop Harrow From Gaining More Power in 'The Tomb'

Disney+'s Moon Knight - Episode 1.04 "The Tomb"

Marc and Steven must find balance as supernatural threats ahead look to stop them.

"The Tomb" was written by Alex Meenehan, Peter Cameron & Sabir Pirzada and directed by Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead

As Steven and Layla plunge into the deeps of the tomb burying Ammit, they follow the blood-soaked trail of those who came before them. They are strategic as they pursue this adventure. They are still faced with many perils. However, they have the wisdom to understand this culture because it carries a personal significance. With Harrow's crew, they have adopted the meaning and have contorted it into something else entirely. Part of that is the transfixion on Ammit being able to end pain and suffering throughout the world. That's all that Harrow wants. But he also serves as a villain who loves telling people exactly what they are suppose to be. Layla is viciously accurate about his condescension. He claims he has the tools to see the true nature of every single person. In reality, he just sees their deepest, darkest secrets. He can expose yet another betrayal Marc has long kept from his wife. Steven isn't even aware of it. That sends Layla spinning. It's still a reaction produced as a result of someone else's agenda. Harrow seeks to rob her of total agency. None of this can have meaning if he can't claim it for himself. Layla is a treasure hunter as well. She justifies her actions by saying she restores the artifacts to their rightful home and owners. She isn't perfect. She has to play the brutal game sometimes as well. That's how she survives. She doesn't view herself as a hero or a savior. She has a greater understanding of this world. She tried running away from it. She can't escape how personal these relationships have become. She has to grapple with them completely. She has the strength to do so. She can fight off any creature that lurks within the shadows of this tomb. She doesn't need Steven to explain the mythology of this place. His insight is key because it helps the audience understand and grapple with the symbology of it all. He can appreciate that. He faces terrors as well. He fears for Layla's safety. He also discovers Ammit's statue carrying her essence before anyone else. So much of this journey is plagued by the horror and the manipulation. It's the only way Harrow knows how to operate. Others must suffer in order for beauty to be experienced once he is successful. He will kill anyone in order to obtain peace. It makes no sense. Yet he believes in it fiercely. But again, he's a smug white man telling people of color what they are expected to be.

Harrow may even be able to distort reality. That's impressive and truly daunting. The entire narrative stops and turns on its head completely after Marc is shot. It's inferred that he dies. He may wake up in what his life is actually like. He has simply been under sedation at a psychiatric facility. Every storytelling detail featured so far is part of this environment. He has grafted new meaning onto it. That allows his unhealthy mind to cope instead of face a true reckoning within his psyche. At least, that's what Harrow wants him to believe. In this environment, Harrow is still given ultimate power and control. He is the one who dictates what Marc is allowed to be. Marc may no longer have Khonshu in his ear ordering him around. His life hasn't gone silent though. In fact, it has only gotten more strange and peculiar. Now, the twist with the hospital and the reveal of Marc and Steven living as separate identities is inspired. It presents as the first original idea the series has produced so far. The fourth episode is a little late for such inspiration to be found. It showcases a limited ability to innovate. The previous three episodes have told this story in interesting ways that are different from one another. However, various tropes familiar to Marvel fans were apparent too. Even the twist here can somewhat be expected. It's the narrative choosing to embrace the weirdness of the central character design. It can finally have fun with the concept. Of course, it's not long before Marc starts to question the nature of this reality. He never buys into it for one second. Instead, he always sees Harrow as the villain trying to distort his life. And so, the audience can easily assume that as well. That means the twists have to keep happening. They don't all deserve explanation right away. It's simply an adventure where Marc and Steven are running for their lives. They can always find each other. That remains a useful skill for them. However, they run into a creature completely different from the rest of the monster design seen in the season. The show wants everything to be unsettling. It's all being done with purpose and creativity. It's certainly fun. However, the show may not have the conviction to follow through on this exploration of what it means for the central character to suffer from mental disease. Of course, the narrative has always been treated more important than delving into the facets of each identity Oscar Isaac portrays. That too seems inevitable with this twist despite how fun it is for the few minutes closing this hour.