Wednesday, April 27, 2022

REVIEW: 'Moon Knight' - Marc and Steven Must Find Balance in Order to Escape Their Doomed Fates in 'Asylum'

Disney+'s Moon Knight - Episode 1.05 "Asylum"

Marc and Steven search through their memories to find their truth or become left behind.

"Asylum" was written by Rebecca Kirsch & Matthew Orton and directed by Mohamed Diab

Can Marc and Steven achieve balance together? Or does one have to die so the other can live? The narrative was thrown into turmoil when Marc was shot by Harrow. He woke up in a psychiatric facility. It was surrounded by familiar faces and clues that informed his life. It offered the suggestion of this being real while his life as a vigilante was nothing more than an elaborate fantasy. Of course, the show quickly confirmed that so much weirdness was going on that it couldn't be seen as the objective truth. Steven appeared as his own separate identity. And then, Marc and Steven were greeted by Taweret. Part of this story is told by the ongoing therapy Dr. Harrow provides. He is trying to help his patient navigate between the sense and the nonsense. He wants Marc and Steven to cope with what is real. They can no longer continue living their lives in denial. Their agony was apparent from the moment this journey began. So many could see it. People have chosen to be blind to it. It was better for Steven to simply accept that he sometimes would wake up in strange circumstances. Layla couldn't see the divisions within her husband. Of course, Marc kept so much from her. He did it all in the name of protecting the people he loves. He could carry the personal burden of tragedy. It wouldn't be fair for him to inflict that pain onto others. His psyche broke in order to cope. Steven was an opportunity to live a peaceful life. One that wasn't marred by his mother blaming him for his brother's tragic death. Those details are stunning revelations. It forces Steven to reckon with the life he has always known. He has to recognize this backstory as his own. It's not something happening to a completely different person. He can't hold onto the fantasy that his mother is still alive. He can't be exhilarated by the prospect of newfound family. He has to endure this journey. Marc wants to escape it at all costs. He will only be judged by the person who has to embark on this journey with him. They are crossing the desert to the afterlife. They have died. They are no longer the hero meant to stop Harrow from resurrecting Ammit. That journey now belongs to Layla. The life they leave behind faces daunting odds. It seems likely that the villain won. He could simply take advantage of a protagonist who had no clarity in his identity. It was a complete manipulation when Khonshu reached out and required Marc to be his new avatar. That's obvious to Steven. To Marc, it was a way to live. He could serve a different purpose because his life had already been hallowed out at that point. 

This episode succeeds because it's such a profound character study. It's not distracted by the overreaching demands of the plot. Of course, it's probable the full story is not being told. This episode may only work if the actions are truly consequential. It delves deep into the mind that created Marc and Steven. Marc is the original. Steven was formed in order to escape. He was never meant to function as the hero. And yet, he takes up the bat to save Marc in his time of need. Steven is the one who plunges to the sands below destined to be doomed for all eternity. That's such a profound sacrifice. It's a moving moment. Steven was immediately presented as a lovable guy trying to make sense of a world full of chaos. His plucky attitude and moral compass were so endearing. That contrasted with the brutality and seriousness on display with Marc. They clashed. Their scales have never been in balance. They have conflicting egos that always seemingly forced each other apart. That's been a core tenet of the show. All narrative progress is based on who is in control of the body. Marc and Steven each have skills that have been useful across this journey. Marc is the killer while Steven is the Egyptian historian. Steven can explain the circumstances of this presentation of the aftermath. He has that knowledge. He doesn't get to receive the glory in its final form. Marc enters a room with the lives of all those he's killed immortalized. He recalls each of them. He can't forget. It would be twisted if he could. Similarly, he can't hide from the trauma he endured as a child. It takes Steven forgiving Marc for so much peace to ultimately wash over them. Marc has never been able to forgive himself for leading his brother into the tunnel. His mother always blamed him for the tragic death. Marc could never live peacefully with her again. All of this had to be known to offer greater clarity to the division within the mind. Steven was a useful tool to escape from these hardships. Him being tossed overboard is enough for Marc to find that inner balance. He is rewarded even though he desperately wants to turn the ship around. He wants to save Steven. It's all hopeless. Steven turns to sand. He is frozen into this fate. He deals with the ultimate consequences of this chaotic world. Marc had a great deal of control in forming that narrative. His individuality ultimately prevailed. It wasn't a choice over who was the original or who was more deserving. It's simply Marc and Steven embracing the other as part of who they are. With that confidence, they could achieve victory. It just came at an incredible cost. This feels like such a fitting conclusion for the character story. Of course, it's not the finale. The fear already radiates over how the creative team will mess all this up with one more episode to go. That's incredibly worrisome.