Wednesday, May 4, 2022

REVIEW: 'Moon Knight' - Marc and Steven Accept Peace Even Though Their Identity Still Holds Mysteries in 'Gods and Monsters'

Disney+'s Moon Knight - Episode 1.06 "Gods and Monsters"

As Moon Knight joins the fray, Marc, Steven and Khonshu must work together to stop Ammit.

"Gods and Monsters" was directed by Mohamed Diab with story by Danielle Iman & Jeremy Slater and teleplay by Jeremy Slater, Peter Cameron & Sabir Pirzada

Marc and Steven can never truly be free from conflict. Even when they can accept peace in their lives, it's impossible because they truly do not know themselves fully. Marc found himself in the Field of Reeds. It presented as him being able to accept this tranquil reality at the expense of Steven. That wasn't a sacrifice he was willing to make. He survived for as long as he did because of Steven. He may have been nothing more than a creation of his unhealthy mind. The two are the same man. They have access to the same skills. And yet, they are severed as two distinct identities. When they understand each other and the life they have lived, then it suddenly becomes freeing and accepting. They can depend on each other without having to fight for control. That profound sacrifice is what carries them back to life. Sure, it's completely illogical. The choice becomes resurrection instead of eternal torment. Marc and Steven are lost to the sands together. Then, glorious light emerges to take them back to the land of the living. In doing so, they can return to help Layla stop Harrow and Ammit before they kill billions. Layla is left behind at the tomb absolutely devastated. Marc was the hero. He was killed. Harrow had achieved his ultimate goal. He had fooled the other deities into believing he was following a noble path. In reality, he always wanted to free Ammit from her confinement. He is willing to subject himself to her judgment. She gets to decide his fate. It's not a journey inward. It's not him reflecting on the choices he made and reckoning with them in the aftermath. Instead, he chooses to loyally serve this entity he gives power over to. Layla rejects that call to servitude. When she frees Khonshu, he immediately wants to take on a new avatar. That's the only way to stop Ammit. The gods can fight themselves though. They don't need human vessels to carry out this conflict on their behalf. Layla stands determined. She still has to accept a god in order to escape this war. She does so with Taweret. That deity offered her the peace of Marc and Steven fighting to return to life. She provided guidance when so much of the world offered nothing but despair. Layla gets to serve as an Egyptian superhero. That's inspiring for the citizens of Cairo who sees these invaders coming in to their society with the intentions of destroying the world. Their culture has been appropriated by those who wish to manipulate it to their own means. It's powerful for Layla to receive that moment of empowering beauty and grace. And yet, this is still ultimately a conflict for Marc and Steven to try to find peace.

A large stretch of this finale is all about the final showdown amongst the characters. Harrow is gifted with powers from Ammit. That makes him a formidable adversary against Marc and Steven even when they serve as Moon Knight. Layla similarly emerges as the Scarlet Scarab. She immediately knows how to utilize her suit and its abilities. That's impressive too. So much of the action is dictated around Marc and Steven working as a team. It's no longer awkward as they shift back-and-forth between their versions of the suit. They have different expectations of how to be heroic. They have different understandings of the power of this visual. They are wading into the unknown as well. All hope seems lost when they black out. Somehow, they defeat Harrow. That gives Marc, Steven and Layla the time to imprison Ammit within a human host. It all happens quickly and succinctly. It's ultimately a matter of whether Marc can kill his enemy. That was never a question before. He embraced the brutality of the world because that was the only life he could envision for himself. One constantly surrounded by death. He didn't deserve the peaceful normality of Steven's life or a happy marriage to Layla. But now, he has accepted he doesn't have to follow the rules as determined by someone else. Khonshu has power over him only if he allows it. Of course, Khonshu is aware of just how twisted Marc's mind truly is. He can still exploit it to his advantage. He gets exactly what he wants at the end of this conflict. Marc and Steven accept a peaceful life. One where they don't have to serve Khonshu. One where they can embrace whatever struggles out there together. They are free. Except they're not. Instead, Khonshu orders the third personality to kill Harrow. Jake Lockley is somehow even more ruthless. His presence has been seen a couple of times already. As such, it's not a huge surprise when this twist emerges. He's had more choice when it comes to revealing himself in the action. He only makes himself known when the situation is so dire. Then, it's relatively easy for him to turn the tables around without Marc or Steven having any greater awareness. They have a bond that transcends identity together. They are still forced into the darkness by an identity they don't understand. They don't know how it happened. That's limiting in a way. It ensures the journey is never really over. The peace offered is fleeting at best. The powerful will still constantly abuse and manipulate the vulnerable. That transcends all stories. That's a too limited worldview for all of this to work. However, the focus on Marc and Steven's relationship did ultimately help the show rise above its basic early ambitions.