Update: Rory gave Moon Knight a third chance. Was it worth it?
Earlier this month I wrote an article explaining how Moon Knight killed my interest in Marvel TV shows. I won’t rewrite the entire piece here, but in summary, I found the Disney Plus show ponderously dull and my enthusiasm to watch further waned before I’d even reached the end credits of episode three.
After a passionate response to that "hot take" from Marvel fans, and some urging from colleagues who assured me that episode four takes the series in a new direction, I decided to summon up my willpower and give Moon Knight a second chance.
Unfortunately, Moon Knight episode four did nothing but crystalize my initial take. Moon Knight stands alongside the likes of Falcon and Winter Soldier, What If…? and Hawkeye as a Marvel TV show that I feel like I’m watching out of a sense of duty, rather than enjoyment.
Send my apologies to Steven and Marc but I’m officially done with Moon Knight. There will be no third chance — yes, I know Moon Knight episode 6 is almost here out. Speaking of no additional chances, a superhero show is among the three Netflix and The CW shows that were just canceled.
Warning: below are full spoilers for Moon Knight up to episode four, so if you’ve yet to watch the show don’t read on. Of course, I don’t exactly recommend you do, but that’s is your choice to make.
Moon Knight is painfully meh
I think the point of no return for me with Moon Knight came during the big twist of episode four when Marc/Steven is shot in the chest multiple times while exploring the tomb of Alexander the Great and then wakes up in a psychiatric hospital.
This dramatic moment is clearly intended to throw the audience off. It should have you questioning if the entire show up to this point has been a mere delusion of the main character's mind. Instead, I just felt disappointed that the series had gone in such a predictable and tiresome direction. Granted, there is every possibility that episode five gives his twist greater context but I just don’t have the interest to actually find out.
My biggest overall problem with Moon Knight is that it’s done a bad job from the start of actually making me care about Marc or Steven [Editor's note: I've told Rory this gets better in episode 5, but it appears that would be one too many episodes]. A fantastic actor like Oscar Isaac playing a character with dissociative identity disorder should be intriguing, but in practice, it’s merely resulted in Isaac playing two characters I don’t really care about rather than just the one.
The focus on Egyptian mythology is vaguely interesting, if a little undercooked, but the strange love triangle between Marc, Steven and Layla (May Calamawy) has left me cold. In fact, I’d argue it’s even more poorly written than the relationship between Loki and Sylvie in the Loki series — and that’s saying something as I found their interactions bizarre for the most part.
However, my least favorite character in the show has to be Arthur Harrow. Ethan Hawke is another excellent actor, but he appears almost disinterested in this role. That’s no jab at him, I would look equally bored if I was delivering the same low-quality material. For much of the series, Harrow has been spinning his wheels. The character has almost no on-screen presence, and his motivation is generic. The MCU has its share of flat villains and Harrow ranks right up there among the worst.
Four episodes in and Moon Knight is comprised of characters I don’t feel invested in and it's telling a core plot that oscillates between unbearably bland and borderline incoherence. Even the reasonably enjoyable action sequences starring the titular Moon Knight are few and far between and certainly not regular enough to keep me engaged.
Moon Knight has an MCU problem
One aspect of Moon Knight that I’m surprised to see receive so much praise is how detached from the MCU it is. In fact, to my recollection, after four episodes there have been virtually no references, outside of a brief Madripoor reference, or indications that the show is even set within the interconnected comic book universe.
Of course, we know it is, thanks to its branding, but Moon Knight could easily be followed by someone who’s not consumed a single piece of MCU content to date. That accessibility is being viewed as a positive by some, and even being labeled refreshing by others. However, it means that Moon Knight’s success is solely reliant on its own quality, and from my perspective, that’s not a good thing.
Hawkeye is a great example of a show that I found fairly disappointing but still felt compelled to finish because of its close ties to the wider MCU. Moon Knight doesn’t have that link so my motivation to see the series through rests entirely on my desire to see Marc/Steven’s story through to its end. Which isn't exactly a strong incentive for me.
I’m not suggesting that every Marvel show or film should be a fanservice stuffed collection of callbacks and winking references to previous chapters of the MCU, but I would have liked Moon Knight’s place in the mega-franchise to be a little clear after four episodes. Of course, that will likely be revealed at a later date, but for now, Moon Knight feels like one of the most skippable pieces of MCU content so far.
Time's run out for Moon Knight (for me)
Having now watched four of six total episodes, you might wonder why I’m not soldiering through. After all, there are only two episodes left, so what’s the harm in watching them just in case the series ends strong?
Well, for starters, to date all the Marvel TV shows have struggled with ending on a satisfying note. Even the MCU series that I have enjoyed the most, WandaVision, stumbled as it entered the home straight with a conclusion that was fairly underwhelming. Perhaps Moon Knight will be the outlier, but I’m confident in betting it won’t be considering the quality of the show up to episode four.
Even putting the MCU’s streak of wobbly finales to one side, the main reason I’m walking away from Moon Knight with just a third of the season left is simply because I’ve already invested too much time in a show that didn’t grab me from the very beginning.
Like many people, my free time comes at a premium, and I have a vast and untamable backlog of shows I need to start and continue watching. The time I would spend watching the last two episodes of Moon Knight could be used to watch many other things that I would enjoy significantly more.
As noted, I was ready to give up on Moon Knight after episode three but after hearing some positive words about its next installment, I decided to give the series one more chance. I’m not going to be repeating that mistake.
I’m still not done with MCU
As I concluded in my previous article on Moon Knight, my approach to the MCU going forward is definitely going to be a little more selective. If for example, I start watching Ms. Marvel or She-Hulk and find the first episode or two don’t click, then I’ll likely move on. No longer will I force myself to watch every single Marvel TV show out of a sense of obligation.
Don’t misunderstand me, I’m still plenty excited about lots of upcoming MCU projects. You better believe I’ll be seeing Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Thor: Love and Thunder on opening night, and I’m eagerly awaiting the premiere of Secret Invasion on Disney Plus later this year.
However, I won’t be finishing Moon Knight. At least not any time soon. And going forward if a piece of the MCU isn’t speaking to me, I won’t feel compelled to finish it out of stubbornness. I’m not sure anyone needs to watch literally every second of the MCU in order to stay in the loop anymore. The MCU is expanding to be wider than ever, so it’s time to pick and choose which corners I want to explore. That'll give me more time to watch other services, as I'm not canceling Netflix (unlike all the folks abandoning ship).
Also, in other superhero news, a Doctor Strange 2 reaction has huge ramifications about the MCU, as it just left our collective jaws on the floor. Also, Netflix just canceled a new show from Meghan Markle — before it even aired a single episode! Curious what services you should be canceling? Our streaming editor explains it all in the latest edition of his monthly column, "Forget canceling Netflix, here are two streaming services I'd cancel this month."