Update: Rory gave Moon Knight another chance. Was it worth it?
Moon Knight is the latest Marvel TV show rolling out weekly on Disney Plus, and to be honest, its mostly positive reception is making me really relate to its main character. I also feel like I’m losing my mind.
Some critics and fans have declared it the “best Marvel TV show yet” (my editor Henry T. Casey is excited to see how fans react after they watch Moon Knight episode 4 online) and it’s received plenty of praise for its “freshness” compared to some of the MCU’s recent cookie-cutter installments (*cough*Black Widow*cough*). However, that’s definitely not been my experience with Moon Knight to date. I struggled to get through the first three episodes, and have found the show ponderous, poorly plotted and, worst of all, unbearably dull.
In fact, my disinterest in Moon Knight has reached such a critical point that I’m starting to question my commitment to the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. Until now I’ve dutifully consumed every movie and show with the MCU. Even when I’ve felt Marvel fatigue creeping in, I’ve soldered on for fear of missing some plot development or a new character that becomes critical later down the line.
However, in the wake of another disappointing Disney Plus show, I’m not sure how much longer I have the stomach for this approach. Moon Knight has me thinking, maybe it’s time I got selective with the MCU.
Editors' Note: After writing this article, Rory gave Moon Knight another chance — find out if his opinion has shifted.
Moon Knight sends me to sleep
Moon Knight stars Oscar Isaac as a mild-mannered museum gift shop employee who discovers he has a dissociative identity disorder and one of his personalities is an avatar for the Egyptian moon god, Khonshu. It should be impossible to make a show with that intriguing premise dull.
However, hats off to Disney and Marvel because they've sure given it a good go. It’s not just that the sparse action sequences are mostly a mess of bland special effects and unimaginative camera work, my chief issue with Moon Knight has been its inability to make me care about what’s actually happening in each episode.
Isaac is a fantastic actor, I cannot stress that enough, but even he cannot make Marc Spector/Steven Grant an interesting character. Sure, there’s some novelty to Isaac putting on a ridiculous British accent and pulling from a grab bag of eccentric ticks, but Spector’s personal plight remains unconvincing even three episodes into the six-episode season.
The show’s disjointed plotting isn’t helping matters either. Between Marc’s own struggles with his various alter egos, central villain Arthur Harrow (a subdued Ethan Hawke) and the whole Gods of Egypt shtick, there’s actually quite a lot going on in the world of Moon Knight. It's a shame that so far none of it has been all that interesting.
Of all the MCU shows to date, Moon Knight is the one most clearly bogged down with overly convoluted scene-setting. Even by the end of episode three, it feels like the stakes are still being explained, and that's not where you want to be at the halfway point. It makes Loki's somewhat messy story looks like a masterpiece in comparison.
Is it just me or have the Marvel TV shows been mostly meh?
Moon Knight is probably the worst example to date of a problem that started with Falcon and Winter Solider and has been recurring ever since. Marvel TV shows often revolve around B-list, arguably often C-list, heroes facing off against even more irrelevant villains in plots that ultimately appear inconsequential to the larger MCU.
WandaVision, and parts of Loki, are the exceptions, but Falcon and Winter Soldier, Hawkeye and Moon Knight, all suffer from feeling like side projects created primarily to give Disney’s streaming service a desperately needed injection of fresh content rather than because they were stories that needed to exist within the interconnected Marvel universe.
These MCU shows feel small scale, but not in a good way. Even the best of them are less vital viewing than all but the most average MCU movies. There is always the chance that in time the events of Hawkeye or Moon Knight will come to be a catalyst for some massive showdown in Avengers 5, but I’m not holding my breath.
Perhaps this is a hot take, but if a show like Moon Knight had to stand on its own two feet without the instant interest garnered just by being part of the MCU, I’m genuinely convinced it would have flopped. I mean was Netflix’s failed superhero show, Jupiter’s Legacy, really that much worse?
Things started so promisingly
Perhaps the reason I’ve found Moon Knight (and other Marvel TV shows that came before it) so disappointing is that the Disney Plus MCU experiment started off so strongly with WandaVision.
WandaVision’s biggest strength is that it very much played into being a TV show. You couldn’t make WandaVision into a movie without rewriting most of it. The story was structured around the medium of television. That’s not the case with Moon Knight, which feels like a bog-standard MCU movie just stretched out over six episodes and with a zero removed from its budget.
It often gets forgotten, but WandaVision was very much a “mystery box” series. After every episode, I vividly remember rushing to forums to read fan theories and whatever wild conjecture the internet dreamed up that week. After the public release of the first two episodes of Moon Knight, I’ve yet to see the same level of speculation generated. And I'm not looking for it either. Sure, fans are highlighting their favorite moments, but there’s very little to unravel after each installment.
As noted, these aren’t issues unique to Moon Knight. Since WandaVision launched in early 2021, it’s only been Loki that’s come anywhere close to matching up. If you include the dreadful animated series What If...?, Marvel’s batting average when it comes to TV shows is pretty poor. One genuine hit, one flawed by mostly fun romp, and four shows that did little more than waste my time — hardly an inspiring report card.
It’s not time to end the MCU (yet)
While my colleague has previously argued that it’s time to kill the MCU for good, I’ve not reached that conclusion quite yet. I’ve followed the MCU since day one, and I still have plenty of affection for dozens of its characters. I also can't pretend I'm not intrigued to see how iconic characters like the Fantastic Four and the X-Men are introduced in the future.
I should also mention that I’ve been pretty pleased with the franchise's recent cinematic efforts. Yes, Eternals was a dud, but Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings was a hoot and Spider-Man: No Way Home had me oscillating between audible whooping and shedding nostalgic tears. Plus, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness looks like a hit, and I’ve got my opening night tickets booked already.
This article isn’t me declaring that I’m breaking up with the MCU for good. I’ll still be watching upcoming Marvel movies (as mentioned above), and probably some of the television shows (with the cast Secret Invasion is bringing together, I can’t miss that). Perhaps, though, it’s time for me to stop consuming everything Marvel puts out without question.
Maybe I don’t need to finish Moon Knight. Perhaps, I can give Ms. Marvel or She-Hulk a miss if the early reviews suggest more of the same. Surely it's possible to continue following the MCU without being required to watch every single second of it without fail?
I don't class myself as a Star Wars fan, but I do enjoy the odd excursion to a Galaxy far far away; therefore, I only consume the pieces of that universe that pique my interest. I’m starting to think it’s time to deploy the same approach when it comes to the MCU.
Want to look forward to something more interesting? Then here's what we know about Severance season 2 so far.
In good Netflix news? Well, it looks like The Crown prequels on Netflix may be happening, as new reports say a fistful of stories are in the works. And for more Marvel opinion, Rory discusses how the MCU is floundering — and Thor: Love and Thunder is proof.