Moon Knight has been such a weird experiment for Marvel Studios. It’s breaking new ground in terms of the psyche of a superhero while making for a tremendous showcase for star Oscar Isaac.
Still, the main failing of Moon Knight is it’s not really much of a superhero show. This was always the challenge with this — the first Marvel Studios series that didn’t feature an already well-established character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Moon Knight has been a mix of an origin story and a deep character study with little of the rewarding superhero fun that’s been the hallmark of an MCU project. There’s room for thoughtful character explorations in the MCU — Loki for example — but it’s not the preferred direction for newcomers like The Eternals.
Asylum goes several directions that initially are a little overwhelming. Marc has another session with Dr. Harrow while remaining incredibly skeptical that his former adversary is looking out for his wellbeing.
It’s odd how the show set Arthur Harrow up as this big sorta villain and the last two episodes he’s been this helpful, well-meaning doctor figure. How all this reconciles before the season finale will be very interesting.
This snaps Marc back to where he was last episode as he and Steven are separated. And they’re having an encounter with Taweret (voiced by (Antonia Salib), the Egyptian goddess of childbirth and fertility, who plans to escort them to paradise…provided the scales balance before their journey on a ship across desert plains is completed.
Taweret felt like the obligatory Marvel Studios disarming take on a character to lighten the tension and mood. Most of the time that works, but the sight of a giant CGI hippopotamus tossing notecards haphazardly felt like a more forced attempt at comic relief. And given the tone of the episode, it didn’t connect.
Marc and Steven start going through various doors in the psych ward slowly unraveling their complicated past.
As a child, Marc was tasked with keeping an eye on his younger brother Randall. Like children do, they started exploring and ventured into a cave. Only tragedy strikes and Randall dies triggering a lifelong hatred from his grieving mother (Fernanda Andrade).
Just before she comes to beat him with a belt, Marc looks at a movie poster where the hero Steven Grant has the tagline of knowing no fear.
This is interesting as Marc conceived Steven to be his emotional safety net of innocence like his brother while he endured the physical beatings. Until this point, Marc hadn’t processed that he was being beaten down emotionally as well.
With Steven, Marc was able to create a persona that could enjoy a meek but fulfilling life where he could be forgettable but rarely hurt to the extent his mother harmed Marc. And Marc didn’t have to rely on anyone else to save him in the manner his father (Rey Lucas) failed to.
Steven snaps back to talking with Dr. Harrow and finally deals with the reality that his mother is dead, not just sitting quietly on the other end of his phone calls. It’s a powerful moment from Isaac in a series full of them.
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Comic book bias included there’s exactly zero reasons why Isaac shouldn’t be a favorite to win all of the Best Actor in a Limited TV Series honors come award season. Isaac has put in some amazing work throughout his career, but this might be his best work by far.
Marc also reveals to Steven how he came under the thumb of Khonshu to be his hand of vengeance. Again, it comes off like Arthur maybe wasn’t this terrible person after all and was rightfully calling out Khonshu for manipulated emotionally vulnerable people.
As the sand zombies emerge to drag Marc down to this form of hell, Steven makes the save ultimately sacrificing himself to save Marc. Given that Marc is in an afterlife of sorts, Steven’s death likely isn’t official in any capacity.
Director Mohamed Diab did amazing work this episode with the constant shifts in and out of various realities, the flashbacks and maintaining a high quality with the Marc and Steven segments.
There’s never a moment where the effects of the same actor interacting with himself looks phony. The stark white of the psych ward contrasted nicely with the dark blue and purple skyline of the afterlife.
The bill is coming due for Moon Knight as a whole as an effective and entertaining series based off a comic book character. That’s with the season finale. On its own and considering how it relates to everything that’s presented so far, Asylum was a tremendously executed episode, but a lot is now riding on the season finale to successfully wrap everything up.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Photo Credit: Disney
Want to learn more about Moon Knight? Check out Moon Knight Legacy: The Complete Collection on Amazon.
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