One of the reasons I think the MCU has been such a big success is that they branch out into other genres while still keeping the superhero framework. Winter Solider (and The Falcon and the Winter Solder) was a spy thriller, Ant-Man was an action comedy, and Thor was arguably urban fantasy. Now Moon Knight has appeared in the MCU via the Disney+ series, and it is, while still a superhero story, both a mystical fantasy and a psychological thriller. Last episode put the body that has been Steven, Marc, and Moon Knight in Egypt, and the promise of an even crazier ride lies ahead in “The Friendly Type.”
Instead of continuing with our main character (characters?), the show opens with Layla making some special travel arrangements. The woman she’s dealing with clearly knows a good bit about her, and we learn some about Layla’s past. There were all sorts of opportunities for this connection of Layla’s to be an Easter Egg, but she’s never named and in the credits is simply “Forger.” After the opening credits, with a very different soundtrack, Harrow leads his team in the desert, following the magical scarab, and seems unconcerned about a minion reporting that Spector’s in Cairo.
Speaking of, the man himself has a lot to deal with. After an athletic run to catch up with an informant, he ends up arriving a bit too late. Facing down several foes in a knife fight is bad enough, but it gets much worse, and much harder, when the voice in your head keeps distracting you. They reverse the status quo we saw in the first few episodes, and Spector doesn’t enjoy the trip. After several confusing transitions, we see Marc and Steven argue over the results of their most recent conflict, and there’s an interesting question to be answered. We don’t get back to that, at least not yet, as Marc first gets some bad advice from Khonshu, and then the god of the moon gets very dramatic with his way of getting some attention. It’s not a subtle thing, and Harrow seems amused, commenting about desperation as he leads his crew in their task. Credit where it’s due, Harrow seems to be toiling right alongside his minions, which puts him way ahead of a lot of supervillain bosses.
The next scene is complicated and visually impressive. Khonshu has arranged for something to happen and Marc is getting thrown in with virtually no information to work with. That seems to be Khonshu’s style overall. What follows is an impressive scene, with a new slant on the avatar of a god aspect that I don’t think we’ve seen in the Moon Knight comics before. Marc makes some potential new friends and enemies both, sees how certain aspects of what you might call “divine justice” work, and there’s what, unless I’m really wrong, is a slight nod to the wider MCU, which would be the first one of the series. By the end of it, Marc doesn’t get what he was hoping for, but does at least get a lead on what to do next.
Trying to follow up out on the streets, Marc is getting nowhere, and then gets surprised when Layla turns up. We get some more vague hints to her history in Cairo, and then she brings Marc to where her own investigations have already brought her. Before they get where they’re going, we have time enough to see they clearly have a lot of affection for each other, but there’s also a lot of shared history and tension. Rehearing their history, the pair arrive at a very wealthy man’s estate, and there’s a lot going on as they get there. The man clearly has a deep interest in some aspects of history that goes beyond being content to read about them. With some careful bluffing and partial truths, they manage to get access to what they need under the watchful eyes of a lot of guards. Unfortunately, neither Marc nor Layla has the expertise to make sense out of what they’re seeing. Layla comes up with a solution Marc hates, but, finally having no choice, he lets Steven out to do the research and puzzling out.
Things are going reasonably well until the ever-annoying Harrow shows up, complicating everything. Harrow isn’t shy about either talking about, or showing, what he can do, and for someone obsessed with the past as their host is, its enough to get his interest. Things turn against our heroes and it’s time for Moon Knight to come out again. Both Marc and Moon Knight are formidable, but Steven and his “Mr. Knight” version are less so, and the fight doesn’t go as smoothly as it could. Steven and Marc really need to work out some kind of timeshare arrangement or something. Finally, the heroes manage their escape, and Khonshu lurks in the background, making cryptic and vaguely threatening comments.
Driving to their next location, Marc and Layla talk, and she makes some good observations that Marc, surprisingly, agrees with. After a lot more discussion and attempts to work things out, desperate measures are called for. Marc, Steven, and Khonshu have to work together, and something remarkably dramatic and impressive happens. Unfortunately, they draw the wrong kind of attention, and our heroes lose a powerful ally. How this is going to affect things going forward I’m not sure, but it can’t be good. Continuing to be smug and manipulating everything to his advantage, Harrow ends the episode by taking some time to visit a defeated foe and do some first-rate villain gloating. I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to his defeat, and given the brutality that seems to part of this show, I don’t think he’s going to enjoy the experience or slink away to scheme for next time.
What I liked: This series continues to be visually stunning and conceptually fascinating. The twists and turns are done cleverly and the series of small reveals make for an even more intriguing story. The “It wasn’t me” bit between Marc and Steven has a few possible explanations, but given what I know of the character, I’m fairly sure I know what they’re doing and those two aren’t going to like the end result. The big action sequence of Moon Knight versus the rich man and his thugs was done really well. In the comics, the villain and ability-duplicating mercenary Taskmaster has commented that he hates duping Moon Knight’s skills since he’d “rather take a punch than slip one.” Moon Knight does take a lot of damage in this episode and only manages to keep going because of some outside help. The effects they did were great. There was, at last, one definite and one possible link to the wider MCU, and I always like seeing those.
What I didn’t: Harrow is getting more insufferable as this goes on. There were some serious consequences to things that happened in this episode and I’m very worried how this will play out in the second half of the series. I don’t like what they seem to be building up to between Marc and Layla, and I have a suspicion there’s going to be a big misunderstanding that plays a part in that eventual reveal.
I’m really loving this series. I’ve liked all of the Disney+ shows they’ve done for Marvel, and I don’t know how I’d rank them, but this should be near the top. I’ll give this episode a 4 out of 5. We’ll see what happens next in a week or so.