Moon Knight episode 1 — out now on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar — is a weird and disjointed introduction to one of Marvel comics’ weirdest and disjointed characters. Even the first episode’s action happens in spurts, with the protagonist Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) blanking out at key moments. As the end of Moon Knight episode 1 reveals, that’s because Steven isn’t one person. He shares his body with Marc Spector who is described as a mercenary once and is completely unlike Steven. It’s classic dissociative identity disorder — though Moon Knight episode 1 never calls it that — and why Steven has been missing hours and days of his life.
Though we’re never told what’s up with that nightmarish tall beast with a bird skull for a head. Could it be Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god that brings back Marc Spector from the dead in the Marvel comics? The spectre it carries does have a crescent-shaped end, after all.
Though there’s no explicit mention of Khonshu in Moon Knight episode 1, the villain Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) — who gets just two scenes, if you don’t count the opening one — does name check another Egyptian deity in Ammit. I suppose Moon Knight will be Egypt-themed; even Steven’s place of work is related to it. Egyptian-Palestinian actress May Calamawy is part of the main cast too, though we only hear her voice on Moon Knight episode 1.
We have more questions than answers at the end of the first episode — and I suppose that’s how Marvel wants it right now.
Moon Knight episode 1 — titled “The Goldfish Problem”, directed by Mohamed Diab, and written by Moon Knight creator Jeremy Slater — opens with Bob Dylan’s 1981 song “Every Grain of Sand”. We see a guy drink from a glass, break the glass with a hammer, put the shattered pieces into his slippers, and then walk in them. What is with this self-torture routine? Though Moon Knight cuts around the character’s face, you can tell it’s Ethan Hawke from the silhouette.
After the Marvel Studios title card drops, the track switches to Engelbert Humperdinck’s “A Man Without Love” from 1968. Our protagonist Steven (Isaac) wakes up with one ankle chained to a bed post. He frees himself, feeds his one-finned fish Gus, and calls his mother. Steven works at a gift shop at London’s National Art Gallery — his job is to sell candy to visiting children — and is quite knowledgeable about Ancient Egypt. He’s always late to work, it doesn’t seem like he enjoys it, and his boss Donna (Lucy Thackeray) doesn’t make it any easier. At work that day in Moon Knight episode 1, Steven discovers he has a date with a colleague the next day. Weirdly, he doesn’t remember asking her out. And their date is at a steak place, which makes even less sense given Steven is vegan.
Back home that night, Steven tries to keep himself at night in Moon Knight episode 1. Despite his best efforts, he seemingly eventually falls asleep because when he wakes up, Steven finds himself in a field — with his jaw popped. As Steven regains his senses, a disembodied voice remarks that “the idiot has gained control” and tells him to “surrender the body to Marc.” As men with guns start shooting at him, the voice tells him to run. Steven obeys and runs towards a village that feels European — it’s obvious from the signage we see.
Steven runs into a crowd of people who are making space, touching him, and bowing before someone like they’ve seen a god. Hawke walks into Moon Knight episode 1, calling himself Arthur Harrow. He has supernatural scales of justice on his right arm and a funny-looking cane, which he uses to judge folks on behalf of the Egyptian god Ammit. If the scales turn green, you’re free to go. But if they turn red, Arthur sucks the life out of you. As Arthur’s gun-toting minions give him the bad news — a man killed two of them and stole something — he says something in a language that his followers understand and quickly bend to their knees.
Only Steven is left standing amongst the crowd on in Moon Knight episode 1, which gives him away. Arthur confronts Steven, identifying him as a mercenary and asking him to return the “scarab”. Sorry, what scarab? Steven looks through his pockets, and lo and behold, finds a tiny golden scarab-shaped artefact. Steven is ready to hand it over to Arthur, but the voice inside him won’t let him do so — literally. His limbs defy him, and as soon as it’s forcefully taken from him, the other personality — Marc? — takes over, and the people next to him end up dead and bloodied.
Steven “returns” to see what he’s done and escapes in a van, and as he’s chased by Arthur’s people, Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” plays. The voice inside his head shouts, “Wake up Marc, this fool is going to get us killed.” And whenever Steven gets in too much danger, Marc seemingly wakes up, and handles the situation. The car chase ends as Steven is confronted by the last of the henchmen, before tree logs — that were dislodged from an upturned truck carrying them — fall and kill them. The terrified Steven wakes up in his bed in Moon Knight episode 1, thinking he’s dreamt it all. After all, his arrangements, be it the tape or the ankle restraint, are in place.
But maybe he wasn’t? Steven realises that his fish Gus has two fins now, instead of one. Steven goes to the fish store to complain — there’s a jab here at Finding Nemo, and it’s nice of Disney to allow the joke — and realises that it’s nearly time for his date. But at the restaurant, Steven discovers he has lost two days thanks to Marc. Steven orders the steak for himself even though he’s vegan. He then returns home dejected, where after dropping the chocolate balls he was gulping down, he discovers hiding spots in his apartment. Inside, Steven finds a key and a flip phone that has missed calls from Layla. A lot of them. Just then, Layla (May Calamawy, the Moon Knight episode 1 credits reveal) calls again. She too calls him Marc, she’s confused about what’s wrong with “Steven”, and then she cuts the call on him.
Right after, the lights start flashing in Steven’s flat on Moon Knight episode 1. Marc seemingly starts speaking to him through mirrors, prompting Steven to run out and into the elevator. He ends up on a darkened floor where he sees a giant figure approach him — except it turns out to be an old woman. They make awkward small talk and she gets out on the fifth floor. Steven turns around and is confronted by that weird-looking giant figure again, but just as he screams, he finds himself on the bus. What is happening? Steven sees the weird thingy for a split second on the road — and as he hastily exits the bus, he spots Arthur on it. Oh wait, that man is real, Steven realises.
As he walks into work, Steven thinks he spotted a man from the bus. Steven tries to find him — it turns out to be Arthur who is checking on the alias that Steven gave the previous time they met. “I don’t have your Scarab,” Steven tells him, to which Arthur responds: “The scarab belongs to Ammit, not me.” Arthur asks Steven if he knows Ammit — one of the Egyptian gods — who describes him as the world’s first bogeyman. She was only the bogeyman for evildoers, Arthur replies on Moon Knight episode 1. She didn’t wait for sinners to commit crimes before they were punished. Arthur believes Ammit could’ve stopped every evildoer, from Nero to Hitler, had she been free. “But she was betrayed by indolent fellow gods — and her own Avatar,” Arthur adds.
All this while, Steven has been looking for a way out from Arthur, but it turns out he has a lot of cleverly-placed followers all around them. Arthur then reveals he knows about the voice in Steven’s head. As he grabs Steven’s hands, the terrified Steven points out that he killed the woman in the Alps, the way he’s holding him now. Arthur places the stick between Steven’s arms, and the supernatural scales of justice on his arm begin to move. “There’s chaos in you,” Arthur says, though Moon Knight episode 1 doesn’t tell us the colour of the scales like before. As a nearby museum door swings open, Steven makes a dash for it — and Arthur tells his people to let him go.
Late at night in the museum, everyone’s gone and Steven is stuck on inventory duty. Just as he’s about to leave, he hears a dog and goes looking for it. As Steven makes his way around the exhibits, he discovers a giant figure stalking him — but this one isn’t the same as before. Over the speakers, Arthur’s voice asks Steven to hand over the Scarab and he won’t be hurt. Steven is too busy with the creature — it’s like some supernatural jackal sort of thing — that’s chasing him on Moon Knight episode 1. Steven runs through the museum, before locking himself in a bathroom.
There for the first time on Moon Knight episode 1, Marc confronts Steven. He tells him to hand the body over so he can save them from “that thing”. He initially refuses, but the panicked Steven finally agrees. And as he transfers control, Steven/Marc transform into Moon Knight — mummy-style white gauze appears out of nowhere to cover Isaac’s body, along with a hood and a cape. Moon Knight episode 1 briefly cuts away before the camera returns to the bathroom, showing how brutally Moon Knight is taking on the creature, beating it to a pulp with his bare hands. As Moon Knight turns and stares into the camera, Moon Knight episode 1 ends.