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Moon Knight review: Amazing because it trusts the audience

Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector, on the phone in Moon Knight
(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

Moon Knight — which stars Oscar Isaac as the titular caped vigilante who is definitely not just Marvel's answer to Batman — breaks new ground for Disney Plus in the best ways. First of all, this is the first Disney Plus series from Marvel Studios that isn't also an extension of an existing MCU film or series. And Isaac feels all the more refreshing as he tells the story of Moon Knight through multiple characters.

Unlike your Lokis and your WandaVisions, Moon Knight is a standalone project (at least so far — Disney Plus has not provided the entirety of the series to reviewers). That means you can watch Moon Knight (Disney may debut it tonight, and not wait til tomorrow, but it's unclear) without any concern about if you need to watch Marvel movies in order beforehand. 

The only people who will benefit from any information beforehand are the fans of the Moon Knight comic books. That said? Marvel's been known to pick and choose what elements of these characters it wants to use (which makes sense because these characters have existed for ages and have been subject to reinterpretation).

But after beginning Moon Knight, I can't help but enthusiastically recommend Moon Knight because it's especially confusing. Well, it's not just that Moon Knight will confuse you, but because its ambiguous nature is one of the extra little things this show offers to feel unique, intense and utterly captivating.

Meet Steven, Marc, their friends and their enemy

Going into Moon Knight, we knew of two of the character's identities. There's the "main" identity, Marc Spector: a former soldier, who the trailers didn't show us at all. Then, there's Steven Grant, a timid museum employee, also played by Isaac. His background is convenient, as Grant has all the knowledge of the Egyptian gods that he'll need to understand what he'll learn about Khonshu, the deity who Spector and Moon Knight are tied to.

But the first Moon Knight episode doesn't even on either. We see a person who appears to be Ethan Hawke's character (for reasons you'll see later) performing a very odd ritual before inflicting pain on themselves. This person doesn't relish in the pain, but they don't yelp either. Then they walk into a very ominous room filled with curved arcs and lights. Considering this is the first scene of the series, it's hard to call it a moment of misdirection, but it's the first sign that Moon Knight isn't playing by any normal rules.

Moon Knight in Moon Knight

(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus via YouTube)

And then we hear Engelbert Humperdinck's "Lonely Is The Man Without Love" as we hear Steven Grant talk to his mother on the phone. Isaac affects a very odd voice for this role, and while it's a voice that may take some getting used to (I expect a very specific voice to come out of Isaac's very attractive face), I'm very happy to note that there are more voices to hear. 

Throughout the first episode, you see how Steven is fighting with some issues when it comes to his sleeping habits, and he keeps nodding off when you least expect it. Imagine if this happened to Thor or Iron Man, and you'll see how wrong this is going to go. At first, it screws with his love life, but soon, he discovers that a lot has been happening while he's been sleeping.

The best centerpiece of getting to know how frustrated Steven Grant is, though, comes with an epic chase scene set to Wham!'s "Wake Me Up, Before You Go Go," one of many inspired choices in the episode. And then Grant's sleeping issues pop up mid-chase. Imagine that, you're fleeing for your life, and you just conk out. And he's also got a voice talking to him in his head. All along, the audience is led to think that Grant is losing control of his body, as Spector takes over, due to dissociative identity disorder. Isaac impresses as both Grant and Spector, each feeling like a whole and separate character. 

Moon Knight's villains are another pleasant twist 

Hawke's Arthur Harrow sits right on the balance of menacing and realistic, dressed much more like a civilian than any MCU baddie we've ever seen, and behaving in very subdued ways. And poor Steven has to encounter this enemy without knowing the full story. Thankfully, his other identities help him out along the way. 

While Moon Knight had me asking questions — it's very much like LOST and WandaVision in its puzzle-like manner, down to a curious artifact that Steven's protecting — I was never annoyed by its confusing way. 

Moon Knight standing strong after defeating enemies

(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

And as Harrow moves around, looking like he's somewhere between a scammer and a prophet, I started to think about how I wouldn't be surprised to see a man like him walking around New York City. While WandaVision's Agatha and Falcon & Winter Solider's Flag Smashers hid in plain sight, they still feel more exaggerated than Harrow. 

That's not to say that Hawke's not outfitted with some mystic elements that will have you wondering what he's really all about. I don't want to spoil it — you'll know it when you see it — but Harrow is another strong character that will leave you wondering what the hell is going on. 

Moon Knight outlook: Stay excited and confused

Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector, on the phone in Moon Knight

(Image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney Plus)

As Moon Knight continues, it keeps its sense of humor about itself while continuing to let audiences into the mystery of it all. As Steven learns about his duality, he serves as a surrogate for the audience. Wanda and Vision were both similarly confused at the start of WandaVision, but Spector's open displays of confusion and alarm at every turn make him all the more relatable. This is especially true when he comes across the character played by May Calamawy, who seems like someone he can finally trust. 

This show is confusing? No kidding! Moon Knight is the kind of fantastical story that a college fiction professor would reject as too impossible. But with Steven's confusion grounding the proceedings, you'll feel like your confusion isn't some problem to be overcome by researching on Reddit. Moon Knight's confusing nature — as it gives audiences nugget after nugget of detail — is the point of it all. 

It's an ingenious way to tell a story that nobody would believe: present it through the lens of someone who is as confounded by it as anyone else would be.

Henry T. Casey
Henry T. Casey

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past six-plus years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.