Moon Knight Recap: Episode Five, “Paper Moon to Harvest Moon”

Here’s the thing with Moon Knight, at this juncture: It’s tonally all over the place. But the other thing is: That should and could easily be fun—and far more interesting than the usual superhero fare. But it isn’t, and that’s the real thing. It’s just not doing what it’s doing very well at all, and it becomes more apparent every week.

It feels like the people behind the show think they’re making some kind of Eternal Moonlight of the Cratered Mind, but it has none of the style of Michel Gondry nor the substance of Charlie Kaufman. It’s as one-dimensional as a, yes, paper moon. So, for better or worse, this fifth episode is a climb out of that to seemingly get us back around to the usual superhero fare. Or at least get to the precipice.

The series’ penultimate episode very quickly returns to the fantasy (or is it???) of Marc being an asylum patient of Dr. Ethan Hawke. The show again spins its wheels to little effect until, at last, a violent outburst gets Marc drugged back to where we were at the end of last episode: meeting Egyptian hippo god Tawaret.

Here, we learn that she is a cartoon in every sense of the word. She barely looks better than the Madagascar upright hippo and has consistent jokes about on-par with that low standard. She lets our now-separate boys Marc and Steven know that they’re basically headed to the Egyptian version of the River Styx, booked on a cruise to the afterlife. What she does not let on is that some parts are going to look like a video game, and a lot of the nighttime desert shots are going to be even muddier, more indiscernible dogshit than The Book of Boba Fett’s shit-looking nighttime desert.

So they’re on this boat that journeys between World of Warcraft regions when Hippo informs the boys of the show’s latest convoluted though historically accurate mechanic: they have to weigh their hearts against this magic feather to get into the afterlife.

Their wan hearts don’t balance, and she further convolutes this by explaining that this means they have to explore their memories together to sort this out. Unfortunately, this means we also must watch their memories as a clip show of terrible one-act plays.

Long stories short, we here finally get Marc Spector’s Cybil origin story: he accidentally let his younger brother die in a cave, and that sent his mom into a drunken, rage-fueled spiral wherein she would beat Marc with conveniently-placed belts as soon as she entered a room. His father, meanwhile, was some milquetoast who looks like a dollar-store JJ Abrams—the first hint that Moon Knight has indeed retained his comic book Judaism. It’s a mitzvah!

The other thing we learn, which we basically already knew, is that as a mercenary, Marc indeed killed a lot of people. Not, like, a genocide situation, but enough to fill a small hospital cafeteria.

We keep jumping around among the memories, the hippo-piloted boat, and Dr. Gattaca’s mental hospital, and we slowly get the point of it all. We now know Steven was created as a coping mechanism for his guilt and his caricature of an abusive mom, keeping a part of himself free of all that. Stephen gives Marc the classic “it’s not your fault” speech, rivaling “drunk mom gets out the belt” and the hippo saying, “This is bad; this is evil,” for this episode’s most banal bit.

Anyway, with that taken care of, it’s time for Pirates of the Sahara.

Marc and Steven’s hearts and minds still divided despite their little therapy sesh, some kind of spectral sand pirates start raiding the hippopotaship. With Marc in danger, Steven realizes that if they’re the same person, he must be capable of fighting too, and in doing so, sacrifices himself to save his other half. Falling overboard into, essentially, Return to Oz’s Deadly Desert, he gets turned into a sand ghast himself, spiriting away with his heart. The scales balance, and the incredibly-apparent chromakey screen behind Marc switches to Aaru, the heavenly field of reeds of Egyptian myth.

How will Marc return from the afterlife? Is this the end of Oscar Isaac doing his little voice? Is he now just a single personality who occasionally gets swaddled by a bird-god? And—oh, right—how is he going to sort out being able to get swaddled by a bird-god again?

There’s only one episode to go, so the answer is likely “pretty hastily, because we have to inevitably get to a big CGI battle where Ethan Hawke gets his own very similar Moon Knight-type swaddling.” We’ll see next week!

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