Phase four is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s freak era, confirmed. Wanda manifested two children with her android husband on WandaVision. Loki kissed his own variant in Loki. Now, on Moon Knight, Marc Spector has been cucked by his alter, Steven Grant. Yet somehow, that’s not even the third-strangest thing in the fourth episode of the Disney+ series. Moon Knight is swinging for the fences with only two episodes left to go, so let’s bust some tombs and get into it.
The bulk of the episode concludes the fetch quest that has dominated Moon Knight thus far: find Ammit’s final resting place. Layla fights off some men with her weapon of choice — fireworks — and in the morning, she and Steven drive right to the secret location of the tomb. It turns out that Ammit’s tomb is also Alexander the Great’s infamous lost tomb because the ancient pharaoh was Ammit’s avatar. Underground, the dynamic duo encounters very spooky reanimated Heka priests that make the jackals look like puppies. Steven retrieves Ammit’s ushabti from inside the body of Alexander the Great, and for a moment, it looks like they’ve won.
Oh, and Steven and Layla kiss, and Marc punches himself (a.k.a. Steven) in the face. This development has been building for weeks as Layla reconnects with her former lover via his geeky alter. It’s difficult to describe this love triangle without being glib. From Layla’s perspective, it would be a dream if your ex-husband woke up with an entirely different personality. But that is not exactly what’s happening from a mental-health standpoint, and it’s not fair to Marc or Steven to say so.
Steven may tell Layla about Marc’s plan to give Steven the body and Khonshu’s plan to make Layla the next avatar, but he’s no saint. He’s telling her Marc’s truths, not his own. It’s a lot easier to spill someone else’s secrets, especially when doing so benefits you. Still, Layla has good reasons for being attracted to Steven’s honesty. She learns in this episode that not only did Marc watch while his partner killed her father, but the whole reason they met in the first place is because he sought out the daughter of the man he couldn’t save. She’s been in the dark for years. That’s extremely shitty. It’s like a reverse Dear Evan Hansen. He was welcomed into a grieving family and lied about not knowing the person they lost. Sincerely, no thank you!
When Layla learns the truth about her father’s death from Arthur Harrow, she goes to confront him. Steven gives the body to Marc so that they can talk. But before they can work things out, Harrow and his followers confront them. He tries to bond with Marc because, as Khonshu’s previous avatar, he also knows what it’s like to be free from the moon god’s influence. Marc starts a fight, but the fight doesn’t last long. Harrow shoots him point-blank in the chest. “I can’t save anyone who won’t save themselves,” he says. Pardon?
Marc falls into an underground moat and tumbles down into an abyss. He then wakes up groggy in a psychiatric hospital where Layla, Steven’s co-worker Donna, and Steven’s living statue friend Crawley are fellow patients, Harrow’s followers are nurses, and Harrow himself is a doctor. Various paraphernalia around the hospital, like cupcakes and a Rubik’s Cube, recall previous episodes. Not only that, but on television is a corny film called Tomb Buster — think Indiana Jones and The Mummy with a heavy hand on the white-savior narrative — about the fictional Dr. Steven Grant’s Aztec exploits with his teenage sidekick Rosser and the lunar god Coyolxauhqui. Has all of Moon Knight been taking place in Marc Spector’s imagination?
“It’s all been happening in your head” and “you’re actually a patient in an asylum” is a time-honored trope seen in films like Shutter Island and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and especially favored in genre television. In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode “Normal Again,” a demon tries to make Buffy believe that she is institutionalized and all of her slayer memories are delusions. Similar plots happen in Ash vs. Evil Dead, Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, Charmed, Doctor Who, The Magicians, Red Dwarf, Joan of Arcadia, and more. It’s such a popular trope that it is deconstructed in the “Curriculum Unavailable” episode of Community.
For Moon Knight specifically, this is based on Moon Knight volume eight, a 2016 run of the Marvel comic from writer Jeff Lemire and artist Greg Smallwood. In it, Marc Spector wakes up in an asylum run by Ammit (spelled alternatively Ammut in the comic and under the guise of a psychologist named Dr. Emmet) and is told that he has imagined his vigilante life. He sees Ammut trying to turn New York City into New Egypt with jackals and gods everywhere. But everyone else sees orderlies, cops, and the subway. There is even a meta moment in issue No. 6, in which Steven Grant is a producer on a Moon Knight movie for Marvel Studios, shot by rock-star cinematographer Roger Deakins. It is a deliberately vague and disorienting comic, so we’re probably meant to be confused at this point in the television adaptation.
Fortunately, the sedatives wear off pretty quickly, and Marc remembers being shot by Harrow. He takes off down the hallway and hears screaming coming from a sarcophagus in a spare room. Marc opens the sarcophagus, and inside, amazingly, is Steven. In the chaos, all conflict is forgotten. They hug! This is the first time they’re meeting face-to-face in the flesh — the longed-for moment! Now, how is this happening? There’s no time to figure that out. They gotta get out of this hospital. Marc and Steven attempt to escape the hospital, pass another shaking sarcophagus in another room, and run directly into … how do I put this … a hippo.
Said hippo is, in fact, the Egyptian goddess Taweret. She is played/voiced by Antonia Salib. Taweret is the goddess of childbirth and fertility. Remember Lost? Remember that giant foot statue on Lost? That was originally a statue of Taweret. It’s not clear what the cheerful goddess is up to. She’s not traditionally a member of the Ennead. But with her arrival, Moon Knight went from weird, to weirder, to weirdest — I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Out of Orbit
• Alexander the Great’s tomb actually has been missing for about 1,800 years, by the way.
• “If I need a recipe for a protein shake or something, I’ll call you” has to be the sassiest thing Steven has said to Marc. These two need to borrow the marriage counselor from The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Maybe, with Layla, they can be Disney’s first throuple.
• That second shaking sarcophagus is Jake Lockley, the third named alter in Marvel comics, right? It has to be Jake. I’m already pissed that we aren’t getting as much screen time with him as we should be.
• If I’m putting the pieces together correctly, the night that Layla’s father Abdullah died is also the night that Marc became Khonshu’s avatar. It feels like we should see this night in a flashback before the series is over — the clock’s ticking.
• For what it’s worth, Ammit is also sometimes depicted as part hippopotamus like Taweret, and the two goddesses are seen as parallels. Taweret brings life, and Ammit takes it away. They could be sisters!
• The lamps swinging in the hospital probably aren’t a reference to the musical Hadestown, but I’m going to pretend they are. We did just see the MCU’s first Greek gods in the Thor: Love and Thunder teaser, after all.
• They’ve talked about it enough. If we don’t get to see Layla become Khonshu’s avatar, even temporarily, and summon a Moon Knight suit of her own, what have we even been doing here?