Marvel’s Moon Knight: Asylum (Episode 5) Review

Moon Knight’s penultimate episode fleshes out the story behind its protagonist’s pain while bringing its two central personalities together for a time-bending emotional ride.

Traditionally, a flashback-heavy episode is generally seen as filler that sheerly acts as narrative buffer and usually just ends up breaking the momentum of the series. Moon Knight’s look into Marc’s (Oscar Isaac) past isn’t simple filler though as it not only answers a lot of burning questions many have had about him, but also offers some great emotional moments for both Marc and Steven. After Marc awakes in a mental hospital and finds Steven, the two run into Tawret (voiced by Antonia Salib), an Egyptian goddess, and although her saying hi sounds cute and friendly, she’s really the grim reaper. Well, she’s more like Charon in Greek mythology since she guides Marc and Steven through the Egyptian underworld to the afterlife. Visually, the sequences on the giant ferry gliding across the endless sand dunes are stunning and it’s the perfect set-up for Marc and Steven’s emotional journey through the past.  

Since their life scales are unbalanced, the two are forced to either go on trip through the past together and open old wounds or stay unbalanced and have their souls be lost in the sands of the underworld. Obviously, they choose the first option, and it leads to some of the strongest and most compelling writing and direction of the MCU. Before this episode, Steven felt like annoying comic relief, but here he acts as this charging force in traversing Marc’s memories. For the most part, Marc’s past has remained hidden with us really only knowing that he was a mercenary with violent skills before Khonshu (voiced by F. Murray Abraham) made him Moon Knight, but this episode really fleshes out the horrors of his past.

Marc (middle) and Steven traverse Marc’s memories including the day he became Khonshu’s (left) avatar. PHOTO: Daily Research Plot

Right from the first room featuring all the rotting bodies of people that Marc has killed, you can tell that this isn’t going to be a pleasant trip down memory lane. It turns out that Marc has been a tortured soul for quite some time as he’s still haunted by the traumatic death of his younger brother when they were kids. It was a sudden death that not only affected him, but also caused a damaging rift between him and his mother. Steven traversing these memories is beautifully captured with him literally running through miserable birthdays and conflicts between Marc and his mother with an understandable desire to know more. You can instantly gravitate towards Steven’s emotions in wanting to discover a past he doesn’t recognize and it’s probably the most genuinely emotional portrayal of the character since the premiere.

While these discoveries are beneficial for Steven’s understanding, they’re traumatic for Marc. As Steven sprints through these memories, there’s a strong sense of fear and pain growing within Marc that constantly has him calling out to Steven to stop. There’s a reason that Marc has buried his old life and opening these old wounds really strikes a chord with him and causes him to lash out violently. It feels so real that it’s legitimately scary at times and Isaac really brings his best stuff this episode. Even him going back with Steven to the day he became Khonshu’s avatar isn’t easy for him to relive, but it’s nothing compared to the final emotional discovery made towards the end of their journey.

Steven and Marc’s (pictured above L-R) emotional journey makes for some of the best scenes in the MCU. PHOTO: Koimoi

One of the biggest burning questions for this Marc/Steven dynamic is who came first? Marc or Steven? The series answers this question perfectly with Harrow (Ethan Hawke) initially posing the question and the scene transitioning to a heartbreaking answer. So, Steven was created by Marc to shield himself from his mother’s anger and abuse. Now, Steven tends to come out when Marc is in too much emotional distress and it’s something that’s shown even deeper when a bigger realization is revealed. After Steven discovers that he’s just a personality and has no former life, he’s hit with another devastating blow after Marc tells Steven that their mother is dead and that he’s been talking to no one. It’s a reveal that makes for one of the most gut-punching story moments dealing with multiple-personalities of all-time and the entire sequence around it is just perfect in every way.

The direction from Mohamed Diab is flawless in how all these realizations carry real emotions. Isaac’s performance is some of his best work to date with the great emotional range he brings, and he literally leaves you on the verge of tears with how he mangles your heart. The writing behind this final memory is brilliant as well with it effectively mixing in Harrow and then leading towards a scene of Marc waiting outside his mother’s shiva and not being able to go in, a scene that is crushing. Not to mention, the sudden switch he does to Steven takes your breath away with how tragic and sad it is with the new knowledge we have about them. Honestly, I wish we got this episode sooner because it provides the kind of great character growth and genuine emotion that’s been missing from this series. It’s tough to say how the finale will go since it seems like Harrow has resurrected Ammit on Earth and Marc is still trapped in the underworld without Steven now, but the pieces are there for Marc to step up into a new role.

Moon Knight has really upped its game in the last two episodes leading up to the finale as it provides a deeply emotional journey of self-discovery for Marc and Steven that culminates in some of the best moments of the MCU. Hopefully, Moon Knight can stick the landing for a killer finale.



Watch the Trailer Here:

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