Up until now Moon Knight has been cruising through a series of unfortunate events – with action packed adventures, Egyptian gods, and mysterious mental health challenges offering primary fuel for our intrigue and entertainment – but this week’s surreal cliffhanger CHANGES EVERYTHING!
This week’s journey into ‘The Tomb’ is an enjoyable and intentional play on the ‘Indiana Jones’ genre, following Layla and Steven into Ammit’s final resting place, Harrow hot on their tails. A continuation of last week’s teamed efforts, villain monologues, trust-breaking reveals and energetic action scenes, this is an engaging, if predictable adventure – right up until that reality breaking final act.
A rotating shot of Konshu the Statue (try saying that 5 times fast) opens the episode, as we witness just how many gods have been trapped by this so-called benevolent Ennead.
After an exciting but most filler scene of Layla protecting the unconscious Steven from some bad guys, the pair finally begin their journey to Ammit’s location. Marc’s flaws are hotly debated as daylight breaks and the locational cinematography embarks on its turn to sing; taking the time to wallow in the deserts and canyons of Jordan’s replica Egypt (locations you may even recognize from the original Indiana Jones.)
Steven takes an awkward, spiteful, and narratively unnecessary chance to kiss Layla, and receives a ‘Fight Club’ level punch in the face from Marc (while I didn’t feel any need for a love triangle, the comedic slapstick and Oscar’s solo stage fighting was perfect.)
And with a graceful slide and a clumsy tumble, the team descends into the tomb, nerdy excitement practically radiating from Steven – “If (the lion guardian statues) just sprang to life and asked me for a riddle for passage I’d be thrilled. I’d shit myself but I’d be thrilled”
The tomb explorations follow a pretty standard but interesting enough journey. Steven and Layla discuss the emotional significance of reaching the tomb, solve a mostly intriguing riddle in the Eye of Horus, find a worrying puddle of fresh blood (and to Steven’s disgust “little chunks of meaty bits”) and then right on cue, the creepy, B-movie-esk monsters appear.
These clicking guardians of the tomb certainly add horror vibes/life threatening drama to the scene – engaging in a bit of bad guy disembowelment worthy of Game of Thrones – before giving Layla and Steven a chance to display their own fight/flight tactics.
Now separated, the action jumps between Layla’s encounter with an underground chasm (reminiscent of Harrison Ford’s own Leap of Faith) and Steven’s ecstatic discovery of Alexander the Great’s long lost tomb.
We get a cool shot of Layla fighting a tomb guard, straining in and out of darkness, tension building as the camera moves closer, before executing her very own dramatic cliff fall – a last minute grasp of the edge emitting the epic main character energy of Lara Croft or Indy.
Steven’s walk is more straightforward, crossing a pool of water where he and Marc reconcile a little. Steven must root inside Alex the mummy’s mouth – apologizing profusely to ‘Mr Great’ while Marc offers moral ‘support’ (“yeah that’s it reach in there buddy”) – in a subtle display of how comfortable and civil these ‘almost’ friends have become.
The supposed emotive climax of this Tomb raiding adventure takes place across a dramatic (and gorgeously lit) canyon, reminiscent of Sherlock’s Reichenbach Falls. Ethan Hawke’s sympathetic and manipulative reveal of Marc’s involvement in the death of Layla’s father, and May Calaway’s subtle and self-protective emotions shine – setting the stage for a final act confrontation with Marc. Emerging from Steven in an explosion of urgency, Isaac’s mercenary softens into an honest explanation and tragic admission that the entire relationship was built on guilt.
But there isn’t long to linger in this betrayal because the villain has returned, offering our protagonist one final choice, which the faithful hero turns down and
instead defeats all the bad guys in one final showdown! …so Harrow shoots Marc, unwilling to “save anyone who will not save himself”.
Shocking, sudden, and surreal, Marc (and Steven’s) death scene is harrowing (no pun intended), fulfilling all the cliches of a final, emotive death at the end of a film; the diminishing of sound, the slow mo fall, the mournful solo rendition of the theme song accompanying him into water, sinking deeply into an array of golden light which slowly fades into a single ray of moonlight.
EXCEPT this adventure still has 2 episodes left, and this is not the end for our heroes…
The final act kicks off with the supposed moon light morphing into a torch light in a low quality Indiana Jones rip-off, as audiences are transported into a Mental Hospital.
Pulled straight from the Lemire and Smallwood comic run, the trippy setting is saturated in attention-to-detail as the camera floats past patients and nurses played by previous actors and an multitude of easter eggs (rubix cubes, gift shop items, egyptian artworks, cupcakes) – the entire set design reminiscing on previous Moon Knight moments.
“It was all a dream” we wonder, as the camera finally finds Marc, druggingly staring at his opaque reflection – and Steven does not stare back. Oscar Isaac is phenomenal throughout this whole sequence, selling the surreal effects of the moment and cementing a subtle blend of confusion, fear and powerlessness for audiences and his characters, all trapped together in an unreal predicament.
May Calamaway pops up as a fellow patient who steals Marc’s winning bingo card, and Ethan Hawke blurs into view as the institute’s lead doctor, walking a fascinating and unclear border between continuing villain or genuinely helpful psychologist.
Unsure whether Marc is an unpredictable patient or trapped mercenary, we still root for him as he escapes down a tilting hallway and stumbles upon a Sarcophagus harboring a trapped and terrified Steven. Finally standing side by side, these fully formed entities rush into a powerful and relief-filled embrace (relief and adoration flowing from audiences too), as Isaac displays his full prowess in the distinct physical depictions of these dual characters.
The music builds, the hallway narrows and in the final seconds of this incredible, intense and surreal experience, the hospital doors open to reveal… a hippo (specifically Taweret the Goddess of Fertility). The operatic reactions of these three beings (all filmed separately) crescendos with a “hi”, an aggressive fight stance and a fleeing squeal, as we cut to black on a fantastic, disorientating and mind bending cliff hanger.
Episode 4 balances a fine line between cheesy tomb raider cliches and interesting character driven actions which, when paired with an unsettling eleventh hour game changer, works well as an intriguing beginning to this show’s final arc.
Furthering a pattern of internet breaking Episode 4 reveals throughout MCU Disney+ projects, the Moon Knight series blends the weird charm of ‘Loki’, the relatable humor of ‘Hawkeye’, the action prowess of ‘Falcon and the Winter Soldier’ and the reality bending of ‘Wandavision’, to fit elegantly into this weird and chaotic world of Marvel’s Phase Four.
Throwing us right back into an unreliable narrator, ‘The Tomb’ takes full advantage of the ‘it was all a dream’ trope, creating branches of possibilities and theories for the internet to wade through – were the previous adventures imagined by a sedated Marc? Was the hospital a death fueled dream? Is the whole show a metaphorical journey through the afterlife?
Only next week’s episode can tell (and I cannot wait!)
Fav Moment: All our heroes get some great character moments this week – however amidst Steven’s sweet unknowing jokes, Marc’s snark and Layla’s deep self-assured emotions is the most simplistic and well timed word of the show.
Somehow a simple “Hi” delivered by a hippo in the final seconds of this mind flip of an episode had me reeling with unexpected, confused, unsettled and utterly surprised laughter (Maybe I was in shock). It was the perfect way to close off the mania of this week’s adventure…