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How Moon Knight fails Moon Knight in episode two

Let’s hope it’s just a phase.

Moon Knight isn’t an easy show to define, and that’s very much in keeping with the comics that its based on.

All superheroes shift and change somewhat according to whoever’s at the helm, but what sets Marc Spector apart is that even his very core shifts and changes too, which makes him far more malleable than most of his Marvel buddies.

Depending on who’s writing Moon Knight, the Fist of Khonsu can be a brutal vigilante or a West Coast Avenger. One minute, Marc is a trusted protector of those who walk the night, and the next, he’s fighting off the whole Avengers team at the bid of his master, Khonsu.

That’s not to say Moon Knight is ill-defined as a character. Like Batman, a hero he’s often compared to, Marc Spector simply contains many multitudes which can be phased in or out depending on each individual writer’s aim or ethos.

The trick is to hone in on one particular tone at a time, or run the risk of ending up more confused than Marc himself following one of his many breaks from reality.

Unfortunately, the MCU’s take on Moon Knight lacks that nuance.

In a bid to capture all elements of the character at once, and thereby please everyone (as is the Marvel way), Oscar Isaac’s show quite literally embraces the chaos with characterisation that’s fractured in all the wrong ways.

Yes, we’ve been told more than once that there’s a reason why Steven Grant sounds like the strangled ghost of a Victorian chimneysweep. But that doesn’t mean Moon Knight should shift so bluntly between horror in one moment and slapstick comedy the next.

Marvel has deviated from the comics to great success before, so it’s not like we’re being precious about the source material. But when it comes to these big tonal changes, there should be a better reason to switch things up than mere “Disneyfication”.

Watching these first two episodes, it quickly becomes clear that the House of Mouse is reluctant to dive into more mature content when it comes to Marvel, a brand that has historically appealed to all ages for them.

Nowhere is that more clear than in episode two when Steven finally embraces super heroics with a costume of his own. As he falls out of a window, Steven Grant summons the suit, but it’s not the Moon Knight outfit we first saw used to brutal effect at the end of episode one.

Instead, this is the MCU debut of Mr Knight, a costumed alter ego created by Warren Ellis in his 2014 run.

There, this smart, gentleman figure became the public face of Moon Knight, the one who consulted with the police and reassured people in need of help. This was a more stable Moon Knight, far more composed and civilised than the man who has, on occasion, carved a moon symbol into the faces of fallen criminals.

The comic book version of Mr Knight represents Marc’s attempt to contain the chaos within. And while things don’t always work out as he hoped, this alter ego still plays a key function in each Moon Knight story nonetheless.

Unfortunately, that’s not the case in Moon Knight, the TV show. Just seconds after Steven’s hero pulls off a superhero landing, he then tips to the side and slowly falls. The “comedy” doesn’t stop there either.

Steven gets more and more pumped up during the fight until he starts to roll up his sleeves and bop around on one foot, taunting the invisible jackal with random cockney jibes. Think Phil Mitchell vs the ghost of Pat Butcher, but all dressed in white. With budget.

Characters change and evolve, particularly in the transition from page to screen, but there’s only so far you can go before the original character is no longer recognisable. In less than two episodes, Marvel has gone from Moon Knight to Moon Clown, and the worst part is that this clown isn’t even funny.

What could have been a thrilling debut for Mr Knight instead becomes one of Marvel’s most awkward moments since Iron Man peed in his armour.

It’s been said before, but it bears repeating. Moon Knight could have worked so much better as a Marvel Netflix show that had the freedom to be darker and weirder, much like the source material.

Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in anymore, but even so, Marvel could have leaned a little bit more into these character traits, or at least toned down the more absurd elements of humour that are bizarrely threaded throughout.

Oscar Isaac told Digital Spy that these moments were essential for building a connection with the audience, “so that when stuff goes crazy, he’s terrified, and you feel terrified with him”. And that’s fine, in theory.

But when you go hard on those sillier elements to soften a character, to make him appeal to as wide an audience as possible, you end up with someone whose appeal is more confused than Moon Knight himself.

Moon Knight is now streaming on Disney+, with new episodes every Wednesday.

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