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Moon Knight: have we finally learned the truth about Steven and Marc?

Luca Fontana
Zurich, on 02.05.2022
Translation: Katherine Martin

The penultimate episode of «Moon Knight» is a real tear-jerker. But what’s the psych ward really all about? I have my own theory.

I wasn’t actually supposed to be doing any more of my episode analyses for Marvel series. It was too much effort per episode. And besides, there weren’t enough interested readers. That was what my bosses said, anyway. And I don’t blame them – our internal stats actually prove them right. Nevertheless, I was disappointed – and so were you.

You readers took to the comments to demand to speak to my boss. And you know what? You made a splash!
You readers took to the comments to demand to speak to my boss. And you know what? You made a splash!

Then [Dominik](/page/dominik-baerlocher-an- obituary-23509) – our colleague, and above all, our friend – left us. He loved my episode reviews. He really did. I just couldn’t help myself. For the fourth episode, I went over my bosses’ heads. For Dominik. And for myself. It was my own way of processing the loss. And it could’ve ended there. But the last episode review performed so well, I think I’ll just keep at it. At least for «Moon Knight». Then we’ll see what happens.

So, in the same vein: this episode analysis contains spoilers!. Only read on if you’ve already watched the fifth episode of «Moon Knight» 🙂


The fifth episode is through – and we’re now only a little bit wiser. Let’s recap. At the end of the fourth episode, Marc Spector aka Steven Grant aka Moon Knight was shot by Arthur Harrow. Or was he? Marc does, after all, wake up in a psych ward. Once there, Dr Harrow – who’s just Arthur in a white coat – breaks it to him that his entire life up until this point has been a figment of his imagination.

Wtf?

So, did we get any answers from the series’ second last episode? Kinda. It gave us two options. One, Dr Harrow is right. Seriously though, what are the chances of Marvel actually sticking to this comparatively anti-climatic narrative? Right? So, we’re left with the other option, which is hmm...well, it’s not actually that easy to explain. Let’s go through it slowly.

Luca’s theory: an imaginary place in his memory

Last week, I explained that series creator and director Mohamed Diab had drawn heavily from the «Moon Knight» comics by Author Jeff Lemire. They had a psych ward, too. It was a mental construct inside Marc’s head, designed to completely destroy his psyche.

If you’re still reading the comics and don’t want to know who’s behind this and why, skip the next paragraph and picture before reading on.


Behind the construct is none other than the moon god Khonschu, who wants to finally escape the Other Void – a place on the other side of our dimension where exiled Egyptian deities live. Khonschu can only achieve this by breaking his avatar’s psyche – in this case, Marc Spector’s. In doing so, he can take over his body.

The psyche ward could’ve come right out of Lemire’s run.
The psyche ward could’ve come right out of Lemire’s run.
Marvel Comics

But how do things play out in the series? Here’s my theory: Marc is Moon Knight. Nothing we’ve seen so far in the series has been an illusion on his part. All of it has happened – including Marc’s death. The same goes for what the hippo goddess Taweret says about the psych ward. It’s a manifestation of Duat, the Egyptian underworld, created by Marc’s mind. At the same time, it’s also a boat which Tawaret uses to escort souls to paradise – to A’aru, The Field of Reeds.

Those who wish to reach it, however, have to pass a test first. Every heart is weighed on the Scales of Justice, which reveal whether you were good or evil in life. Only hearts that are as light as the Feather of Truth can pass the test. Sure, it was obvious that Marc and Steven’s – and perhaps Jake’s hearts would be as light as the feather.

So, there goes the part about a mental construct being used to break Marc’s spirit. The psych ward, Tawaret, the memories – all of it is real. But what’s up with Dr Harrow, who still insists that it’s all in Marc’s head? If you ask me, he is the imaginary one, and his office is the place Marc retreats to whenever his traumatic childhood memories threat to overwhelm him. A sort of imaginary place in his memory. Even my own brain has to do a bit of gymnastics to grasp the notion.

Marc’s trauma differs from the trauma in the comics

Marc and Steven’s – memories are remarkable. They’re downright heart-rending – to an extent I’d never have expected from a Disney+ series. I almost want to cynically say, «Ah, come on, kids are watching this, too». But the creators don’t hold back. We get the full extent of emotional abuse when Marc’s mother blames him for his brother’s death in an accident. Right up until her death.

That’s how Marc’s dissociative identity disorder developed. It created Steven Grant, who was completely unaware of all that suffering. He didn’t even know his brother had existed. Steven’s only function is to be a «stress ball» for Marc. It broke my heart when Steven realised that. Imagine finding out that you’ve never really lived, have never been real and yet, you’re filled with consciously selective memories – just not your memories. Oscar Isaac portrays this so well that I had to hold back tears.

I keep forgetting that Oscar Isaac plays both roles. It’s as if it’s two different people.
I keep forgetting that Oscar Isaac plays both roles. It’s as if it’s two different people.
Image: Marvel Studios

So the series chose to go down a different route than the comics to explain Marc’s mental illness. In the comics, the traumatic experience goes something like this:

a slum in 1930s Chicago. Pacifist rabbi Elias escapes from Nazi Germany. Soon thereafter, his son is born – Marc Spector. Life in the USA was supposed to be better than in their homeland of Czechoslovakia. But even as a child, Marc was forced to watch in disbelief as his father experienced constant discrimination without ever fighting back.

Only one person stands by them: rabbi Yitz Perlman. Supposedly. Turns out the lovable Perlman is actually a brutal Nazi deserter and serial killer, constantly on the hunt for Jews. Perlman captures Marc and tortures him to the brink of madness. And that’s only the beginning.

The torturer who drove Marc Spector insane.
The torturer who drove Marc Spector insane.
Image: Marvel Comics

Marc is able to free himself from the clutches of his tormentor, but his brutal treatment left scars: he develops dissociative identity disorder – a mental illness involving multiple identities alternating within the same person without remembering what the other personalities do or say.

From military to mercenary to superhero

From this point onwards, the series pretty much overlaps with the comic. Marc leaves his family to join the military, but is dishonourably discharged when his mental illness comes to light. This drives him to become a mercenary. An alliance with the sadistic gang leader Raul Bushman is supposed to lead Marc to an archaeological discovery, which is saleable on the black market for several millions of dollars. The only thing is, Bushman doesn’t like to share. He has the archaeologists who were travelling with him shot – and does the same to Marc for getting in his way.

But Marc doesn’t die. Not yet. Seriously injured, he musters the last of his strength and drags himself to the excavated tomb of the moon god Khonshu. There, the deity appears to him and offers him a deal. Since the god himself can’t take physical form on Earth, Marc is to act as his avatar, carrying out Khonshu’s will on earth. Marc agrees. The ancient deity revives Marc’s body and grants him supernatural powers.

Moon Knight is born.

Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god, gives Moon Knight his powers.
Khonshu, the Egyptian moon god, gives Moon Knight his powers.
Image: Marvel Comics

So, now we know Marc’s whole story. The episode ends in this world, with Harrow beginning to put his evil plan into action. And it’s up to Marc to stop him.

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I'm an outdoorsy guy and enjoy sports that push me to the limit – now that’s what I call comfort zone! But I'm also about curling up in an armchair with books about ugly intrigue and sinister kingkillers. Being an avid cinema-goer, I’ve been known to rave about film scores for hours on end. I’ve always wanted to say: «I am Groot.» 


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