By: Rory Miner
While others spent their 2020 baking bread, throwing Zoom birthday parties, or learning to crochet, my quarantine featured a special mission of watching all twenty-something movies from the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). I am so glad to have caught up, as six new MCU shows have been released on Disney+ since then, the most recent one being Moon Knight. Fans have been counting down the days until this show’s release, and luckily it has far from disappointed.
Moon Knight has been a highly anticipated show for its introduction of a new character to the digital world. The other five related Disney+ shows (WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki Hawkeye, What If) have expanded upon storylines and characters already foundational to the MCU digital universe. While these are not the only Marvel shows to exist, as fan-favorites like Daredevil and Jessica Jones are not to be forgotten, this latest batch of episodic features tie in more closely to the MCU movies— the real attraction for most Marvel fans.
This brings me back to why we care about Moon Knight in particular. Instead of building on what happened to the more minor characters of the movies by finally giving them their own spotlight in the form of limited series, Moon Knight launches a personality (or two), completely unfamiliar to anyone who has not read the comics.
This freedom of a clean slate is refreshing in the world of comic book adaptations, and showrunner Jeremy Slater is grateful for the opportunity to make the character their own. There are to be just five more episodes after the first one premiered last Wednesday.
I am not the only one who cares about this new release; reviews of the first episode came in no time, and the show’s Rotten Tomatoes’ score in fact skyrocketed past those of the other recent MCU shows.
The trailer further played a role in the antici…pation of the new show. Marvel fans have been known to be harsh critics when it comes to news about upcoming releases (the most recent Spiderman poster apparently really missed its mark), so the tough crowd approving a trailer was already a promising sign. The sneak peek was intriguing to say the least, and successfully piqued the curiosity of viewers regardless of their familiarity with the hero.
Moon Knight’s protagonist’s biggest weakness is his lack of any idea what is going on. This mystery, however, is also the show’s biggest strength. Steven Grant has no clue what is happening to him— and neither do we, for that matter. This harmony is what drives the first episode to be so successful. As I watched it from my couch with my good friend and Marvel jedi, bento boxes on our coffee table, we bounced ideas off each other alongside Steven. We brainstormed whether his situation is that of Jekyll and Hyde, the Green Goblin, or a schizophrenic, prompted by Grant’s own musings as the third member of our conversation, his participation lacking only in tempura consumption.
Fear not, I will share no further details of the back-and-forth theories that only grew wilder as the episode progressed and fed our imagination. Beyond the sin of spoilers, fellow fans know such speculation is one of the best parts of viewing each and every new addition to the MCU, and Moon Knight is certainly no exception.
In fact, this charm rings especially true for recent shows like Moon Knight. Thanks to the weekly episodic release format, they provide ample time to hypothesize to our heart’s desire, or even place bets on whose guesses will come true. In Moon Knight’s case, it is not just wondering where the story will go– it is wondering where the story is now. With so many questions introduced just in the first episode— and left unanswered—there are countless potential explanations for what is happening to Grant. On top of solving that mystery lies further excitement for where the plot will take him next. Such suspense is only marginally satisfied after the initial release when the full story is yet to come, taking months to draw out, agonizingly long compared to the explosive climax of a movie release.
Furthermore, with such a smaller pool to work with, and hours more of footage to dissect, I have found that the MCU shows are more hotly debated, and ranked more eminently, than the movies. Look at the ratings for Moon Knight after just one episode: it is already being praised, questioned, and critiqued, when we have only seen a fraction of the full storyline. This reaction epitomizes the strong attitudes prompted by any of the variety of Marvel shows which only strengthen as more episodes are released.
While I am a die-hard Wanda gal, with a Halloween costume to prove it, even I admit that Loki is invaluable by universe standards for how many doors it opened to future projects over the course of its six episodes. Notably, Loki’s announcement after the season finale, presumed to be a series finale, that the show would return was a game changer for MCU shows. However Moon Knight is already a game changer in its own right, evident in its fresh perspective, immediate fan base, and enigmatic introduction. And that is after just one episode. With such a strong start, it may be Marvel shows’ biggest success yet, with seasons more to come.
Or perhaps Moon Knight is better-suited to a limited series format, falling in line with the majority of the other Marvel shows. While most of the shows like The Falcon and the Winter Soldier wrapped up neatly enough to satisfy audiences with just one season, others like Loki left them wanting more.
It remains to be seen where Moon Knight’s fate lies. Clearly, it only took one episode to successfully join the ranks of previous MCU shows, those based on further developing storylines from Marvel movies. Does this mean fans should get used to seeing more of Steven Grant, outside of Disney+? Shared plotlines between the Marvel shows and movies have established that the two are interwoven. If this show is merely his introduction, can we dare to hope for his future on the big screen?
Based on viewing numbers, I would not be surprised if we have not seen the last of Moon Knight, limited series be damned. But Marvel fans know that the future of any media depends more so on the events within the universe itself and what suits the characters best, with us merely the Watchers. And Grant’s puzzling first episode makes this case even more unpredictable. Stay tuned to see in which show’s footsteps Moon Knight follows suit. After such a triumphant launch, I for one am hooked. In the meantime, there is plenty to enjoy with this first season, and more than enough mystery as is.