Saturday, July 13, 2024

Moon Knight Fails To Break Marvel’s Finale Curse

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At this point, the flaws tanking Moon Knight’s final episode are familiar to everyone who has watched Marvel’s previous series on Disney Plus. They are the same problems plaguing WandaVision, Falcon and Winter Soldier, and Hawkeye. Loki was the only one to break from these issues, and only because its finale hardly tried to be a finale, which created its own issues for fans. If you are familiar with what went wrong for those shows, you know everything I am going to say.

And that is a real shame.

Marc in the afterlife from Moon Knight

We can run down the checklist right here. Rushed pacing? Check. Big bright light CGI fights dominating the episode? Check. Truncated character arcs? Check. Tack on incomprehensible and contradictory scene-to-scene logic, which seemingly had no issue making up hand-wavey nonsense or ignoring basic human senses every few minutes, and lacked continuity with what was said or shown right beforehand, and Moon Knight’s finale was just not good.

It is especially a shame after last week’s episode gave me hope for something better. The fifth episode’s focused, character-driven plotting was genuinely interesting and created a fascinating scenario for the finale. I looked forward to seeing Marc being tempted by the Field of Reeds and the peace of death, but ultimately resisting in order to tap into his inner hero. There could have been so many interesting scenes and character moments.

This finale even brings one up itself, as it mentions Layla’s father reaching the Field of Reeds. Imagine if a driving motivation for Marc returning from the dead was forgiveness from a man whose death haunts him so much?

But no, Marc just walks out in fifteen seconds, back into the deadly sands no one can escape from, finds Steven, resurrects as Moon Knight, and we head into CGI fight land. From there the episode does not even pretend at any kind of internal logic.

Layla’s scenes, in the beginning, were also silly and ridiculous. She kills someone loudly, ten feet from Harrow, who hears it, reacts to it, and…ignores it for no reason. Later, Layla is hiding among Harrow’s men, and the goddess Taweret is speaking to her through dead bodies, and Layla is speaking back to them very loudly, standing very close to Harrow and the others, and somehow no one notices her.

The way Marc and Layla eventually take the unleashed Ammit down is by casting a spell to bind the god to Harrow’s body. Except earlier in the episode, it is claimed that they would need more avatars than they had in order to cast this spell. Why did they suddenly not need more avatars than two? Especially when we saw so many needed to bind Khonshu to his stone prison in a previous episode?

Speaking of the avatars, how are all of these gods so powerless against Ammit that Harrow takes them out within seconds of approaching them, yet they could bind Khonshu with ease and had no fear of Khonshu whatsoever? That suggests Ammit is laughably more powerful than Khonshu, yet Khonshu fights Ammit on equal ground, which suggests they are comparably powerful. What was Khonshu so worried about with the trial?

Things just happen without any attempt to explain how or why or what changed from before, or they just ignore basic considerations like people standing close by. Or the effects will forget to have a character even pull a trigger while a villain is shooting their gun. It is just unfortunately lazy and rushed through.

Moon Knight’s character arcs suffer immensely for this. All the psychological troubles Marc struggled with all season? Gone. Layla’s sorrow over her father? Only acknowledged in a one-off comment about her father being in the Field of Reeds, which she barely reacts to and that never comes up again. How about her relationship with Marc/Steven? Not even mentioned.

The third personality? Ignored until a post-credits scene. What about Harrow’s history with Khonshu? Meh.

Like most MCU finales, this episode just wanted to be a big, flashy, fight episode and was more concerned with being such than wrapping up its narrative the way it needed to be wrapped up. Plot was thrown out the window and shockingly poor.

Probably the only part of the episode that worked was Layla deciding to be the avatar of Taweret, which gave her a cool Falcon-like costume, some badass fight scenes, and a sweet little moment where she’s asked if she’s an Egyptian superhero by an awestruck admirer. If Marvel wants a new Falcon to replace Sam, can it be Layla? I vote for her.

Layla in costume from Moon Knight

Ultimately, episodes like this can only be so strong as the preceding episodes allow it to be. WandaVision’s big CGI fight finale was disappointing, but still benefited from how excellent the previous episodes were. Falcon and Winter Soldier largely suffered for the way its big battle tossed aside its moral and ethical considerations so it could position John Walker as a hero and the Flag Smashers as irredeemable villains for a big fight. Hawkeye’s big fight finale was generally in line with the rest of the show, for better and worse, but still cared to deliver character moments like Echo confronting Fisk.

Moon Knight brushed right past its characters and plot and seemed to not care about either here. They rushed through both in service of spectacle.

It is no secret that I simply did not like Moon Knight, and so the flashy fight finale was simply not going to succeed for me. The work was not put in to invest me in previous episodes and let me overlook everything wrong with this episode, or invest me in its outcome. I cannot say its flaws were so much worse than those same flaws in other MCU finales, but because the show was so much weaker, those flaws stood out even more.

Basically, the only reason I would ever suggest anyone watch Moon Knight is for Oscar Isaac. Without him, this show would have been irredeemably terrible. He is the only thing about it that worked. I am glad that his performance was so good that people have mostly ignored everything else, but frankly, he deserved better.

I understand that Marvel wants to deliver a certain brand of entertainment and it always will. I am a Marvel fan. I have absolutely zero problem with huge spectacle and CGI fights. The thing is, the spectacle still has to serve the characters and plot. Infinity War and Endgame are densely packed with nonsensical spectacle, but those movies also do so much to deliver on a decade of movies developing the characters and plot. They had done all the hard work already.

Right now, Marvel keeps making the same mistake with each show, where they hamfist a certain kind of content into every show. It all feels so formulaic and uninspired. These are copy-paste finale episodes that generally do not consider whatever unique, interesting thing that each show tried before the finale.

With five episodes now in the bank for Marvel on Disney Plus, the venture feels much like the early MCU movies did, where the potential is there but the quality has not caught up. There has yet to be a series that feels just right. They are too short, too long, too rushed, too dragged out. Marvel has no real sense of how to end these projects properly.

It’s stunning that Marvel Studios, who proved how good they are at getting these things right, is consistently getting these things wrong now. I hope they can figure themselves out moving forward.

At least I have Multiverse of Madness this week.

Images Courtesy of Marvel Studios

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