Warning: The following contains spoilers for Moon Knight through episode 5, Asylum, as well as all of the MCU. Also as a warning we will be talking about the concept of childhood abuse as it relates to Dissociative Identity Disorder and how the origin of Marc’s DID was shown in the episode. Read at your own risk.
Y’all it’s not even my birthday.
GOD I loved this episode. It had mental health issues and trauma dealt with via external psychological metaphors and finally gave us a fully acknowledged and realized Jewish hero in the MCU and used his Judaism to inform the character and frankly all we’re missing is somebody who’s snarky and someone suffering from their inability to admit their love for another like a British character told through an Eddie Izzard routine and you could inject it right into my veins, frankly. I’m aware of my fic kinks and deeply appreciate this level of being directly catered to, thank you.
It was a good ep. It was such a good ep. I’m glad we had Mohamed Diab at the helm for this because much in the same way that The Friendly Type benefited from making Cairo and Layla’s life feel real and lived in down to the small details, this episode also needed that for Marc’s home life and religion. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great that Steven’s apartment has a mezuzah on the doorway and that Steven and Marc wear a Star of David necklace. But that’s the “Please God give us better Jewish representation than what you did with Wanda and the cross necklace in her bedroom in Civil War” level. Moon Knight episode five gave us a feast of Marc’s religion being a part of his life and informing how he reacted to things and actually had a moment of him expressing himself directly through religious symbols and IT WAS SO GOOD Y’ALL.
So what I want to do this week is talk about the two big things that Moon Knight had to do with Asylum, which is the handling of Dissociative Identity Disorder and then a bit on the handling of Marc’s Judaism. Then we’ll touch on some of the FX stuff because it relates to our conversation last week and then my thoughts on speculation about the possible third personality and whether we saw said personality last night. That bit, though speculation on my part, could be considered spoilery for some so I’ll give it its own section and make it so you can skip past it down to Lagniappe when it comes. I’ll tell you so you don’t have to worry.
Full caveat though: When it comes to talking about Dissociative Identity Disorder I am the guy on the bus in Shang-Chi and not a medical expert. I’ve got a bit of a background in abnormal psychology but this puts me at “somewhat informed amateur” at best. Likewise where the Jewish things are concerned though I grew up in New York City and thus am more familiar with Jewish beliefs and customs than the average bear (A Gentile Ben, if you will), I am not Jewish. So I reached out to some friends of mine who are to help make sure I wasn’t going too far afield in my interpretations. Any mistakes on that end are wholly my fault and not theirs.
Sound good? Let’s go.
Moon Knight and Dissociative Identity Disorder
Watching the show last night I had so many moments of clapping my hands with glee because you could tell they did their homework on Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and they did it well.
Credit to Dr. Paul R Puri as their mental health consultant and to the work Oscar Isaac put in to research DID because you could tell how much it informed his acting decisions. When Marc goes very still and quiet and tries to tell Steven it’s just a street he feels authentically like someone who is trying to skirt around acknowledging trauma to others and to himself.
I want to talk about how DID works because it connects to how well they showed it last night. Again, guy on the bus in Shang-Chi here but at least I can gesture at the things that are noteworthy.
First up the thing to know about DID is that, like any other piece of medical advice, do not listen to teenagers on TikTok about it. I could get into a whole thing about that but that’s not the point of this article so we’re moving on.
In the real world dissociative is a key component of the disorder. This is part of why it was renamed from Multiple Personality Disorder back in 1994. Basically it became understood that the mind trying to remove itself from trauma was the key component and not the development of personalities in and of itself. In other words, it’s reflecting an improved understanding of cause and effect. The mind is given a reason to disassociate, the development of one or more separate personalities is one way the mind could do that.
Everybody has a moment of disassociation at some point in their lives. Let’s say you’re in a car and get into a sudden fender bender. You’re not physically hurt but you may have a moment of sitting there stunned and unable to process what happened. You’re in shock. That’s a type of disassociation.
Now imagine every day of your life, multiple times a day, you get into fender benders. You’re now going into shock so often your brain might say okay, this is something we need to deal with, let’s just set up a disconnect system so that the next time it happens we can flip a switch to protect ourselves instead of having to scramble to batten down the hatches.
People who live through repeated trauma, such as those who experience abuse or who live in war zones, tend to develop methods to try to survive the mental toll of that trauma. If it goes on long enough the methods get more intense. Somebody who was in a house fire might develop post traumatic stress disorder based on that moment. Somebody who lived in a war zone for years might develop complex post traumatic stress disorder.
(Side note: I’m linking to multiple sources to give a breadth of references here. Do note that the specific symptoms for diagnosis may differ from country to country.)
So dissociative disorders as a concept develop as one method of dealing with severe and/or repeated trauma. The brain can’t handle the intensity so it finds some way of detaching from the experience. This can include forms of amnesia, feelings of depersonalization, and/or the formation of new identities.
DID tends to happen with kids who are traumatized more than it does adults. The prevailing belief here is that it’s because children’s brains and sense of self aren’t fully developed in the first place, thus making it more likely for their minds to invent new selves to handle situations. It could happen in an adult but it’s much less likely.
A key component of this is trauma. Not only that, but repeated and severe trauma. This isn’t a whim, this isn’t kids playing pretend. It’s a child with so much horror going on in their lives that their brain has to separate things out in order to survive it.
If the option that the brain goes with is the development of other personalities, generally what happens is that the personalities have a point. They aren’t created at random but rather because the mind feels a need for that personality in particular. As you might imagine - and as Moon Knight showed - one method is that there’s a personality who lives through the trauma (Marc) and another who is unaware of it (Steven).
Among the many things I loved about the depiction of Marc and Steven’s lives was that they were spot on in terms of the types of amnesia Steven, as the second personality unaware of Marc’s existence, would deal with. Based on what we learned last night, Marc was aware of Steven from the start even if he didn’t have full control over when Steven took over the body. Steven on the other hand was unaware of everything.
This was shown pitch perfectly in how much Asylum established Steven’s understanding of his life. Steven being unaware he had a little brother, Steven not even noticing the evidence of Randall still in the house (like the fish drawing in his room, assuming that was real), Steven never noticing that his parents don’t have British accents, and on and on and on is exactly how this works. Steven exists to not engage with things in reality which are upsetting. As such part of his trauma response is he’s a bit like a Westworld character when things that challenge his worldview come up.
The fact that the show so expertly nailed the complex way an alter perceives their world told me they didn’t just hire the mental health consultant but they listened to him. And this goes beyond Steven.
One of the many beautiful things they did with how they chose to show Marc and Steven’s DID is how they decided to use the development of it to inform the characters. I’m not going to get into how this is handled in the comics because, as I’ve mentioned before, the comics have gone through a few iterations of why Moon Knight has multiple personalities rattling around in his head (including it not being DID, hence me saying “multiple personalities”). So credit here goes to the show and the writers, actors, directors, and so on who came up with this story.
Specifically, it tells us a lot about Marc’s character - both Marc as a fictional character but also his character as a person - that when the time came for the split he took the abuse and Steven got the nice life. Think about it: if you’re the original person and you’re dealing with trauma your mind can’t handle, wouldn’t you be inclined to shove that trauma somewhere else? I’d happily put mine in a box on a shelf, I don’t know about you.
Marc had the option of making Steven the abuse victim and he didn’t take it. Marc kept the abuse for himself which directly ties to how his entire character arc from that moment onward was that he is filled with self-hatred. When, as an adult, Marc says to Steven that Konshu gave him the ability to live as what he was, a killer, we now know that he’s not just talking about his life as a mercenary. He’s talking about when he was child and believed he killed his brother.
This also then ties to Konshu’s manipulation of Marc, which Steven rightly pegged when he saw it happening. Konshu’s pitch that Marc could live and punish evildoers while saving the travelers in the night spoke directly to the survivor’s guilt Marc has been dealing with his entire life. Konshu’s telling him that Marc can do the one thing he’s good at, killing people (like his brother), while saving those who needed it (again, like his brother). No wonder Marc accepted the pitch even as he was suicidal.
We also learn a lot when we take what we know now and use it to look back on what previous episodes have told us. Marc told Steven back in episode two that as soon as Marc handled his responsibilities with Konshu Steven could have the body. Now possibly Marc was hoping that he could vanish somewhere or at the very least he was saying he’d let Steven have full control and Marc would never take over again. But either literally or symbolically Marc was willing to end his life and let Steven go on without him. Marc is filled with immense self loathing and that’s informed everything he’s ever done since Randell died.
(Doesn’t give Marc an excuse for being kind of a dick from time to time but at least it tells us why he’s a dick from time to time. Explanation, not excuse.)
Now we take all of this and it would’ve been an amazing episode which handled DID incredibly well. But on top of all of that they took the dynamic of Marc and Steven and translated it into all of their interactions. This was pure crack for me because GAH! Psychological symbolism in external actions! LOVE. IT.
See here’s the thing: when Marc and Steven are going through the hospital and Steven is trying to figure out what went on in their past, watch Marc. Watch Marc carefully. And full credit to Oscar here because this required some subtle acting and he nailed it. Also the writing and the directing and all that, because this is a delicate piece of work but they did it perfectly and consistently: Marc always tries to keep Steven away from their trauma.
Watch the episode again. Watch closely. Listen to all the words being said and notice the exact second Marc steps in to interrupt Steven or even physically yank him away from something. Steven thinks this is Marc being cagey and hiding secrets as a concept. It’s not. It’s Marc doing his job as an alter. Marc takes the trauma. More specifically, Marc keeps the trauma away from Steven. If Steven connects with the trauma Marc’s failing at his responsibilities.
Hence Marc obsessively and frantically does whatever he can to keep Steven away from the memories that Steven’s not supposed to have. And if you want a clear comparison to help you start to notice the nuance, notice the difference between when Steven sees the memory of when Layla’s father died and Konshu stepped in compared to anything about their childhood. The night with Konshu is not a proud moment for Marc. His inability to save Layla’s father or anyone else kicked him right in his survivor’s guilt, he was actively suicidal, and he agreed to be Konshu’s champion as a way to punish himself. He also knows that Steven doesn’t approve of his life as a mercenary, particularly since Steven’s been ragging on him about it the whole time they’ve skipped down memory lane.
Therefore on paper Marc has every reason to keep this from Steven but he doesn’t care. Why? Because this isn’t their trauma. This is just confirmation that Marc’s a horrible person, which Marc has no problem with people knowing. When Steven asks what’s going on Marc has no hesitation about telling him or even pointing the way to the next thing to look at. Steven can read this whole thing like a book, Marc’s fine with it.
But Steven gets anywhere near their life in Chicago? Specifically anywhere near the memories of Randall’s death and the subsequent abuse? Marc freaks the fuck out and cannot get Steven out of there fast enough. And just in case people were still missing it, Marc finally tells Steven straight out: “You’re not meant to see that, that’s the whole point of you.”
It’s consistent, it’s specific, it’s never miss. The show could’ve kept it to the flashbacks and left it there, they could’ve had Marc do a monologue and left it there. They didn’t. They baked it in to every single scene on every layer of the metaphors being used in Asylum and did it perfectly. Love it. Chef’s kiss.
Moon Knight and Judaism
Given that a cause for Dissociative Identity Disorder is repeated traumatic abuse in childhood, I did not envy the task Moon Knight had in both accurately portraying DID and being responsible for finally giving the MCU a fully realized Jewish superhero. I mean you combine the two and it’s almost impossible not to have this come off as “Congratulations, we’re showing you Jewish parents! They’re monstrous human beings who should never have had a child! Oops!”
So to that end I will first up say that I thought the show did a great job of making it clear that Wendy’s issues had nothing to do with her religion and everything to do with her own trauma about Randall’s death. It also helped that Elias was shown trying to make the best of a bad situation. On top of that I think it helped that in scenes like the shiva for Randall when Wendy starts yelling at Marc you can see the others reacting like this isn’t cool. There’s horrific abuse happening, it’s happening because Wendy has her own mental health problems, there’s nothing drawing a line from that to the fact that Wendy also happens to be Jewish.
Then we get to the actual depiction of Marc’s religion and - it’s there! It’s real! It’s actually used to inform the story of Marc’s life! Gosh, imagine if certain other characters in the MCU had been shown going through significant life events with people keeping in mind how their religion might have informed things like their grief over losing loved ones!
Rabbi Sarah Bassin was Moon Knight’s Judaism consultant and, much like with Dr. Puri, the handling of Judaism in the show makes me think not only did they hire her but they listened to her. They could’ve kept it to the references to the mezuzah and the Star of David. They could’ve kept it to just showing the family sitting shiva. But they took it to the next level and had it inform and affect Marc’s display of his grief and just - y’all. Not just a Jewish superhero but symbolism you can dig into and interpret based on that Judaism. I just - gah. And I’m not even Jewish! I can’t imagine how much this meant to all the Jewish fans out there who have been dying for a shred of representation anywhere in the superhero genre, let alone in the MCU.
The particular moment which stands out as that next level baked in understanding in the same way Marc’s obsession with keeping Steven away from the trauma was for the DID, was the moment of Marc on the street when Wendy died. Again, we could’ve just seen Marc upset and walking away drunk and handing the body over to Steven. But instead this moment connected to everything in Marc’s life particularly through the lens of his religion, so let’s walk through it.
In the scene Marc is upset. Even though Elias tries to wave him in, Marc refuses to go sit shiva for his mother. He stumbles away drunk, yanks the yarmulke off his head, falls to the ground and hits it, then realizes what he’s doing and picks it up and cradles it apologetically.
Okay, he’s upset about his mom. We knew that. How’s this giving us new information?
Let’s go back.
When did the first instance of the abuse happen? At the shiva for Randall. Marc tried to join but Wendy wouldn’t let him, saying he had nerve to even make the attempt because he killed his brother. Now as a (I assume, given that the next thing we see is his tenth birthday) nine year old Marc wouldn’t have been required to sit shiva but he wouldn’t have been forbidden to do it either. The expectation of being there would’ve happened after Marc turned 13 and had his bar mitzvah.
But the purpose of shiva is to be there as a family and, among other things (and like other funeral rituals in other religions), offers a method to help people cope with the loss of a loved one. Bear in mind as well that it is custom for Jewish funerals to happen within a day of the person dying, so all this is happening immediately after Randall’s death. Marc hasn’t had a chance to catch his breath or process any of this. None of them have. That’s part of what the shiva is for and Wendy is telling Marc he can’t be part of it because, in her eyes, he murdered Randall.
Now pull that line back to Wendy’s death. What’s the moment we see Marc? When he’s debating going in to Wendy’s shiva. It cannot be a coincidence that they picked the same exact moment that started the abuse as the moment we see Marc now. Not when he gets the call from Elias, not when he’s debating going to Chicago, but when he’s out on the street debating taking that step towards the shiva same as when he was a little child on the threshhold of joining the shiva for Randall.
They don’t tell us what particular branch of Judaism the Spectors belong to, but we can make some educated guesses based on how Wendy doesn’t appear to be wearing a wig (or, if Fernanda Andrade is, it’s not done to indicate Wendy is wearing a wig) nor does she keep her hair covered. Likewise neither Elias nor Marc wear their yarmulkes all the time, which suggests that they only do so when the occasion calls for it.
Marc wearing a yarmulke out on the street, then, is a symbolic representation of him putting himself in the position of being the good son who sits shiva for his mother. He wants to be this. But unfortunately he can’t. He’s too filled with self-loathing to believe himself to be good and, naturally, he has too much anger towards Wendy for being his abuser. So he walks away, yanks off the yarmulke - the visible symbol of him being the good son who sits shiva - and starts hitting it because that’s what it means to him. He can’t take that step, he can’t even pretend to be the good son (sadly ironically, that’s Steven’s job).
Marc even says as he’s walking away “Not going to do it, not giving you that satisfaction.” The “you” here presumably being Wendy. The abuse started when she kept him away from Randall’s shiva. Therefore he’s not going to give her the satisfaction of pretending nothing happened (again, ironically) by sitting for hers.
As for picking the yarmulke up and apologizing, it’s possible that Marc is one of the people who believes that if a yarmulke touches the ground you need to make a gesture of apology to it as a holy object. Typically this is done as a kiss, as when a holy book falls to the floor. However this is not a widely accepted practice and Marc didn’t kiss it anyway. If I had to guess, it was in part to show that though Marc’s taking his anger out on the symbol of the expectation for him to be the good Jewish son who sits shiva for his mother, he recognizes that his Jewish beliefs - which the yarmulke is also a symbol of - aren’t the problem here.
So you can see how, like with the DID, there’s a lot going on here. They didn’t just leave it at “Marc and his family are Jewish.” They pulled it into his life, his emotions, his reactions, and more.
An interesting note which was brought up by one of my friends (much thanks, MamaDeb!) is that if the show wanted a clear cut symbol of an item of clothing which represents Marc’s need to be the good Jewish son sitting shiva, they could’ve used a ribbon which some Jewish people wear instead of rending their garments.
During the shiva for Wendy we do see that Elias is wearing a black ribbon on his right side (you have to look closely, since this show is lit by a flashlight whose battery ran out in 2007). If Marc had worn one he would’ve worn it on his left side because the person who had died was his parent. Thus the ribbon would’ve been a much clearer symbol of Marc’s complicated feelings about sitting shiva for Wendy.
What I suspect, given that the costume department and the representation of Judaism have both been so on point with this show, is that they figured out if Marc was wearing a ribbon on his left side it would’ve raised too big of a question about why Steven didn’t figure out what was going on particularly because this was the exact moment Steven started to lose his ability to ignore the things he’s not meant to see.
If Steven took over the body and saw the ribbon on his left he would’ve immediately twigged to a parent having died. At the very least he would’ve suspected it and needed to reassure himself that it wasn’t true. Holding a yarmulke in his hand, however, is a more neutral happenstance. He’d know something religious was going on but not what.
So my guess is they deliberately left the ribbon off Marc for just that reason. I could be wrong. Again, not Jewish, any mistakes here are mine.
Now let’s hit up some of the general stuff.
Moon Knight and Production Quality
I hope you realize last night I thought of you all as I was watching. In particular I wondered how many of you remembered last week’s article and thus watched the episode with an eye for how they handled Marc and Steven being on the screen at the same time.
They kept the line of demarcation (no pun intended) between the two, particularly in the hallway scenes with Taweret. It was a tiny bit painful because more often than not the line was literally the center of the shot, with a door and light fixtures or corner helping you see exactly where the spot was that Oscar didn’t let any part of his body cross.
But they did do some clever things. In particular I was amused that this week they did the reverse of last week by having Steven be the one to walk in front and move from side to side while Marc walked a straight line down the hallway. Also they did get a little clever with that center line by trying to trick the viewer’s mind into not noticing it in the closeups. For example this shot of Steven where the lights are at an angle instead of straight down the hall.
Also I do have to give a shout out to how the FX team threw in an extra degree of difficulty by having a curved mirror in the corner of the hallway ceiling which they had to make sure to put the reflection of the back of Taweret every single time. They could’ve just, yanno, not had the mirror there. So I tip my hat even as I winkingly call them show offs.
Another thing I want to touch on is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, which is people not giving credit where due. I try to avoid people’s reactions to shows before I do my analysis because I don’t want to be influenced by other people’s opinions or not talk about something because I see somebody else already covered it. But I did peek at the Moon Knight tag on Twitter after the episode aired just to see how people were reacting to the Jewish representation and, in that tag, I saw people praising Kevin Feige for the quality of the show. And just... no?
Look, Kevin’s a great guy. A lack of a Kevin Feige type person is why the DCEU is struggling to find itself while the MCU is soaring, no question. But when it comes to saying who gets credit for episode five of Moon Knight being amazing, Kevin is way down on the list.
Kevin didn’t hire the Jewish and mental health consultants. Kevin didn’t direct the episodes. Kevin didn’t write the scripts, or come up with the off the cuff ideas that were suggested by the actors. Kevin didn’t do the concept art for the costumes and he definitely didn’t put the actual costumes together.
There are people who work on shows and movies who do the grunt work, day in and day out, to put the final product in front of you and dear God it frustrates me to no end when these people are rendered invisible at all, let alone in the name of an executive whose responsibility is at a ten thousand foot level.
This is no shade on Kevin. I love Kevin too! But I love Kevin for what he does which is be the guy at the top who makes sure the ship is going in the right direction, so to speak. And what he also does is make sure the right people get hired so that he can get out of their way and let them do what they do well. Kevin Feige said hire Ryan Coogler to produce Black Panther. Ryan Coogler then hired everyone else and kept on top of it to make sure Black Panther was a good film. See the difference?
And it especially bugs me when I see the level of work and detail being done on a show like Moon Knight being glossed over. Case in point, if you look at Marc’s tenth birthday party there’s a half empty decanter of liquor on the drinks cart behind him. Somebody in props and set dressing figured out hey, let’s get a drinks cart. Let’s get a drinks cart which looks appropriate for the location, time, and economic level of the Spector household. Then let’s put a decanter on it and have it be half empty to be a subtle reminder that Wendy is an alcoholic.
And then somebody also said let’s have Wendy hold that same decanter when she shows up drunk at Marc’s twelfth birthday party.
These are people who aren’t getting paid Robert Downey Jr type money to work in the MCU. These are people who barely get credit in the MCU because I’m here rooting for them and even I don’t feel confident enough to point to a single name in the credits out of all the production, set design, and art direction people and go “This person, this person specifically said make the decanter be half empty.”
If I do one thing with this site and the Pop Culture articles I hope that it’s to help give people a greater appreciation for just how much freaking work goes into making your favorite movies and TV shows. Even better, hopefully I can provide the tools to help people figure out on their own hey, that was the writer! That was the costume designer! The coolness of that moment happened because the editor did this, and the props did this other thing!
Speculation - Skip to Lagniappe if You’re Cautious About Spoilers
Again I have no spoilers to give but erring on the side of caution.
One theory I saw in my dip into the Twitter discourse was that the third personality showed up last night in the first scene of Marc and Harrow at the hospital. Specifically the moment when Oscar stands up, grabs the glass pyramid off the desk, makes some snarky comments, and starts a fight so he can try to escape.
For me, while I can see where people are coming from, I don’t think that’s what happened. I could be wrong, but let me explain my thought process.
On the side of saying I agree that people with this theory might have a point, I agree that Oscar’s acting a little bit differently in that specific moment than he does elsewhere as Marc. He’s talking a little differently, he’s holding himself a little differently. If the end of episode six comes around and they confirm that this was the third personality, I’ll go sure, that works.
But here’s why I don’t think it is.
First up, and this is no shade on Oscar who did a fucking amazing job last night. Seriously, like I said there was a lot of subtle work going on, particularly with Marc’s trauma, and he nailed it. No question.
But one of the things Oscar is good at but not great at is getting the level of detail to truly show he’s inhabiting Marc and Steven as fully different people. And because of that my first issue is that I don’t have faith that if Oscar’s slightly off in how he’s doing Marc it’s because he wants to be slightly off in how he’s doing Marc vs sometimes he just can’t fully get into doing Marc properly. See also last week’s ep when Marc and Steven had the exact same facial expression.
Let’s show some contrast so you see where I’m coming from.
First up we of course have the goddess Tatiana Maslany. Last week we showed her playing three characters as themselves. Now watch her playing these characters as the other characters. Notice how Cosima as Allison still has a bit of Cosima’s stoner rasp in her voice. Notice how all versions of Sarah as other clones still show glimpses of Sarah’s flinty survival instinct, particularly in a moment of strong emotion. Look at the two videos and notice the difference in how Tatiana embodies Cosima’s expressive gestures and body language as Cosima versus the slightly stiffer and more “Oh yeah I should be doing this” way she does it when she’s Sarah pretending to be Cosima.
For another contrast, let’s try James McAvoy in Split. Now Split is a god awful movie in terms of DID representation but you cannot say that James McAvoy didn’t put his all into playing those personalities. The video I linked to is long but you can stick with the first clip where, again, not only is James representing a personality but he’s representing a personality pretending to be another personality and then the actual personality.
With both James and Tatiana you can watch their performances and, because of the consistent level of quality, have 100% confidence that if they’re making a not the norm gesture, or the voice is a little off, it’s a purposeful acting choice to let you know that they are not who they are claiming to be.
With Oscar, we can’t do that. Again, he’s good. He’s very good in specific channels, such as Marc being Marc going through trauma. And he does have a lot going for him in differentiating Marc from Steven, no question. But if you watch him closely you’ll notice there’s a lot of bleed through between the two of them and it’s not consistently done enough that you can say oh well of course Marc’s taking on more of Steven’s mannerisms because that symbolizes the walls thinning between them or whatever.
As far as accent differences, Marc and Steven both have their accents all over the place in this episode. And credit where due I do think this was a deliberate acting choice. Marc’s Chicago comes through stronger when he’s upset and Steven gets super British (”You having a laugh?”) when he’s confronting Harrow as a doctor.
But, again as a concept I don’t think Oscar’s overall accent work is strong enough that on its own the one scene with Harrow is conclusive proof. Like look, yes it makes perfect sense that Steven’s accent isn’t good because Steven’s not actually British. But is the “not a bug it’s a feature” a deliberate choice or was it whelp Oscar’s not getting all the way there so we’ll make it a feature?
Could be either! I know Oscar himself made fun of the accent before the show even aired so he’s aware it’s not great. But deliberately not great? Unknown, so therefore hard to conclude at this time.
Finally we have what I think is the biggest piece of evidence which is that Mohamed Diab directed this episode. Mohamed since episode one has been impeccable in his use of narrative POV. If the third personality showed up in the office that means we switched POV. Mohamed has never once slipped POV choice by accident, and I have a hard time believing the first time he’d screw up is during the episode where the entire story hinges on what Marc and Steven are aware of.
Moreover we’ve had what looks like a consistent through line in the handling of the third personality, if one exists. Every time we get a reference to what could possibly be a third it’s when we don’t see things. Neither Marc nor Steven knew who killed those men in episode two. We in the audience can guess that Marc probably wasn’t the one who invited the woman at the museum out on a date. We see a second sarcophagus with someone knocking on it but Marc doesn’t open it.
Why would the show, and Mohamed Diab in particular, abruptly change the handling of the third personality to put them right in our face without any build up? Narratively it doesn’t make sense. Put it this way: we’re seeing a mystery. You’re not going to drop clues and subtle hints for four episodes and then have the killer shove their face into the camera going “Hi! Killer here!”
Well I mean you could but it would be weird.
Now the caveat here is if they were secretly showing the third personality all this time. I know there are those who believe they saw glimpses of one in scenes where Oscar’s face didn’t 100% look like Marc or Steven. But if that’s the case - and maybe it is! - put me down as that’s just further evidence that Oscar’s not strong enough to handle that acting challenge.
I don’t mind subtle! I live for subtle! I still gush over a scene in Orphan Black where Tatiana gave away that she was a clone playing another clone by the way she hit a single syllable in a word. But as a rule the quality of Moon Knight the series has been in how you can find consistent through lines in almost everything they’ve done. You know Z works in episode five because you can trace it back to X from episode one. As fuzzy as Oscar gets between Steven and Marc at times, you can still draw some fairly consistent lines on which is which. If there was a third personality peeking out, that wasn’t done consistently enough and risks being a weak point of the series.
But I could be wrong! We’ll see what next week brings!
Oh - and normally I would toss this in Lagniappe but since it’s semi-spoilery speculation I’ll add that I did notice it was strange that Harrow wiped his face with a cloth before bringing a glass of water over to Marc. Then, later, Harrow wipes his face with that same cloth after Steven accidentally throws water at him. Now this could just have been a random acting choice on Ethan’s part but it did stand out to me that if the episode is hinting at personality three moving around the same as Marc and Steven, we may have come in at the tail end of a moment where that personality just threw water at Harrow before Marc showed up.
Who knows? We’ll find out.
As always, things that don’t fit anywhere else
- Should probably go without saying but just in case: Harrow was a bad doctor. This is not how therapy works. I’m sure they were doing that on purpose because Harrow isn’t supposed to be a good therapist, but I just thought I’d reassure anybody who might be considering therapy and thinking this was a representation of what it’s like. It’s not.
- This week also had a shot of the camera flipping upside down. I’d like to point out, though, that unlike in episodes two and four when the upside down shots served no purpose, in this episode they indicated the turning of reality as Marc and Steven left the representation of Chicago to go back to the boat.
- I’m curious about how many details of what we saw were real. For instance, the Spector home was clearly representing impossible space with the way Steven kept running upstairs yet arriving at the main floor over and over again. But what about the picture of a fish with one fin that Randall drew? That obviously ties to the one fined fish that Steven had in episode one. Was the picture a visual metaphor for something or did Steven adopt a one finned fish because he remembered the drawing on his wall even if he didn’t remember who made it?
- Another great through line on symbolism and character was how Steven had no problem changing the course of the ship in order to save Marc’s life but, when Steven fell overboard, Marc acted helpless to do anything on his own and could only beg Taweret to do something. It’s not exactly a subtle metaphor but it’s spot on and ties to everything we saw in the episode about how Marc feels helpless to control his own life and like he can only change direction when a god intervenes.
- I did love the cliffhanger and am curious to see how they handle what’s going on with Steven. But there’s no way Marc is going to be okay with being in the field of reeds. He doesn’t think he deserves paradise. He doesn’t think he deserves to live.
- I’m also curious to see how the symbolism will shake out of how the scales balanced once Steven was a statue, because Steven’s heart was still on the scale. Like is this going to indicate that Steven’s body is gone but he and Marc are more mentally connected than ever? Something else? We’ll see.
- Another detail I loved is that Steven and Marc were treated equally in the judgement. It respected how they are individual people even though they share a body.
- Steven discovering that he wasn’t the original was wonderfully handled in its tragedy, and also well handled in how the show subtly built to this from episode one. Nothing lampshaded, but if you paid attention to all the details about Steven and Marc’s life you could start to figure out things like wait, how’d Marc be a mercenary and get married and all that if he was the second personality to come along?
- Called it that Steven wasn’t actually talking to his mother! Though interesting that this implies she actually was paying for the apartment before her death. Or maybe this was a lie Marc fed Steven the whole time?
- Actually in general I’d love to know the timeline of their lives. When did Steven move to London? When did he take the gift shop job? When did he learn about all things Egypt? Did he or Marc ever go to university? When did Marc marry Layla? Why did Marc marry Layla given all his self hatred issues? And on and on and on. I don’t expect episode six to tell us these details, but I’d still love to know them.
- Establishing that Marc pretended to play Steven Grant before the DID is a nice explanation both for why Steven was formed the way he was but also why Elias and Wendy never questioned why their son sometimes spoke with a fake British accent. They just assumed he was playing pretend still.
- If you watch Oscar carefully in the first scene with Harrow you can see the moment he notices the glass pyramid as a potential weapon.
- Mohamed Diab shared some thoughts on representing DID in the show.
- Antonia Salib (who was adorable by the way) talks about playing Taweret.
- Meghan Kasperlik talks about designing the costumes (turns out Mr Knight was the most difficult).
- It feels like I would be remiss if I didn’t also note that, in addition to clearly making the Spector family Jewish, they cast Marc’s parents, younger brother, and younger self to be Hispanic as well. So there’s some nice intersectionality going on here.
- Seriously, imagine if WandaVision had for a single second considered how Wanda’s Judaism impacted her reactions to the loss of her parents, her twin brother, and Vision. Such a lost opportunity.
- As we get into the end of the series, I notice that the titles of each episode have double meanings. Like tonight’s Asylum refers both to the psychiatric hospital and to the idea of Marc and Steven trying to find a place where they can be safe. The Tomb was both Alexander the Great’s tomb and where Marc was killed, and so on. Not sure if this was on purpose but it’s a nice touch if so.
- Shout out to spooloflies for her help with the Judaism as well. Once again any mistakes are mine, not hers or MamaDeb's.
- Given that we now know Steven was formed as a response to the trauma after Randall’s death, I wonder if Steven’s a vegetarian because unconsciously he doesn’t like the idea of killing any living creature if he can avoid it.
- This, of course, only adds to my theory about how evil the waiter was.
And there we are! See you next week for the finale. It will also be directed by Mohamed Diab so my hopes are high! (Oh god my trust issues...)