‘Moon Knight’ Episode 5 Finally Explains the Truth About Marc and Steven
The following article contains SPOILERS for Episode 5 of Moon Knight.
After last week’s shocking twist — where Marc Spector seemingly died in Egypt then woke up in an insane asylum, suggesting the entire reality of the series to that point were the fevered hallucinations of a mentally unwell man — the big surprise on Moon Knight this week was that there really wasn’t a big twist. The episode finally revealed the full origins of both Marc Spector and Steven Grant, but the answers didn’t involve elaborate fake-outs or more sudden reversals of the series’ increasingly fractured reality.
Fans’ guesses as to the precise nature of that asylum — coincidentally, “Asylum” was the title of this week’s episode —varied. Maybe Marc/Steven are dead and this is the afterlife? Maybe Marc imagined the entire series so far as some kind of coping mechanism? In fact, the answer was a mix of both.
Marc was shot and did die. The asylum was a sort of purgatory in the Egyptian underworld, but it was also an invention of Marc’s mind. In this week’s episode, Marc and Steven are sometimes in the asylum on their way to a kind of Egyptian heaven. And at other times, when Steven or Marc come other great mental stress, they find themselves in a different (but similar looking) asylum that they use as what this reality’s “Dr. Harrow” describes as an “organizing principle,” something people with Marc’s condition will sometimes create as a place of shelter “from their most traumatic memories.”
In sum: The events of Moon Knight Episode 1-4 happened. Marc Spector — and we learn once and for on this episode that Marc is the “true” identity and Steven is a created personality, but more on that in a second — was on a quest to retrieve a mystical artifact when he was shot by Arthur Harrow — not the “Dr. Harrow” seen in this episode, who is yet another invention of Marc’s very messy mind. For at least the second time, Marc died, and then wound up in this very strange Egyptian afterlife that looked like a mental hospital — where, at some points, he would then imagine he was in a different asylum, run by Dr. Harrow, where he could avoid confronting the traumatic memories that are preventing his spirit from fully passing on into the Great Beyond.
Everybody got that so far?
The story device propelling all of this forward is the notion, established in Moon Knight’s first episode, that all souls are judged when they die. (Harrow and the Egyptian god he serves, Ammit, take this even farther and judge people while they’re still alive.) Marc and Steven’s hearts are yanked out of their chests by Taweret, an Egyptian god that looks like a hippo. She finds that their hearts are “out of balance,” which means Marc and Steven can’t continue on their spiritual journey into the eternal paradise known as the “Field of Reeds.” To find that balance they have to confront their past traumas — and when those confrontations get too intense, that’s when they wind up back in Dr. Harrow’s imaginary office.
Everybody got that so far? (I’ll be honest, I’m not 100 percent sure I’ve got it. But I think this is correct.)
And finally, thanks to this sort of undead therapy session, Marc and Steven both learn the truth. As a child, Marc had a brother who drowned in a flooded cave. Marc survived, but his mother blamed the tragedy on him, and she eventually abused him because of this perceived failure. To cope with the abuse, Marc invented another personality, Steven Grant, who could live free of all that pain and guilt. That brutal childhood is what got Marc to leave home at a young age, and to then join the army and later become a mercenary.
Marc’s boss, a guy named “Bushman” (who the series hasn’t shown, but is a character straight out of Marvel comics), demanded Marc kill some witnesses of a job that went wrong. When Marc refused, Bushman killed them and fatally wounded Marc, at which point he was fortunate (or maybe unfortunate) to crawl into the nearby temple of the Egyptian god Khonshu, who offered to spare him from death in exchange for his service fighting evil as Moon Knight.
“Asylum” sort of ends on another cliffhanger, with Steven falling off the boat carrying he and Marc through the Egyptian underworld, and Marc passing on to the Field of Reeds. But the ticking clock in the episode is Marc and Steven’s discovery that back in the real world, Harrow and Ammit are judging souls (and killing people) prematurely. So it seems all but certain that Marc will free Khonshu from the prison he got stuck in at the end of Episode 3 (maybe he’ll find him in the Field of Reeds?) and together they’ll return to Earth to beat Harrow and restore order.
With only one episode of Moon Knight left, that’s pretty much how things would have to go in that time frame. How else could things play out? Marvel’s not going to introduce a new hero to the MCU — especially one played by a major actor like Oscar Isaac — and then end it with him dead. They’d have to be mad enough to get committed to an insane asylum to do something like that.
The season finale of Moon Knight premieres on Wednesday, May 4. Sign up for Disney+ here.