The penultimate episode of Marvel’s Moon Knight inflicted the most emotional damage of the series to date in “Asylum”. Marvel is clearly continuing the tradition have it’s series have at least one trauma-focused episode to rip our hearts up. That’s this episode. The character finally has a proper backstory, and it was nothing less than devastating.
From the beginning of this series, Oscar Isaac has proven his immense talent many times over. This episode was a culmination of the work he’s put in to bringing these characters to life. He continues to perfectly play Marc and Steven to perfection. The devastating revelations in this episode about how they each came to be only emphasized how brilliantly these characters have been crafted and portrayed.
There has been some criticism in this series so far regarding the portrayal of mental illness. The episode features such a heartbreaking and yet accurate portrayal of how trauma can manifest. Especially when children are in abusive situations from such a young age, the brain protects itself in the most creative ways. The fact that Steven was designed to protect Marc from his abusive home life added a depth to this character’s dynamic in a truly crushing way.
This episode finally featured the tiniest crumbs of Jewish representation, after the preceding episodes featured essentially none at all. We got to see a shiva…twice. Although it was poignant representation, it ultimately felt like too little too late. If the series was going to explore trauma, it would have been interesting to explore Marc’s father, who once again is a Rabbi and Holocaust survivor. While of course there doesn’t have to be just one traumatic story, nor do characters have to remain faithful to their comic book origins. Some representation is always better than none, but choices were clearly made here that are ultimately disappointing.
This episode featured more of a tie-in with the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). It’s touching to think that within the MCU, one’s afterlife depends entirely on their own beliefs and cultural contexts in life. This story wasn’t all silky sweetness, however. The fact that it was Marc who got to see the Sea of Reeds without Steven was soul-crushing.
The call-back to the ancestral plane first introduced in Black Panther may have caused some misty eyes, with good reason. In the meantime, we should all be so lucky as to be guided by Taweret.
Arthur Harrow’s (Ethan Hawke) minimal involvement in this episode is further proof that this villain is ultimately unnecessary. While an interesting idea, this character seems destined to join the ranks of Marvel’s dullest and least impactful villains. Even in this episode, there was hint of a good idea, having a psychiatrist, emblematic of the medical establishment, be the antagonist could have worked. Unfortunately, as with most of the series so far, the Harrow fell flat.
Unfortunately, while this episode is incredibly strong on its own, there are some concerning questions it raises about the finale. Marvel TV series have generally struggled to implement a strong series or season finale in spite of what’s come before. Moon Knight seems to be going down this path. There are just too many character arcs that aren’t resolved, or in a position to be anytime soon. Additionally, it feels like there’s going to be a massive effort to leave the finale open to tie in to the MCU as a whole. This doesn’t always work, and can make for an unsatisfying conclusion to an otherwise generally well-crafted series.
The second-last Moon Knight episode left viewers with a lot of answers, and in some ways even more questions. With no Layla (May Calamawy), and still no Jake Lockley, there’s still so much of this story left up in the air. Whatever is coming in the finale, this character now has a devastating origin story, that fans will very likely not soon forget.
New episodes of Moon Knight air Wednesdays on Disney+.