Moon Knight's Khonshu Is A Total Jerk, And That's Great

This post contains spoilers for "Moon Knight" episode 2.

Superhero stories are power fantasies. Whether it's in comic book form, TV, or film and no matter how tragic the origin story, these stories are inspirational. Whether it's "Shazam!" or "Captain America," even "Batman," superheroes appeal to the innate wish to have some secret ability or to be able to push ourselves beyond what we think we are capable of. 

Then there's "Moon Knight," the latest addition to the MCU, and a show that's unlike any Marvel has done before. This is in no small part thanks to Oscar Isaac's Steven Grant, whose silly little British accent actually hides a rather complex and tragic character who struggles with mental illness.

But having to share a body with an American mercenary named Marc is the least of Steven's problems. Indeed, the key to what separated "Moon Knight" from most superhero stories, what makes this more than a power fantasy, is the entity that gives Marc his powers, the god of the moon Khonshu.

A Faustian bargain

From the moment we get a first glance at the god of the moon, Khonshu, it is made clear we should not trust or like this guy. He first appears as a disembodied voice (that of F. Murray Abraham) in episode 1, confused and angry about Steven being aware of where his body go when he is asleep. He returns in the first half of this week's second episode as a mighty specter with a bird's face and a moon-shaped sickle, chasing Steven and scaring the living hell out of him like it's the ghost of Christmas yet to come in "A Christmas Carol." This is not exactly the appearance or behavior of a benevolent benefactor like, say, the wizard Shazam.

The rest of the episode pulls back the curtain a bit, as Steven investigates the mysterious and "bloody handsome" (Steven's words, and mine too) Marc and his connection to Khonshu. Though "Moon Knight" skips the traditional superhero origin story, we do learn a bit about Marc, namely that he is an American mercenary who at one point was saved from certain death by Khonshu. In return, the god of the moon turned Marc into his avatar, the vessel of his power and vengeance, and according to Marc himself, a prisoner serving a sentence of servitude.

Indeed, what makes Khonshu a great addition to the MCU is that he is less of a hero mentor and more of a Mephistophelian figure praying on poor, unfortunate souls. Rather than gifting powers, Khonshu offers Faustian bargains without an exit clause.

Marc may have got a sweet super suit and some cool powers, but he is nothing more than a prisoner, hoping this will actually be his final mission, but knowing that's probably not true. Even Ethan Hawke's soft-spoken villain Arthur Harrow used to be an avatar of Khonshu and speaks of his ruthlessness and injustice, mocking Marc for believing the promise of one final mission.

Where all other Marvel heroes yearn for the day they can hang up the suit and live a normal life, but don't because they know they're always needed, Marc/Steven are contractually obligated to continue serving their master. This means that Moon Knight hero than any we've seen in the MCU before, a truly reluctant hero who is not only thrown into a dangerous situation and entrusted with the future of the world, but threatened and coerced into doing so.

The gods must be crazy

When Steven does see and hear Khonshu, he is a violent, belittling god who constantly mocks Steven and treats him like a nuisance. As Arthur tries to explain to Steven his own history with the god of the moon, Khonshu whispers into Steven's mind, saying to break Arthur's windpipe — not exactly benevolent god material.

Even when Steven gives control of his body over to Marc, Khonshu continues to mock and taunt him, rejoicing in telling him that he owns his life and his body. The god reassures Marc that if he fails, or shows any weakness in completing his mission of vengeance, he already has a replacement in mind — Marc's ex-wife Layla.

In a single episode, "Moon Knight" made the case for Khonshu as one of the most dangerous entities in the MCU, a god with immense power with absolutely no regard to modern sensibilities or the emotional wellbeing of his host. Arthur may be the antagonist of the season, as Steven embarks on a dangerous journey to stop him, but Steven's greatest threat may be Khonshu himself: vengeance personified, an absolute jerk, and a fascinating addition to the MCU.