Breaking Down The Best Scene In Moon Knight Episode 2

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

It's official. Two episodes into "Moon Knight" and the mystical, fractured, and downright weird appeal of Marvel's newest (and darkest) superhero has manifested in one of the studio's most fascinating characters yet. Last week's premiere marked fresh, new territory for the expansive and (arguably) somewhat stale Marvel Cinematic Universe as creator Jeremy Slater and director Mohamed Diab fully ensconced viewers in the ground-level perspective of Steven Grant, ineffectual sad sack that he is. Fans overly accustomed to a certain level of spectacle-first priorities and breezy character work from this particular universe may have needed some time to get on the same wavelength of "Moon Knight," doubly so for its abject refusal to give in and play by the rules of the MCU's usual brand of self-referential storytelling.

With last night's episode 2, titled "Summon the Suit," writer Michael Kastelein and directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead doubled down on these positives and built up to a thoroughly engrossing final confrontation between Oscar Isaac and, well, Oscar Isaac. Though there's plenty of action and humor to be found ("Look, I don't care how bloody handsome you are," Steven says to Marc Spector early on, verbalizing what literally all of us were thinking), the main thrust of this second hour of the series focuses squarely on the continued conflict between Steven Grant and his terrifyingly proficient superhero alter-ego, Marc. Revealed to be the chosen avatar of the Egyptian moon god Khonsu, Marc's blood-soaked quest involving ancient scarab-shaped artifacts and the tomb of Ammit couldn't possibly feel more at odds with Steven's humble aspirations of working at the British Museum gift shop, feeding his fish, and taking out a lovely coworker on a date.

But possibly the most impressive moment of this episode comes towards the end, right when it seems the show is about to open up and deliver the kind of action-packed set piece that has been largely absent thus far. We do get a big fight to end things on, mind you ... but it's all internal. After two hours of impatiently fending the other identity off, Steven and Marc finally have it out (a row, as our friends across the pond would say). The end result is easily the best scene of the episode and, quite possibly, the overall show so far.

The looming Spector

How do you visualize conflict between a "broken" individual (as Ethan Hawke's villainous Arthur Harrow put it) and the disparate identities living in the same body? With the vaguely similar premise of 2016's "Split," M. Night Shyamalan had the advantage of acting powerhouse James McAvoy to embody dozens of different split identities through subtle (and otherwise) differences in vocal inflections, body language, and micro-expressions. Even going back to classics such as "Fight Club," directors like David Fincher have played tricks on audiences with unreliable narrators, showing us certain characters and dialogue that may or may not actually exist. With "Moon Knight," we have the time-honored tradition of mirrored reflections — combined with the show's continued excellence in camerawork and editing — to help us become fully invested in the battle tearing our protagonist(s?) apart from the inside out.

But it all starts and ends, fittingly enough, with Oscar Isaac himself.

After finding himself in the clutches of the scarab-obsessed Arthur Harrow once again, Steven Grant only narrowly escapes thanks to the help of Marc's apparently estranged wife Layla (May Calamawy) and Marc himself, once again taking control at a crucial moment. The fight we've all seen coming commences with yet another Egyptian jackal entity, though the suited-up Marc dispatches with it relatively quickly. No, the episode's real fireworks come after. Fully in control of their shared body, Marc's now the one who sees his other self in a stray reflection. Steven, terrified and unfamiliar with the feeling of being trapped, proceeds to lay all the blame for his recent misfortunes at Marc's feet, with Isaac's tortured facial expressions (aided by symbolic cracks in the mirror, splitting his face even further) saying everything that needs to be said.

Meanwhile, though we've hardly gotten to know Marc to any real extent at all just yet, Isaac's haunted portrayal of the servant of Khonsu serves as a neat bit of shorthand to sell us on just how tragic and painful his waking life must be. When asked how long he's been doing this, Marc's broken response of, "A long time ... long time," does more to convince us of life under Khonsu's ever-present eye (er, skull?) than any amount of Harrow's endless exposition could ever hope to accomplish. Marc's admittedly a bit of a "right twit," but Isaac's performance provides enough hints to tease why he turned out this way.

A wish not Granted

As this one-man show of a sequence develops, every shot choice, subtle pan and zoom-in of the camera, and increasingly frantic cut in the edit come together to sell us even more on the rich character work between the two infighting identities.

Shot selections where Steven's reflection is purposefully kept to the margins of the frame further hint at his loss of control and feelings of claustrophobic entrapment, putting us right in his own headspace as he heartrendingly begs to be let out from "inside" and given control of his own body again. Meanwhile, careful compositions where Marc remains in the foreground, physically dominating so many shots, establish the visual language of who exactly holds all the power at the moment between the two. As their conversation devolves into open threats, damning accusations, and raging retorts, the editing speeds up to almost unbearable levels while the addition of intrusive clock chimes in the sound design brings things even closer to the breaking point — literally, as Marc finally snaps and kicks the mirror to pieces to get rid of Steven's presence by any means necessary.

On one hand, everything I've just described here is merely filmmaking 101, using every tool in the box to tell this compelling story in the most interesting and dynamic way possible. But on the other, this impressive attention to detail brings a whole new element for viewers that Marvel hasn't always used to the benefit of its stories in the past.

In perfect synchronicity with credited writer Michael Kastelein's script, directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead bear quite a bit of responsibility for turning a seemingly straightforward dialogue scene into a tense, fraught, and revealing exchange as the "relationship" between Steven and Marc feels noticeably altered by the end of the sequence. We're quickly distracted by the appearance of an eavesdropping Khonsu and a hurried flight to Egypt, with Marc and Steven groggily waking up in a room with the pyramids in the background. But even as the series appears set to ramp up the scope and scale of the story, I have a feeling we'll end up looking back at this one scene as an undisputed highlight of "Moon Knight" when it's all said and done.