Moon Knight Understands The Basic Appeal Of People Solving Puzzles In Tombs

Warning: Major spoilers for episode 4 of "Moon Knight."

"Moon Knight" just keeps getting progressively better with each weekly release, and episode 4, titled "The Tomb," pulls off the most bonkers episodic installment yet. There was a noticeable shift in tone between episodes 2 and 3, wherein the latter veered away from psychological horror into the territory of a high-stakes mystery, with Steven (Oscar Isaac) and Layla (May Calamawy) attempting to piece an ancient puzzle together to prevent Harrow (Ethan Hawke) from unleashing havoc. The reason why "The Tomb" is able to belt out such a high-quality payoff is the way in which it understands the appeal of puzzle-solving inside ancient tombs while sprinkling in other narratorial elements that elevate the story as a whole.

The episode starts with Steven and Layla heading towards Harrow's dig site, although they are absolutely unprepared for what lies inside, especially now that Marc is trapped inside Steven (even without Khonshu's suit, the guy is a trained mercenary). There's already an element of thrill that permeates the air: we are closer now than ever to learning the mysteries of Ammit's tomb, an inevitable confrontation with Harrow lies ahead, and most importantly, ancient tombs automatically mean deciphering ancient inscriptions and unlocking secret passageways.

Oh, look! A maze, dead ends, and feral guardian beasts

While the last 20 or so minutes of "The Tomb" are pure Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead extravaganza, episode 4 as a whole emits strong "The Mummy" vibes, with sprinklings of the "Indiana Jones" movies and "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider." Following Steven and Layla inside Ammit's tomb is a true delight, as they use their collective brains to decipher ancient Egyptian murals and inscriptions while pondering which path to take when faced with a maze inside (a classic tomb puzzle).

The interior of Egyptian pyramids, tombs, and dig sites have been a puzzle-solvers dream (at least on-screen), rife with passages meant to lead intruders astray and booby traps for those unfortunate enough to land their feet on some sort of trapping mechanism. The latter has been a staple in artifact-finding films, such as the lethal traps Indy (Harrison Ford) navigates inside the temple in "Indiana Jones: The Last Crusade" or the collapsing floor trap scene in 2018's "Tomb Raider."

While Steven and Layla do not encounter any lethal traps (as of yet), they quickly figure out that the six passageways mimic the structure of the Eye of Horus, wherein each point stands for the six senses. Connecting the dots, Steven realizes that the tongue is symbolic of Ammit's voice, meaning that a pharaoh's burial chamber lies somewhere within, whose sarcophagus might just contain Ammit's ushabti. However, what's a good puzzle sequence without undead beasts ripping apart modern-day intruders?

Layla recognizes figures on a mural as Heka priests — sorcerers during their time who were entombed with the pharaoh to protect him. These protective (yet horrifying) entities take down most of Harrow's men, leading to several heart-thumping sequences in which Steven and Layla are terrified for their lives (a fair reaction — a Heka priest straight-up disembowels one of Harrow's men while making creepy clicking sounds).

This leads to two amazing sequences: Layla crossing a dangerous ledge while a bottomless chasm looms beneath her, and Steven entering the pharaoh's burial chamber and making a startling revelation.

Reaching inside the throat of a long-dead pharaoh

While the central duo do not really get much time deciphering intricate puzzles or tablets adorned with hieroglyphics (the Heka priests are out for their blood, after all), the mere atmosphere of the tomb scenes helps elevate the episode in significant ways. There's a reason why puzzle-solving in tombs appeals to audiences, especially when entrenched in possibly unearthing ancient mysteries that could raise the undead and bring about havoc on earth. The human mind naturally craves compelling, well-structured adventures, and the satisfaction of seeing a character turning a lever to reveal a hidden panel, or deciphering a dead language to retrieve an artifact that can either create chaos or usher balance, is what makes these history-laden adventures worth a watch. "Moon Knight" understands this, hence incorporating the best elements of such narratives in its favor.

While Layla and Steven are in the passageway, one can see canopic jars (used to preserve the viscera of the dead for the afterlife), and this immediately reminds us of classic films such as "The Mummy," especially the sequences in which Evelyn (Rachel Weisz) and the gang find Imhotep's remains along with the Book of the Dead. Personally, the episode reminded me of the atmosphere evoked by the "Amulet of Arkay" quest inside the catacombs of the Hall of the Dead in "The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim."

Once Steven stumbles upon the pharaoh's burial chamber, he notices that the inscriptions on the sarcophagus are in Macedonian instead of ancient Egyptian, which makes him arrive at the conclusion that the pharaoh is none other than Alexander the Great. As if this discovery isn't startling enough, he realizes that he needs to reach inside the mummified pharaoh's throat to retrieve Ammit's ushabti — an apt symbolic location for the artifact, given Alexander was Ammit's voice. The scene is obviously hilarious, but exciting at the same time (I half-expected an undead Alexander to come back to life and chomp on Steven's arm), and Steven's efforts are paid off when he retrieves the ushabti from the pharaoh's gullet.

On the other hand, Layla attempts to cross a precarious path, and the tension is heightened when a Heka Priest grabs her from behind and snatches her into the darkness. The fight sequence that ensues is terrific, reminiscent of the pyramid scene in "Stargate," in which Kurt Russell's Colonel Jack O'Neill squares off against deadly masked soldiers sent by the Egyptian sun god, Ra. Layla uses her trusty red flare to distract the beast, kicking it hard so that the creature falls backward into the chasm below. Now, the real terror emerges: the ever-manipulative Harrow, who leverages Layla's torn feelings about Marc and insinuates that he is somehow involved in her father's murder.

High-stakes emotional drama when trapped inside an ancient underground tomb crawling with murder monsters can never be good news, and matters are made worse when Harrow and his men close in on the duo. While it is unclear as to what kind of direction episode 5 of "Moon Knight" will veer into, I'm rooting for more tomb puzzles (and some trap doors), along with the thrills that come along with escaping an ancient dig site that houses a ruthless demoness with a twisted idea of retribution.

Episode 4 of "Moon Knight" is currently streaming on Disney+.