The mysterious Layla makes her ‘Moon Knight’ debut in Episode 2. Here’s her backstory
This story contains spoilers for Episode 2 of “Moon Knight” on Disney+.
In the final moments of “Moon Knight” Episode 2, the story jumps to where it has been foreshadowed it would be headed: Egypt.
But not before plenty of other reveals shake up Steven Grant’s (Oscar Isaac) world.
Picking up in the aftermath of the scary jackal attack in the series premiere, this episode — titled “Summon the Suit” — sees Steven discover more about Marc Spector (also Isaac), including that he’s married. Steven also loses his job, gets to know Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) and manifests a super suit of his own to try to fend off another magical monster.
All the supernatural Marvel “things that are happening to Steven actually end up reflecting this highly personal problem he’s having,” said Aaron Moorhead, who directed the episode with Justin Benson, which is “to fix his broken identity and to reclaim his life.”
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But by the end of “Summon the Suit,” it’s Marc that’s in the driver’s seat of his and Steven’s shared body, and he knows he has to head to Egypt to stop Harrow.
The chance to show “Egypt in the present and in the past” was part of what drew executive producer Mohamed Diab to “Moon Knight.”
“I’ve always felt like it’s never accurate, the Egyptian portrayal in cinema,” said Diab. “It’s always seen through this lens of Orientalism, where we’re so exotic, or women are oppressed, or men are bad or terrorists — those kinds of tropes.”
For the Egyptian filmmaker, it was important that “Moon Knight” show Egypt as it is.
“It’s not just pyramids and the desert behind it,” said Diab. “Cairo is one of the biggest cities in the world. If you look at the other side of the pyramid, it’s at the center of the city.” And that exact image is captured in the last shot of the episode.
Diab added that “it was [also] very important to create Layla,” the mysterious voice that was trying to reach Marc on the cellphone Steven discovered during the first episode.
Who is Layla?
Layla El-Faouly, played by Egyptian Palestinian actor May Calamawy, makes her official debut in “Moon Knight” Episode 2, when she nearly runs over Steven. Steven has no idea who she is, but Layla believes it’s all an elaborate ruse by Marc — her husband — because she does not know that he lives with dissociative identity disorder.
According to Diab, Layla was not originally written as Egyptian. After he and his wife, Sarah Goher, who is also a producer on “Moon Knight,” joined the series, they worked with Marvel and the writers to make her an Egyptian character.
Calamawy described Layla as “someone who has a lot of healing to do.”
She “is faced with someone she cares about deeply going through a serious internal struggle,” said Calamawy. “In supporting them, it forces her to step into herself more, and in doing that, she develops more confidence and trust in herself and experiences a lot of healing and growth.”
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For Calamawy, it was important that Layla was not “someone just in service of a man. I wanted her to have her own journey, and to understand her own personal mission and what she’s after.”
“It was important for me to draw inspiration from Middle Eastern women,” she added. “The way people present themselves in different cultures is the beauty of diversity. And I find that Arab women have a very unassuming, soft strength to them, which might not always be evident on the outside, but it’s there.”
What’s the story behind that suit Steven summoned?
When Steven and Layla are being chased by a vicious jackal summoned by Harrow, Layla insists that Steven needs to manifest “a suit” to save them. Layla means the Moon Knight suit Marc manifests, but Steven is not Marc — he instead summons an all-white three-piece suit (and mask).
Comic book fans will recognize the look as the one worn by Mr. Knight. The challenge was how to incorporate that look with a logic that worked for this interpretation of the “Moon Knight” story.
Because the series is “about these externalizations of these inner conflicts and inner feelings, it made sense to us that the suit is a manifestation of their idea of what a superhero suit is,” Isaac said. “For Steven, because he’s not someone that’s versed in superhero capes and war and all that, when it comes to him coming up with an idea for a super suit, it’s a three-piece suit. Because the word ‘suit’ for him means something different. In a way, it’s a manifestation of their imagination.”
In comics, the Mr. Knight suit originally appeared as an alternate costume for Moon Knight during a specific mission. It wasn’t until a 2014 issue of “Moon Knight” by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey that “Mr. Knight, a concerned citizen” was introduced.
In this comic book series, Mr. Knight is not Steven’s vigilante alter-ego but the public-facing identity of Moon Knight when he consults on police investigations. No less violent or capable than Moon Knight, Mr. Knight has the benefit of avoiding any criminal consequences from Moon Knight’s vigilante activities.
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