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This week’s ‘Moon Knight’ challenges everything we’ve seen so far. Here’s the backstory

A man opens a sarcophagus illuminated by a ray of light
Oscar Isaac as Marc Spector/Steven Grant in “Moon Knight.”
(Csaba Aknay/Marvel Studios)

This story contains spoilers for “Moon Knight” Episode 4.

The fourth episode of “Moon Knight” makes you question everything you thought you knew about the show.

Thanks to Steven Grant’s (Oscar Isaac) smarts and Khonshu’s flashy light show, Marc Spector (also Isaac) and Layla El-Faouly (May Calamawy) know where they need to go to try to stop Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) from releasing Ammit back into the world. Episode 4 of the Marvel Studios series, titled “The Tomb,” sees its trio of adventurers raiding a secret tomb, all while interpersonal tensions between them approach a boiling point.

Newfound feelings and long-buried secrets are brought to light while Steven/Marc and Layla try to carry out their mission, but the episode saves its biggest surprise for the final act.

After a confrontation, Harrow shoots Marc, who blacks out as he succumbs to his injury. Marc regains consciousness in what appears to be a medical institution of some sort — populated with familiar faces — where he is a patient being treated for his delusions. According to the doctor, none of Marc’s adventures have been real.

From characters’ comic book backstories to the Marvel series’ pantheon of Egyptian gods, keep our guide handy as you watch “Moon Knight” on Disney+.

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“When we opened up that script and realized we were being offered to direct that bit, [it] was probably the most exciting part of being able to come on to ‘Moon Knight,’” said Aaron Moorhead, who directed the episode with Justin Benson.

“There’s one particular run of ‘Moon Knight’ by [Greg] Smallwood and [Jeff] Lemire that has this mind-bending, reality-questioning imagery that we based a lot of our own approach on,” explained Moorhead. “Not necessarily story-wise, but tonally, visually, that [run] was something we just kept on coming back to. So the thing that happens in Episode 4 in the last 15 minutes is something that’s probably the most reminiscent of that run and what we loved about it so much.”

What comic book run?

A 14-issue run launched in 2016, Lemire and Smallwood’s “Moon Knight” story sees Marc initially living in a terrible institution, confronted with the possibility that none of his experiences as the Fist of Khonshu have been real.

According to his doctor, Marc has been a patient at the institution since he was 12 and all of the Moon Knight adventures he remembers are delusions. But according to Khonshu, with whom Marc still communicates, the institution is an illusion crafted by Seth and Ammut, who need to be defeated.

Much like in Episode 4, the facility in this comics run is full of people Marc remembers from his life outside the institution.

The story jumps between Marc’s memories as well as among different realities as experienced by his various identities — with each identity’s world rendered by different artists in distinct styles. Ultimately, Marc has to choose not only what to believe as real, but how he wants to live it.

Hathor, Horus, Isis and other Egyptian gods turn up in ‘Moon Knight’ Episode 3. Here’s a primer on their mythology and prior Marvel appearances.

What’s up with the second sarcophagus?

According to Moorhead, “a lot of ‘Moon Knight’ is designed so that you might want to rewatch it and see if you could catch the context clues throughout all the episodes.” And one thing the series has been teasing since the first episode is the existence of a third identity that Marc and Steven appear to be unaware of.

In this episode, Marc discovers Steven trapped inside a sarcophagus as he’s trying to escape the institution. The second sarcophagus seems to be yet another clue that there is an additional identity that has yet to be introduced.

The earliest clue of a third identity came in Episode 1, when Steven learns he has a date with a museum co-worker. While there is a possibility that Marc helped Steven set up that date, the more audiences have seen of Marc, the more out of character and unlikely that explanation seems. That suggests a different identity could be involved.

In Episode 3, neither Marc nor Steven was the identity in charge during a scuffle that killed the locals Marc was chasing for information.

In the comics, Marc and Steven are usually joined by Jake Lockley, another identity originating in Marc’s youth. The comic book Jake is usually a taxi driver with access to a network of street-level informants. But given that the show’s Steven is not the billionaire businessman that he is generally portrayed as in the comics, there’s a good chance the show’s take on Jake would also be different.

The show could also introduce a completely different identity. The 2016 “Moon Knight” comic book run, for example, introduced a sci-fi space pilot version of Marc Spector as a new identity.

Was that a hippopotamus goddess at the end?

Yes, the goddess Taweret. In Egyptian mythology, Taweret was generally considered a protective deity and was at times associated with childbirth. She is sometimes referred to as “the great one” and also had some connections to the afterlife.

In Episode 1, Steven is asked to move a box of hippo plush dolls at work that he identifies as Taweret.


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