The Audacious Scaredy-Cat
Following on from his supernatural antics in the National Gallery’s bathroom (not as weird as it sounds), Steven Grant embarks upon a quest to figure out what on earth his alter ego, Marc Spector, has been getting upto with his body out of hours.
While The Goal Fish Problem centred around a protagonist unwittingly finding himself grappling with the chaos of a blockbuster he had no say in becoming a part of, Summon the Suit adopts a different stance. Grant is no longer scrambling to regain control over a story that’s been thrust upon him by Spector. Quite the opposite in actual fact.
If we consider episode one to be the opening act to Grant’s story, episode two is the moment in which the familiarity of our hero’s world is shattered beyond repair. Grant has lost his job, the enemies he’s made during Spector’s time controlling his body are closing in, and any attempt to shackle his differing personality to his flat have all but failed. A crushed status quo has triggered a change of heart for Grant. This time around, he isn’t running from the chaos, he’s running to it.
Alter ego, Marc Spector, on the other hand, isn’t too keen on this development. If anything, he’s pretty spooked by the whole affair, doing all he can to deter Grant from getting involved in what’s going down between him and Arthur Harrow’s cagey cult. Spector threatens Grant through his own reflections, assuring him any attempt to interact with those Spector is both fighting against or alongside will cause more harm than good. Grant has little intention of listening to Spector; doing all he can to uncover the truth, all while refusing to hand over control to his enigmatic reflection.
Shifting from unwitting passenger to active participant in the mystery sitting at the heart of Moon Knight provides episode two with a boost of energy. Seeing Grant scramble about the place after waking up in the midst of a car chase was quite the lark last time around, but it’s a novelty that would have worn thin pretty quickly. As daft as Grant is, we needed something a little more than an unwilling protagonist for this sort of story to work over a six week period. Transitioning him from confused-yet-reluctant to confused-yet-determined is a good way to have this character engage with the wider narrative, all while retaining the goofiness that made him appealing the last time around.
Likewise, having Grant take on the role of stubborn detective helps to push the narrative along, something that would have been quite difficult had the story kept playing out whenever he was unconscious. Moon Knight appears to be dedicated to telling this story strictly from the perspective of Grant, not his alter ego. For this to work on a long term basis, we needed to reach a point in which Grant himself was witnessing the action unfolding around him. Jump cuts from a London flat to a massacre in the Alps may make for some visually shocking sequences, however it’s perhaps fair to say you can’t tell an entire story in this manner.
Grant going on a hunt, interacting with Spector, then finally figuring out a way to witness his possessed body through the lens of his own reflection gives Grant, and by extension the viewer, a way into the inner workings of this series in a way it’s opening episode never quite could.
Questions and mystery continue to dominate much of Moon Knight at this stage, but with a more active main character working to make sense of the chaos looming in the shadows of his life, we are now at a point in which things feel as though they are headed somewhere.
A New, New Order
Bad guys doing bad things for a so-called greater good isn’t exactly a new trope within Hollywood. We’ve seen this model applied many times in the past. Cult-like members committing atrocities in the belief they are somehow carrying out good deeds is about as as cutting edge as a knitting needle. What’s interesting about these sorts of stories, however, is how they often reshape themselves to reflect current anxieties relating to our world. Such villains are often presented as twisted solutions to legitimate problems plaguing our planet. These antagonists might not be going about fixing such issues in a manner that is considered right or pleasant, but their passion and proactiveness hints at a soul-selling solution to a mess we currently seem incapable of clearing up ourselves.
We most recently saw this trope play out to great effect in James Gunn’s Peacemaker (2022 – present), in which a group of parasitic creatures known as Butterflies infiltrated humanity’s power structures in a bid to restore peace to a planet boiled by its occupants. While the show ultimately opts to reject the Butterflies’ plea to “help” humanity, the moments in which antagonist Goth argues her case to Peacemaker hints at a genuine – albeit menacing – passion to amend the desecration inflicted by the human race. For all the passion and convincing expressed on behalf of Goth, the ultimate rejection is made because no matter how sincere the Butterflies’ motives may be in their own minds, their actions will inflict far too much suffering on the wider population they claim to be helping.
In similar fashion, Moon Knight appears to be venturing down a similar root to that of Peacemaker, flirting with similar notions of a hero locking horns with a foe who perceives themselves as a necessary solution to a modern conundrum. We are introduced to a London neighbourhood, one which we are told was rife with crime until Harrow and his people “liberated” the place and eradicated such wrongdoings. Harrow attempts to convince Grant that alter ego Spector is the villain in this situation, attempting to convince him into handing over the mystical satnav scarab currently in his possession. Harrow’s morality focused killings hint toward a villain possessing his own idea of good and evil. He takes the lives of those who’ve allegedly done – or will do – bad things, whilst adopting those who’ve managed to stay off of Santa’s naughty list throughout their lives.
Villains who perceive themselves as heroes often make for more interesting bad guys within fiction. This is usually down to the fact that it makes them appear more authentic and three dimensional. Nobody thinks they are the monster, after all. Having the nasty kids think they are the bee’s knees isn’t a recipe for instant success, however, as such approaches can often overlook the problems inherent within such an approach. For all their claims of offering a solution to global atrocities, they are still murdering and butchering their way to a preferred endgame.
Much like Peacemaker, Summon the Suit seems to be aware of the problems with this trope, having Grant challenge Harrow’s philosophy to the point in which this particular villain’s argument quickly fall to pieces. Eradicating evil is an odd contradiction when you consider it means murdering people to obtain such a goal. It’s a contradiction elevated further when you consider that Harrow’s approach also means slaughtering people before they’ve even committed anything that may be considered wrong by his society’s standards. By exercising his approach to eradicating evil, Harrow is committing the very atrocities he’s claiming to eradicate in the process. The logic to his argument doesn’t stand up, something both Grant and the show’s writers appear to be well aware of.
Moon Knight, it would appear, is utilising a familiar trope in a manner that’s addressing the problem with such an approach to storytelling. This is made even more interesting when you consider the MCU’s notoriety for applying this “greater good” stance with it’s most famous villain to date; Thanos.
Could this be Marvel’s attempt to examine and critique its own contribution to the “greater good” model? While this could well just be coincidence, it’s difficult to imagine them penning this episode without having Thanos in mind throughout the duration of its development.
So far, Moon Knight is an MCU show that isn’t an MCU show. What I mean by such contradictory nonsense, is that up until this point, it appears to make no effort to thread itself into the wider fictional space fashioned by Feige and his fellow creatives over at Marvel Studios. In many ways, this has helped the show out a great deal, largely in part because it feels more like its own thing. It also means it can get away with some stuff that it might otherwise have felt the need to explain away.
Now look, I know gods and magic have been commonplace within the MCU for a while now. Thor managed to convince audiences to buy into the idea of space gods occupying Tony Stark’s world all the way back in 2011. This is a world where aliens, wizards, robots and deities appear to be knocking about on every street corner. Except many of the stories occupying the more fantastical beings had to go out of their way to give them a more science fiction edge. Thor hammered home the notion of advanced technology masquerading as magic, implying Hemsworth’s God of Thunder was more of a really strong alien than an actual deity. Doctor Strange (2016) made heavy use of words such as “interdimensional” to try and hint at pseudo-scientific mechanics operating under the hood of Cumberbatch’s reality-twisting frolics. Even the Eternals (2021) emphasised the fact that its heroes were otherworldly robots more than they were the products of biblical players. For all the whimsy at the heart of Marvel Studio’s madness, fantasy sci-fi has often been its preferred means of framing its stories.
Moon Knight doesn’t quite follow the same path in this respect, at least not as far as its first two episodes are concerned. There’s plenty of talk of gods, demons, possessions and ancient curses. As for these being the product of alien technology of beings, no such suggestions are made. Summon the Suit presents audiences with a heap load of theological lore with a striking level of confidence. Apparently, Egyptian deities are real. Whether or not they are fables inspired by extra-terrestrials of yesteryear is anyone’s guess.
The straight-faced delivery of purely spiritual plot mechanics could just be the product of a studio drunk on its own confidence. Why bother explaining the sci-fi reasons for something that’s already been justified dozens of times over throughout the past decade? Whether or not this is Feige shrugging his shoulders and expecting us to deal with it is beside the point. It’s far more digestible to accept the possibility that Moon Knight features purely spiritual heroes and villains without a sci-fi slant when we are not constantly reminded that this takes place in the same timeline in which Iron Man (2008), Captain America: Civil War (2016) and Black Widow (2021) take place. Breaking this off from the MCU affords the project a sense of freedom to do whatever the hell it likes, unshackled and unanswerable to anything that came before it.
Marvel Studios has managed to get away with integrating a multitude of fictional ideas into a singular franchise for much of its run. Yet each time it has added a new rule of magic to its fictional landscape, it has had to put in the hours to make it credible. That isn’t quite the case here. Summon the Suit gives us men summoning fabrics from thin air, sentient reflections, GPS ornaments and demons waiting to be beckoned from the underworld. Operating as its own thing separate from the world of Peter Parker, Tony Stark and Steve Rodgers certainly makes this level of sureness feel a little less jarring than it otherwise would have done had it been constantly referencing Thanos and co throughout.
Summon the Suit keeps Moon Knight moving at a respectable pace without revealing too much. The secrecy and intrigue of its opening episode still dominates much of its runtime, all while giving its main protagonist more agency to start figuring out what sort of story he belongs to. This, topped off with the introduction of new characters, motives and lure give audiences enough to satisfy their thirst for exposition. We emerge from the end of this one with a better idea as to the nature of what this is all about, all while still knowing surprisingly little. How did Spector keep Grant secret from his wife, Layla? Who exactly is Arthur Harrow? Does Harrow’s cult genuinely believe they are the good guys in this tale? Will Spector and Grant find a way to co-exist? And what sort of monstrosities may arise from resurrecting Ammit from her tomb? So many questions, and with an added ticking timebomb established in the form of Harrow obtaining the scarab, the stakes are raised further to ramp up the speed and scale in which this story is set to unfold over the coming weeks.
Moon Knight continues to function as its own thing, free from the shackles of the wider MCU and its semi sci-fi undertones. Much of the strangeness established in The Goal Fish Problem remains throughout Summon the Suit, albeit now with plenty of theological revelations, ticking timebombs and moral arguments to help jettison this story further down a rabbit-hole of its own making.
Whether this show is set to become the Marvel classic many are already predicting it to be is yet to be confirmed. For all the revelations and progression showcased throughout this second chapter, it’s apparent that there’s still plenty of story left to tell before its true motives are revealed in all their glory. As far as opening stories go, however, we’re still in promising territory.
Summon the Suit is a lot of fun. Grant’s ability to function as a protagonist both horrified and determined to figure out the strangeness his alter ego has tangled him up in keeps the story ticking along at an entertaining and hasty pace. If the remaining four episodes can maintain the same level of energy, exposé and eccentricity demonstrated thus far, there’s a chance this one may vey well stick the landing.