Squawk Box: Moon Knight/Reacher

I'll be honest: I think the next couple of years in both the Marvel Universe and the Star Wars Universe are going to be interesting to watch because I think both studios risk running into a hitherto unknown phenomenon in the world of entertainment: content overload.

I am woefully behind on my Marvel movies and shows and you know, at this point, there are so many of them I don't know if I'll ever catch up, and more to the point, they're starting to feel like a chore, you know? So I approached Moon Knight with something approaching a mixture of outright indifference and mild curiosity. I like Oscar Isaac. It looked interesting. It was only six episodes long- so, why not check it out?

Moon Knight opens with Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) going to his job at the British Museum in London- he's hoping to be a tour guide eventually, given his extensive knowledge of Ancient Egypt, but after going to sleep one night, he wakes up in the Austrian Alps, at a cult meeting led by Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) who is after a scarab that he claims Grant has in his possession. He attempts to escape, hearing voices and suffering several blackouts along the way before waking up back in his own home.

Grant realizes that two days have passed since he went to sleep and more mysteries keep piling up: he finds a hidden phone and keycard in his apartment and gets a call from a frequent caller on the call log that proves to be a woman named Layla (May Calamawy) who addresses him as Marc. Harrow shows up at his work and reveals that he is a servant of the Egyptian Goddess Ammit- Harrow summons a jackal-like creature to attack Grant, but his reflection asks to take control of their body and Grant agrees, transforming into a cloaked warrior who kills the jackal.

The mysteries start to reveal themselves quickly after that. Grant suffers from Dissociative Personality Disorder, so he's got Marc and Jake (and thinking about it, I don't think I twigged to the fact that when Isaac was speaking in Spanish, he was being different alter, but I guess he is?) along for the ride as well, all fighting for control over his body at various points throughout the show. The cloaked warrior he becomes? That's Moon Knight- the representation of the Avatar of Khonshu (Karim El Hakim and F. Murray Abraham) the Egyptian God of the Moon. 

Khonshu wants Marc/Steven to stop Harrow and the servants of Ammit from releasing her to judge the worthiness of souls across the world. This leads to the inevitable final confrontation between Gods, Avatars, and Monsters that eventually sees Marc and Steven convinced that they've been released from their servitude to Khonshu- though whether or not that's actually true remains to be seen.

Overall: It would be interesting to know just how accurate the portrayal of Marc/Steven's mental illness (Dissociative Identity Disorder) actually is-- but let's say it's pretty accurate, for the sake of argument, Moon Knight is interesting because it really delves into the concept of vigilantism in an interesting way. There's more than a touch of Batman about Moon Knight and he provides an interesting counterpoint to the Dark Knight-- how stable is a billionaire who dresses up as a bat and fights crime? Because this is a hero who is mentally unstable and is an Avatar of an Egyptian God who also fights crime and that's... interesting. While the Egyptian pantheon of it all might get a little convoluted in parts, I also think they leaned away from typical portrayals of Egypt in a way that felt fresh. My Grade: *** out of ****...  Interesting and intriguing, Oscar Isaac is great (as usual) and Moon Knight takes the usual superhero shenanigans into new territory. Whether I'd watch the second season of this (and there's some question as to whether there will be one), however, I don't know... 

Reacher (streaming on Amazon Prime), I went into not having seen either of the Jack Reacher movies starring Tom Cruise. (Though having seen Reacher, I'd be interested in going back and watching those movies, just to compare and contrast.) I also haven't read any of the books either- so I can't say for certain how good of an adaptation of Child's first novel, Killing Floor this season actually is. But, I do feel that the structure of the season- it's eight episodes long, made it seem like they could take their time and adapt the book correctly. It just seemed like the perfect number of episodes to me- they didn't have to rush nor did they have to drag things out-- and that, combined with the cast, made for a quick and pleasant viewing experience.

In the small town of Margrave, Georgia, a man is shot dead and the next morning, Jack Reacher (Alan Ritchson) arrives on a Greyhound bus and walks into town where he is promptly arrested for murder while attempting to secure pie. He's held with Paul Hubble (Marc Bendavid), a local banker who confessed to the murder. A corrupt prison guard put them in with the general population, which forces Reacher to take some fairly direct and brutal actions after an attempt is made on their lives. Eventually, upon his release, Reacher is threatened by a son of a local and powerful businessman, Kliner. For his part, Reacher came to Margrave to see if anyone knew about an old school blues musician he'd taken a liking too and is about ready to put the town in his rearview mirror when he learns of a second killing and identifies the second victim as his brother, Joe.

Now no longer intent on leaving, Reacher teams up with a local detective, Finlay (Malcolm Goodwin), and a local police officer, Roscoe (Willa Fitzgerald) to get to the bottom of who killed his brother, and who's behind the corruption and darkness that is becoming increasingly apparent that is at the heart of Margrave. Because Reacher is a gigantic and now angry former military policeman, the body count is high, the action plentiful and the final showdown suitably epic. At the end of the season, Reacher finally gets that piece of pie that he tried to get all the way back in the first episode and then hitchhikes his way out of Margrave (and to a second season!)

Overall: I think if they wanted to draw a contrast between the show and the movies, casting Alan Ritchson was a brilliant choice. Again, it's hard to know because I haven't read any of the books, but Ritchson's performance more than makes the show-- his Reacher is deadly, large, and can do all the action star things you'd expect-- but he's also incredibly detail-oriented, fiercely intelligent- but not in an unrealistic way- and has emotional range. I don't know if Ritchson read the books to prepare for the role, but whatever he did worked: he is Jack Reacher and between the rest of the excellent cast, the writing and the pacing of the show make for an excellent and enjoyable binge. My Grade: **** out of ****... bring on Season 2!


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