Moon Knight: how Arthur Harrow and Ammit upset Marvel canon
The MCU finally has its first real cult leader.
Marvel fans have spent months speculating about Ethan Hawke’s Arthur Harrow, as the Moon Knight villain’s role, intentions, and allegiances were all kept secret in the months leading up to the Disney+ series’ premiere. Thankfully, the first episode of Moon Knight was finally released today on Disney+, and the show’s debut installment doesn’t take long to offer some game-changing revelations about Hawke’s dangerous, seemingly all-knowing cult leader.
In his first scene of the series, Harrow announces to a group of onlookers that he is ready to judge anyone who will come forward in the name of “Ammit.” The rest of Moon Knight Episode 1 does a lot to explain Harrow’s motivations and his connection to Ammit, but to say that he’s not the villain most comic book fans were expecting would be an understatement.
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In fact, while Harrow and Ammit are both existing Marvel Comics figures, they’ve been changed in ways both big and small for Moon Knight.
Balancing the Scales — Prior to the premiere of Moon Knight, one of the leading theories surrounding Hawke’s Arthur Harrow was that he’d turn out to be the present-day Sun King to Oscar Isaac’s Moon Knight. That was largely based on the fact that Arthur Harrow isn’t a particularly noteworthy character. In the comics, he’s a forgettable mad scientist whose stock villainy has had a limited presence.
Many people therefore assumed that Marvel had simply chosen to give Hawke’s Moon Knight villain the name of a minor comic book character in order to hide his actual importance. However, while Hawke’s Arthur Harrow is an avatar for an Egyptian deity in Moon Knight, he isn’t a Sun King or a disciple of Amon Ra.
Instead, Harrow is a follower of Ammit, a mythical Egyptian figure that has also been reworked quite a bit for Moon Knight.
Embracing Chaos — In both the comics and in traditional Egyptian mythology, Ammit (or Ammut) is typically referred to as the “Devourer of the Dead.” She’s present whenever Anubis, the Lord of Death and Rebirth, weighs a mortal’s soul on a set of divine scales. When a person’s soul is judged to be impure, Ammit devours it. She’s a fairly minor Marvel Comics figure, although she does team up at one point with Khonshu in a plan that the latter hatches to drive Marc Spector insane.
In Moon Knight, Ammit is given a much different role. Rather than just being the devourer of souls, Hawke’s Arthur Harrow says she’s the one who has the power to weigh them in the first place. If Harrow is right, that means Ammit has been given part of Anubis’ powers in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s made clear by the fact that Harrow can apparently judge peoples’ souls on her behalf based on the movement of the scales tattoo on his arm.
Ammit’s ability to determine which souls are clean and which aren’t seems to be at the heart of why Harrow is so devoted to her in Moon Knight.
The Inverse Analysis — Moon Knight has the potential to take both Harrow and his devotion to Ammit in a number of different directions. However, the show’s first installment makes it clear that neither Harrow nor Ammit have been brought to life in the way that most comic book fans may have expected.
Instead, Marvel has done something with its Moon Knight antagonists that it’s already made a habit of doing in the past: The studio has taken two established Marvel Comics characters and presented viewers with totally different versions custom-fitted for the MCU.
Moon Knight is streaming now on Disney+.