A lot has happened to Steven Grant (Oscar Isaac) over the course of Moon Knight’s first two episodes. The British museum employee and Marc Spector’s primary alternate identity in the series, has emerged as its protagonist. That may come as a surprise to comic book readers, most of whom likely tuned into Moon Knight expecting to see the show shine its biggest spotlight on Marc Spector.
In the very few glimpses we’ve gotten of Marc up to this point in Moon Knight, he’s been established as a flawed but compelling character, one willing to take on an active role in Khonshu’s (F. Murray Abraham) fight against Arthur Harrow (Ethan Hawke) even when he disagrees with his Egyptian god’s methods. As a result, Marc stands in stark contrast to Steven Grant, who refuses to do much of anything in Moon Knight.
In Episode 2, this only gets worse. Does Moon Knight have a Steven Grant problem? Let’s take a closer look.
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Give Up Control, Steven — While a lot has happened to Steven over the course of Moon Knight’s first two installments, he’s done very little himself. It’s for that reason that the show’s decision to make Steven its protagonist is so profoundly baffling.
To Marvel’s credit, making Steven the lead of Moon Knight’s first episode does make a lot of sense. By rooting its pilot in Steven’s perspective, the show allows viewers to discover the truth about the character and his secret life at the same time he does. However, now that the truth about Steven’s relationship with both Marc Spector and Khonshu has been established, there’s no real reason for him to still be the leading perspective in Moon Knight.
“Steven Grant has no business being the show’s central character.”
The reason why the bathroom scene at the end of Moon Knight Episode 1 is so effective is that it’s the moment when the show moves on for the first time from Steven Grant’s confusion and fear and opens the door for Marc to lead with determination and confidence. Moon Knight Episode 2’s retreat back to Steven’s perspective not only retroactively robs Marc’s introduction of much of its power but also makes it feel like the show is simply repeating itself.
Moon Knight needs an active protagonist
Moon Knight’s positioning of Steven Grant as its lead makes watching the show’s second episode a frustrating experience for a few different reasons. His refusal at the start of it to let Marc take control, even though he saved their lives at the end of the show’s premiere, is a confusing enough decision on its own. It only becomes more so throughout the episode as Steven finds himself in increasingly dangerous situations.
Steven ultimately comes across as willfully ignorant rather than charmingly awkward. But beyond the fact that his choices in Moon Knight Episode 2 rob the character of much of his likability, the show’s decision to make Steven its lead also creates a fundamental issue in the actual storytelling.
Every TV show, movie, and book needs an active protagonist, a character who progresses the plot forward by actively making their own decisions. That means a story’s protagonist should not just have things happen to them, but they should also do things themselves. Moon Knight is no exception to this rule, and that’s why Steven Grant has no business being the show’s central character.
Nothing that happens in the first two episodes occurs because of the decisions Steven makes. Instead, everything happens to him as a result of Marc, Khonshu, and Arthur Harrow’s ongoing conflict. That results in an odd, frustrating narrative disconnect in the show itself because, even though Moon Knight’s first two episodes do move its plot forward, they do so in direct opposition to Steven Grant’s own efforts.
The Inverse Analysis — So far, Moon Knight has made Steven Grant the moral conscience of its story and, therefore, has made Marc Spector the character that Steven’s advice and criticisms are meant to be directed toward. If it does it right, the series could use that dynamic to tell an interesting story about one man’s journey toward emotional and mental healing.
However, Moon Knight’s early efforts to make Steven Grant its moral center are complicated by his own unwillingness to do anything of substance. It’s hard not to prefer Marc as a character. After all, even if he is a morally darker figure than Steven, at least he’s willing to get involved in the central conflict.
Moon Knight is streaming now on Disney+.